Places We Protect

Texas City Prairie Preserve

Texas

A large pod of adult white pelicans sits on a long, thin strip of beach against a backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas City Prairie Preserve White Pelicans at Texas City Prairie Preserve © Rich Kostecke/TNC

A coastal prairie at the intersection of urban expanse and rural beauty.

Overview

Description

Just 40 miles south of Houston, the Galveston Bay area bustles with ships coming and going at some of the busiest ports in the world. Meanwhile, fishing nets are being prepared for professional harvesting, and tourists stroll through Galveston’s scenic streets. And in Texas City, on the southwest shoreline of the bay, freshwater and coastal habitat are being preserved by The Nature Conservancy. This includes a portion of the less than 1 percent of coastal prairie that once spanned 9 million-plus acres from southern Texas, up along the Gulf of Mexico, and into Louisiana.

The 2,303-acre Texas City Prairie Preserve has become an important demonstration site for native prairie restoration and more, showcasing native plants such as big and little bluestem, gulf cordgrass and rare coastal gayfeather. The natural infrastructure being re-established at the preserve also provides important habitat for species that include white ibis, white-tailed hawk, Forster's terns and other shore and wading birds. 

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Open to volunteers and by appointment

Highlights

Volunteer opportunities, birding

Size

2,303 acres

Explore our work in this region

Landscape view of marshy coastal prairie.
Pristine Prairie TNC's Texas City Prairie Preserve consists of 2,303 acres of coastal prairie that is vital to the natural resilience of the Gulf Coast. © R.J. Hinkle

Why This Place Matters

Prairies and marshlands act as natural buffers against storms and hurricanes, absorbing and dispersing water from storm surges and floods. The sponge-like qualities of the coastal landscape at Texas City Prairie Preserve also help filter freshwater that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, TNC’s work here has focused on preserving coastal habitat, water quality and the health of the Gulf since the preserve was established in 1995.

Recent science underscores the benefits of local habitat restoration as a cost-effective way to protect coastal communities from the impacts of extreme weather events, like Hurricane Harvey. A 2018 study found that large-scale oyster and wetland restoration projects could help avert more than 45 percent of climate risk over a two-year period in the Gulf, saving more than $50 billion in flood damages.

The loss of Texas’ coastal prairie habitat has largely been due to development, which has devastated many wildlife populations that once thrived in the region. TNC’s conservation efforts are safeguarding important habitats for migratory and year-round populations of waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds, like brown pelicans, peregrine falcons, white-tailed hawk and seaside sparrows.

Woody plants and other non-native species, such as Chinese tallow trees and deep-rooted sedge, also pose a serious threat to the space and resource needs of native plants. By eliminating invasive plant species, TNC is helping natives thrive at the preserve, from yellow indiangrass and switchgrass to eastern gammagrass.

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Photos from Texas City Prairie Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this coastal prairie and marshland preserve. Tag @nature_tx on Instagram with your photos when you visit.

A large, full moon shines over a waving ocre prairie at Texas City Prairie Preserve.
A closeup of a hand holding a small, silver fish still laying in the blue net that it was captured in; the fish was later safely released.
A tree surrounded with rocks sits beside Galveston Bay at sunset.
Five volunteers crouch in green prairie grass, removing small pieces of trash as part of a cleanup effort.
A closeup of a critically endangered Attwater's prairie chicken, with brown and white mottled feathers and a bright orange neck.
A closeup of blanket flower, also known as Indian blanket; the flower's red and yellow petals pop brightly against a green background.
An expanse of green and brown marsh grass submerged in bay water as the sun shines brightly overhead.
Three young boys in baseball caps use grabbers to pick up trash along the water's edge at Texas City Prairie Preserve.
A white great egret with a yellow beak wades through bright green marsh grass at the preserve.
A long, one-story building at the Texas City Prairie Preserve, which serves as headquarters for staff, educational activities, and conservation efforts.
Closeup of a hand holding harvested seed from a bag.
Native Seed A handful of harvested seed from Texas City Praire Preserve, which will be used for native restoration efforts across Texas. © Jerod Foster

What TNC Is Doing

Sitting between areas of encroaching development, Texas City Prairie Preserve is the perfect living laboratory in which to test storm mitigation and other coastal restoration techniques in a real-world setting. This includes developing living shoreline projects with stakeholders like U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas General Land Office and the Galveston Bay Estuaries Program and utilizing land management efforts such as shoreline restoration, invasive species control and rotational grazing to manage the preserve's coastal grasslands and marshes.

Over the years, Texas City Prairie Preserve has become a region-wide model for native prairie restoration, native seed-growing and the benefits of natural infrastructure. Preserve staff are providing design, seed material and equipment for establishing native coastal prairie as part of efforts to restore Memorial Park, and in 2018, we began working with Rice University on seed and habitat restoration techniques for the development of a one-acre "pocket prairie" on campus.

Together, our work at Texas City Prairie Preserve is aiding in stormwater mitigation, water quality filtration, wildlife habitat support and conservation education in the greater Houston area.

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