As thick as a forearm, grapevines reach across hundred year-old oaks. A spot of sunlight ripens a banquet of dewberries. The brash colors of a scarlet Indian paintbrush are muted among the purples, pinks and blues of the multitude of wildflowers. And a host of insects find shelter in the dangling, tentacled Spanish moss.

Every year, about 29 million individual migratory birds pass through the Columbia Bottomlands.  After a grueling northern migration flight of more than 400 miles, the birds’ first site of safety and shelter is a thick forest along the southeast Texas coast.   Having lost as much as 1/3 of their body weight, the birds stop to feed and rest in this wet and low-lying, insect-rich area.  The thick canopy hides them from soaring predators, such as hawks and kites.  Following an internal compass, these millions of migratory birds return every year counting on the bounty of the bottomlands to refuel and refresh them before they continue their perilous journey north.

To read more about Columbia Bottomlands, download our atlas! 


Brazos Bend State Park

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

Matagorda County Birding Nature Center  

Download Houston Wilderness' List of Ecoregion Sites for information on sites in all 10 ecoregions.


1) Many species of trees call the Columbia Bottomlands home, including green ash, hackberry, honey locust, pignut, hickory, cherry laurel, American beech, magnolia and pecan trees.

2) The area is an important stopover habitat for migrating neotropical birds like hummingbirds, warblers, thrushes and orioles.

3) One of the state’s oldest and largest live oak trees resides in the Columbia Bottomlands.

4) Once covering over a thousand square miles, the bottomlands have been reduced to 250 square miles. Thankfully, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have begun a program to conserve the area.

5) The 46-acre palm tract contains the last remaining examples of the Brazoria palm, a native tree unique to the Columbia Bottomlands that grows up to 20 feet high.

6) Brazos Bend State Park, one of the most heavily used state parks in the region, boasts over 5,000 acres and is located on one of the bottomland’s coastal prairies, the floodplains of the Brazoria River.

7) Hudson Woods is one of the most beautiful and accessible areas of the Columbia Bottomlands. Open to the public year-round, it offers an oxbow lake and a two-mile walking trail for recreation.

8) The Columbia Bottomlands holds six or seven active bald eagle nests.

9) During the height of migration, it is estimated that 239 million birds representing 237 species pass through the Columbia Bottomlands each spring.

10) Common residents of the Columbia Bottomlands include swamp rabbits, bull frogs, red-eared slider turtles and the black-bellied whistling duck.


Banner Photo by Cliff Meinhardt