Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary
Parking Permits: As of January 1, 2007, the State of Texas has started the parking permit program on the Bolivar Peninsula. Anyone can drive on the beach for free. But if you park on the beach you must have a parking permit on your windshield. The fee for the permit is $10.00 a year. To get the permit you can mail a check to Galveston County Parks Department or you can find a merchant on Bolivar that sells them and purchase it there. The address is:
Galveston County Parks Department, 4102 Main (FM 519), La Marque Texas 77568. Almost every store and real estate office on the Bolivar Peninsular has the permits; many have signs out front saying that they sell them.
View Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary in a larger map
At first glance, you might not see the special qualities of Bolivar Flats, a unique area combining salt marsh,
mud flats and beach, each habitat quite different from the other. Every year hundreds of thousands of birds
discover that Bolivar Flats is a special place. Here they find a resting place and nesting
habitat where a smorgasbord of invertebrates and fish is spread. Decomposing plant material derived from the salt
marsh and delivered by the coastal currents feeds millions of small worms, shrimp and clams which live in the
mud flats. Thousands of birds, small fish and crabs hunt the shallows for these invertebrates
and small fish that venture into deeper water.
People are constantly making changes to the face of the land. Bolivar Flats records the story
of people creating a positive change. The 5-mile long North Jetty, built by the U.S. Corps of
Engineers, and completed in 1898, is the reason that today thousands of birds have this place
to feed, rest and build their nests. The jetty was built to protect the mouth of Galveston Bay.
In doing so it diverts the currents that parallel the coast causing sediments to drop to the bottom.
The Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary consists of salt marsh, beach and uplands that were
created as these sediments accumulated. As sediments continue to accumulate, Bolivar Flats continues
Bolivar Flats has been recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
as an important resting and feeding location for migrating shorebirds from throughout
the Western Hemisphere.
It's For the Birds
People are encouraged to walk along the beach and enjoy watching the birds and other wildlife
that is protected here. Observe wildlife from a distance at which they feel comfortable. Walking
in vegetated dunes and marshes is discouraged. These areas contain hidden nests and
poisonous snakes. The vehicular barrier was erected to protect nesting and roosting birds,
most of which live on the ground. In addition, vehicles compact the sand, killing the plants
and animals that live there and making it more difficult for birds to find food and cover.
Regulations also prohibit fires in the sanctuary.
From Houston take I-45 South to Galveston. In town I-45 turns into Broadway. Follow Broadway
to Seawall Boulevard. Turn left on Seawall. Turn left on Ferry Road to the terminal.
You will exit the ferry on Hwy. 87. Follow this for 3.7 miles to Rettilon Road. Turn right
and drive to the beach. Turn right on the beach and drive on the beach to the vehicular barricade
where you may park.
From Fifth Street in High Island, turn left onto Hwy. 124. Go to the stop sign. Turn right on to Hwy. 87.
Rettilon Road is about 25 miles. Turn left on Rettilon and drive to the beach. Turn right on the beach
and drive on the beach to the vehicular barricade where you may park.
Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary on the eastern end of Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County began with agreements with the General Land Office and Galveston County in the late
1980s that allowed Houston Audubon to establish the sanctuary and close the beach to automobiles. The 1,146.35 acres that make up the sanctuary today were acquired in a number of transactions. The first acquisition was the purchase of 178 acres (Suderman Tract, 1997), followed by a donation of a 4/7 undivided interest in a tract of land from Houston businessman Lewis Tyra, given with the restriction that it be used as a wildlife sanctuary. A partition agreement with Mr. Tyra and the owners of the 1/5 undivided interest in 2002 led to full HAS ownership of the present 353.35-acre Tyra Tract. In 2001 a major addition to the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary was made with the purchase by HAS of 615 acres (the Jetty Tract) through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A major fundraising effort led to support for that purchase from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Shell Marine, Houston Endowment, and hundreds of individual donors. Efforts to acquire further small adjacent tracts have continued. This sanctuary is recognized as a site of hemispheric importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and as an Important Bird Area of national importance by National Audubon Society and Birdlife International.