Places We Protect

Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary

Texas

A stand of longleaf pine trees.
Sandyland Sanctuary This preserve protects some of the last remaining longleaf pine forests in Texas. © R.J. Hinkle

The Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary harbors a variety of plant species, including one of the last remaining longleaf pine communities in Texas.

Overview

Description

The iconic longleaf pine once stretched for 90 million acres across the southern United States, from Texas to Virginia. Today, only 5% of this natural system remains, following decades of agricultural, residential and commercial development. The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary is one link within a comprehensive, nationwide effort to restore the iconic longleaf pine ecosystem.

Located just north of Beaumont, the preserve is part of the region dubbed the "Big Thicket" by early travelers enchanted by the lush vegetation. From its vast, open meadows to its mysterious, swampy waterways shaded by bald cypress trees, the thicket teems with rare plants and wildlife. This unique combination of bogs, open-floor forest and Southern pinelands creates a preserve with remarkable diversity, sustaining over 700 plant species and more than 200 animal species recorded.

In addition to forest restoration and management, Sandylands offers many interpretive trails that are open to the public. Visitors can also canoe, kayak and fish in the waters of Village Creek, which courses through the preserve for 8.5 miles and ultimately contributes to the Neches River. Academic institutions also use Sandylands for outdoor education, field labs and research.

 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Highlights

Birding, day hiking, nature study, photography, picnicking, canoeing/kayaking on Village Creek.

Size

5,666 acres

Explore our work in this region

From the Fire: A Legacy of Longleaf (5:54) Together, TNC and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas are partnering to put more beneficial fire on the ground and once again help the longleaf pine—and the species it supports—flourish in East Texas.
Red flowers grow from the lush forest floor.
Biodiversity Hotspot The Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary is home to a unique combination of ecosystems, supporting numerous plant and animal species. © Jacqueline Ferrato

Why This Place Matters

Nestled along the banks of Village Creek, Sandylands protects and preserves 5,666 acres of East Texas’ natural heritage. The preserve is a hotbed for biodiversity, where you can find cactuses, pines, ferns, colorful wildflowers and wildlife, including songbirds and roadrunners. In addition, the region’s pine and hardwood forests have long served as the heart of the East Texas economy, providing fiber products and space for visitors to enjoy recreation and relaxation. As Texas continues to grow and develop, Sandylands provides another important value: the chance to experience the diversity and abundance of wildlife and plant life our native forests and waters sustain.

Connected with the Big Thicket National Preserve, the preserve also serves as a corridor for wildlife as they feed, breed, move and migrate through southeast Texas. These same lands and waters are resilient natural resources that help cleanse and filter water as it flows from Village Creek, a major tributary to the Neches River. The Neches River is an important source of drinking water for the city of Beaumont, Texas, and ultimately flows into the Gulf of Mexico, a prime nursery for the shellfish and fisheries industries of the Texas Gulf Coast.

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Photos from the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this longleaf pine forest preserve. Tag @nature_tx on Instagram with your photos when you visit.

A man wearing protective gear uses a chainsaw to cut down a tall, thin pine tree.
Three kayakers paddle down a muddy river lined with trees.
Bright purple flowers bloom on the forest floor.
A trail covered in fallen, brown pine needles winds through pencil thin tree trunks.
A grey and brown mottled lizard stares back as it tries to camouflage itself against a tree stump.
Flames burn on the forest floor while tall pine trees remain unharmed.
A small pond surrounded by dense, green forest and tall grass.
A hand extends picking up one of 16 mussels, with a guidebook and sample bag nearby.
Vibrant green ferns blanket the floor of a dense forest.
Two men in protective gear discuss burn plans as prescribed fire blazes at the edge of a firebreak. In the distance, a third fire practitioner rides on an ATV, surveying the burn.
Two pine tree seedlings with thick, green needles.
From seedlings to forests TNC is using management techniques, including prescribed fire and reforestation, to create healthy and resilient longleaf pine tree communities. © Chris Helzer

What TNC Is Doing

TNC is working with public and private landowners, including industrial forest land managers, to create and manage sustainable forests on the preserve and in the surrounding region. A primary focus of this partnership is to protect and restore the longleaf pine and wetland forest habitat that once dominated the southern landscape.

Sandylands also serves as a research and demonstration site for land and water management practices; we manage the forest’s preserves using selective harvesting, non-native species control, prescribed fire and reforestation. Finally, we are establishing partnerships to promote regional native seed production for native landscaping, pollinator gardens and habitat improvement.

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Visit

  • Access

    The Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. Visitors may enter free of charge. With opportunities to hike a number of trails and experience unparalleled natural sights and sounds, the preserve is a great destination for those looking to exercise, study nature or spend time outdoors.

    TNC does reserve the right to close the preserve for safety considerations and land management activities such as prescribed burning.

    Volunteer opportunities for individuals, community groups and corporate teams are available. For more information or details on these activities, contact preserve manager Shawn Benedict (shawn_benedict@TNC.ORG).

  • Directions

    From Beaumont:

    Head north on US69N/287North. Pass through the town of Lumberton. Exit to your right at the Hwy 327 West Exit for Silsbee. Travel approximately 3 miles to the public entrance of the preserve (4208 Hwy 327 West, Silsbee, TX 77656). The preserve parking lot and entrance sign are on your immediately after you cross the Village Creek bridge. Park in the fenced parking area and follow signage to the trailhead.

  • Resources