The land the Armand Bayou Nature Center now occupies was first occupied by Native Americans for at least 7,000 years according to archaeological finds at the area. It's location in the Middle Bayou area provided rich natural resources for hunting of bison and prairie chickens as well as fishing. In the mid 1800's settlers started moving to the area for those same reasons. Once established, they began farming, ranching, and shipping along the bayou and out to Galveston Bay. Jim West, one of the early residents in the area owned operated a 28,000 acre ranch as a preserve for deer, quail, peccary, and prairie chickens. In 1938, his ranch was purchased by Humble Oil and Refining Company.
In 1962, Humble began to develop real estate opportunities which led to the initial development of the nearby NASA's Johnson Space Center. Five years later, the construction of Bay Area Boulevard created more public access to Middle Bayou which for further development. In the late 1960's, a fellow by the name of Armand Yramategui's started the initial conservation movement in this area. His passion for wilderness along the Texas Gulf Coast led efforts to begin preserving land in the area before being developed. Following his death in 1970, Middle Bayou was renamed Armand Bayou in honor of his conservation efforts. In 1974, the Armand Bayou Nature Center was incorporated as a non-profit organization with the help of individuals, organizations, and government agencies whose mission includes land preservation and environmental education.
Activities and Opportunities
The Armand Bayou Nature Center includes five miles of forest, marsh and prairie trails, viewing platforms, butterfly gardens, bird blinds, education classrooms, live wildlife displays, and a 1800's farm site. Visitors could expect to see a wide-variety of wildlife while walking the trails or in displays in the Education Center. Displays include reptiles such as snakes, turtles, and baby alligators. There is also a raptor display where injured raptors are able to be seen up close. Additionally, there is also a bison viewing area which provides a rare opportunity to see these animals alive in an area where they once roamed freely along the Texas coast.
Furthermore, various bird and paddling tours are hosted at the site throughout the year. Multi-day camps offer children a chance to get closer to nature in the summer and winter. Volunteer workdays for prairie restoration give the public a chance to physically be involved in habitat management. There are many different nature-themed classes held at the Education Center ranging from bayou hydrology to wildflowers. The site also hosts a Trash Bash event in conjunction with other Galveston Bay locations every March.
Why is it significant to Houston’s National Wildlife Refuges?
This preserve is much like National Wildlife Refuges in the area. It was created before development occurred on it and is actually preserving one of the last remaining pieces of native prairie in Harris County and the greater Houston area. Being completely surrounded by residential areas in Clear Lake and industrial development in La Porte, the decision to preserve this in the early 1970's has created a tremendous resource for providing prairie habitat and environmental education in the city. However, this also means that the Nature Center will not have much opportunity to grow in size for further land conservation. Fortunately, the land owner, Harris County, has leased the site to the Armand Bayou Nature Center with a 99-year automatic rollover lease. This means, visitors today can be assured that this land will continue to be preserved for the next generation. Houston's National Wildlife Refuges offer the same assurance to visitors in that they will preserve and restore native habitat for the next generation. Being further away from current development offers more opportunities to reach out for further land acquisition and preservation. When looking for an experience with nature outside the city, plan a visit to your Houston-area National Wildlife Refuges.
By: Matthew Jackson
Historical information gathered from http://www.abnc.org/