This month we got in touch with Dr. Anne Hecht, a Texas Master Naturalist, to get her recommendations about healthy outdoor activities for this time of year.
Anne had three great suggestions, all of them related to discovering our coastal bays and bayous.
Galveston Island State Park
First on Anne’s list is Galveston Island State Park (GISP). What’s particularly special about this park for nature lovers is it spans a full cross-section of west Galveston Island — from Galveston Bay on the north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south. Admission is $5 dollars per adult, 12 and under free.
If you want to learn about the bays and marshes, meet at the Nature Center at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings for a free bay walk tour (included with your $5 admission). If you want to learn about the beach, that tour is conducted on Saturdays, also starting at 10 a.m. at the Nature Center.
New to GISP is a “Car/Hike or Bike Tour” developed by Frank Bowser, who is an active member of The Friends of Galveston Island State Park. Frank made a guide map showing how you can navigate the two miles of paved roadway and the five miles of manicured grassland hiking trails. So get ready for a scenic walk — or bring your bike — to discover all the interesting wildlife in the prairie grasses, brackish marshes and seaside dunes. The map and the companion computer disc are available at the Ranger’s Desk at the entrance to the park.
If you want a guided kayak tour of the bay side, once again Frank Bowser is your man. Give him a call at 409-737-5567 and he’ll get you set up on a kayak tour. Launch times are timed to hit high tide, so that determines when you go out.
Anne’s second suggestion is to get in touch with another group of outdoor enthusiasts who go by the name Artist Boat.
Artist Boat has a really cool concept: they take kayakers out into the waters of Galveston Bay for an art lesson (painting for example) under the supervision of certified kayaking instructors — who also happen have a professional background in science or art.
If you have no experience kayaking, don’t worry. Most first time Artist Boat participants don’t have any experience either.
All the instruction and gear is included in the price of your tour, which ranges from $35 for a short two hour experience (not enough time for an art lesson) to $60 dollars per person for 4 hours, which includes an open air art lesson.
Not only is this great fun, it’s for a great cause too. Not that long ago one of the very last significant tracts of un-built land on Galveston’s West End was slated to be turned into a housing development.
But when those plans fell through due to the recession, Artist Boat was able join forces with other organizations to acquire a 160 acre parcel of coastal property on west Galveston Island to establish a new Coastal Heritage Preserve.
So when you support Artist Boat, you are also supporting a worthy cause that is protecting open space along Galveston Bay. You can friend Artist Boat on Facebook and see more photos of activities they have going on.
Armand Bayou Nature Center
Anne’s third suggestion is the Armand Bayou Nature Center, which is along the west side of Galveston Bay. At 2,500 acres, Armand Bayou is the largest urban wilderness preserve in the entire United States.
We can enjoy it today thanks to a visionary campaign started in the late 1960s by Mr Armand Yramategui, a Basque electrical engineer who ran the Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, right across the street from our Museum District office. In 1970 Armand (he went by his first name) was tragically killed in a what we would today call a ‘carjacking’ incident. The preserve opened in 1974, and Middle Bayou was re-named Armand Bayou in his memory.
Armand Bayou has been celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. They received a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to rejuvenate some of their hiking trails; this construction activity is nearly complete by now, but you might want to touch base with the office to get the latest details.
The three most popular trails– the Martyn Trail through the forest and along the bayou, the Prairie Interpretive Trail and the Discovery Loop Trail — will remain open during the construction work.
One great way to get an overview of the park is to ride the pontoon boat called the Bayou Ranger. These boat tours start early on Saturday mornings. Enjoy a light breakfast on board as you silently drift down the bayou and catch early morning activities of the park’s wildlife. The boat departs from Bay Area Park boat launch and costs $25 for adults. Become a member and save five dollars on your ticket. Make reservations at 281-474-2551 x10.
Another tip is visiting the park on the second Saturday of each month (next one coming up is July 12th, 2014) for two special programs: Photography and Canoeing
You can take a guided photography hike each second Saturday; the start times alternate between early morning and late afternoon. Reservations required, call 281-474-2551 x10 for more information.
You can also take a guided canoe trip (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) on the second Saturday of each month. Reservations are required, so give a call on 281-474-2551 x10.
Useful Links for Planning Your Healthy Living Houston Outdoor Adventures