I only noticed the plaque as I began to walk away. The faded gray background and lettering perfectly matched the elevated platform and railing.

The carved letters read “Jackson’s Perch” in recognition of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Richard Jackson for his “effort, support and leadership in making The Corps Woods a reality.”

I don’t know who Jackson was, but evidently we have him to thank for The Corps Woods Nature Sanctuary, the 10-acre thicket just off Ferry Road on Galveston Island’s east end.

Perhaps he was the one who proposed using material dredged from surrounding waterways to create the land I was standing on. The corps used to call material removed from waterways “dredge spoil” but now refer to it as “beneficial use material.”

On the July morning of my visit, migratory birds didn’t fill the trees but there was still much to see, starting with a dense and diverse array of plant life as soon as you pass through the gate.

As I walked the gravel trail to the right, on one side grows a dense ground cover of Indian blanket, camphor daisy, southern dewberry, sea-ox-eye daisy, western ragweed, sunflower and prickly pear. The other side showcases oaks, Sabal palms, hackberry trees and scattered dead limbs rising skyward, fronted in certain spots by yaupon and dense stands of an invasive plant called Brazilian pepper trees.

The gravel trail led to an elevated boardwalk that traversed a narrow waterway. Vegetation grew thickly along each bank, with invasive salt cedar, marsh elder, sea-myrtle, rattle bush and a few Chinese tallow trees packed closely together.

The waterway itself was dry but only recently so, as evidenced by small frogs hopping about and wet mud imprinted with the tracks of water birds and raccoons.

Back at the entrance, I walked the gravel trail to the left, seeing much the same until I reached another elevated boardwalk traversing the same narrow waterway. Water was still present, covered in duckweed and no doubt full of a bountiful crop of small fish and frogs. Night herons, a white ibis, a snowy egret and several whistling ducks waded along the waterway, taking full advantage of the plentiful resources.

Along the trail, butterflies and bees visited flowers, dragonflies searched for mosquitoes, grasshoppers hopped about, a male cardinal flew past, spider webs draped across tree branches and a bird’s nest clung to high branches of a tree.

I left with a sense that I had experienced a piece of our natural world. Who could possibly guess that this place had its origin as dredged material?

Steve Alexander, a retired marine scientist, is a Texas Master Naturalist and an adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M University at Galveston. He’s a regular contributor to The Daily News.

(1) comment

Steve Fouga

Thanks for this article. I didn't even know about the Corps Woods Nature Sanctuary. I'll be sure to visit.

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