Places We Protect

Powderhorn Ranch

Texas

A broad expanse of salt marsh with patches of open water and patches of marsh grass.
POWDERHORN RANCH TNC and a coalition of conservation groups made this purchase possible in 2014. © Jerod Foster

Protecting one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in Texas.

Overview

Description

Just off a quiet stretch of highway in Calhoun County, beyond a nondescript metal gate, lies a 17,351-acre mosaic of dense live oak forests, coastal prairies, salt marshes and wetlands. This property, known as Powderhorn Ranch, is one of the largest remaining undisturbed tracts of native coastal prairie habitat left in Texas—and likely the largest conservation deal in the history of Texas.

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Location

Calhoun County, Texas

Map with marker: Map with marker: Calhoun County, Texas

Size

17,351 acres

Explore our work in this region

Powderhorn Ranch Aerial Footage (1:05) View footage of Powderhorn Ranch, which protects more than 17,000 acres of freshwater and brackish wetlands, coastal tallgrass prairie and live oak mottes.
A large bird with white feathers wades through a marsh.
WILD WHOOPERS The acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch will safeguard key habitat for the federally endangered whooping crane. © Kendal Larson

Why This Place Matters

Secured by a partnership between The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Conservation Fund,  Powderhorn Ranch offers sweeping, unobstructed views of tallgrass prairies and marshland in addition to 11 miles of tidal bay front that protect vitally important seagrass beds and mollusk reefs. Its environmental significance cannot be overstated. Federally endangered whooping cranes currently winter just 15-30 miles south of Powderhorn. With the number of wild whoopers expanding, the ranch will undoubtedly become a critical habitat for whooping cranes in the coming years.

Powderhorn’s saltwater wetlands also offer important, year-round habitat for shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. Elsewhere, extensive woodlands and freshwater wetlands provide critically important “fall-out areas” for migrating songbirds, particularly during spring migration when, exhausted from their flights across or around the Gulf of Mexico, birds use these areas to rest and refuel. TNC plans to conduct extensive wildlife and plant surveys on the ranch, which will undoubtedly become a haven for bird watchers, as well as people interested in fishing, kayaking and canoeing.

The ranch also includes a distinctive geologic formation called the Ingleside Barrier, which supports unique plant life such as the seacoast bluestem and Texas coastal bend live oak. With several miles of Matagorda Bay frontage, the bays and flats along that shoreline serve as important nurseries for a variety of fish and shellfish, including brown shrimp, redfish, spotted sea trout and blue crab.

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Photos from Powderhorn Ranch

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this protected coastal property.

Yellow flowers bloom on a green cactus amongst coastal prairie.
A woman in a hat removes a bird from a mist net.
Green salt marsh dots sandy beach and shallow coastal waters.
A bird with brown mottled feathers wades through tall, green marsh.
A massive tree with many thick, winding branches.
A bird with dark feathers and a yellow chest perches on a thin branch.
A closeup of a brown, mottled rabbit with large ears and dark eyes.
Four deer with antlers and one dear without stand in a grassy field.
Ocean waters meet the edge of a rocky beach with flower and eroded sand dunes.
A large white bird spreads its lengthy wings and begins to fly away from a green marsh.
A kayaker paddles through a maze of green marsh.
RECREATION DESTINATION Eventually, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department plans to turn over 2,250 acres of Powderhorn Ranch into a public state park. © Carlton Ward Jr.

What TNC Is Doing

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funded a significant portion of this at-scale conservation project using fine money resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has played a lead role in securing that funding and will continue to raise money to support habitat restoration and management along with creating a long-term endowment. As the easement-holder, TNC will play a key role in restoring areas that have been overgrazed or over-run with invasive species.

In 2016, TNC turned full ownership of Powderhorn Ranch over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Today, the property is better known as the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area. In the future, over 2,250 acres of the tract will become a state park with public access, managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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Resources

  • Access

    While TNC holds a permanent conservation easement on Powderhorn Ranch, the property was turned over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation in 2016. This tract is now managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) as the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area; TPWD offers limited access to the property throughout the year. Additionally, plans are underway to turn over 2,250 acres of Powderhorn Ranch into a public state park, which will also be managed by TPWD.

  • Maps