The Nueces River Delta represents a unique mosaic of highly productive wetlands, open water, islands, prairie, and river and bay shorelines. Located on the former McGregor Ranch, the Preserve includes the Rincon Bayou, a vital link in the riparian habitat, and a significant freshwater inflow route from Nueces River into Nueces Bay. With a goal of preserving and protecting this unique land, the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program began in 2000 plans to acquire land in the delta. The first parcel was purchased in 2003 and the program now has about 10,500 acres near Odem off Highway 77.
The Nueces Delta Preserve has become the hub for the CBBEP education programs, the site of various monitoring and freshwater inflow projects and a focus of conservation efforts. A 50-acre shallow-water wetlands for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, the Prairie Wetland Project, was the first restoration project undertaken. Since then, various monitoring stations, bird viewing areas, water features and owl nests have been added to provide additional information and habitat in the area.
As school field trips and teacher workshops began trekking through the Nueces Delta Preserve, CBBEP began building educational facilities. An outdoor pavilion was built in 2007, a screened-in classroom in 2009, and restroom facilities in 2015. More than 8,000 students experienced the Nueces River Delta through field trips each school year.
Our vision for the Nueces Delta Preserve includes improvements that will enhance the opportunities for education, research, exploration and management. This vision includes an Estuary Learning Center and a Visitors Center to be built on the Rincon Unit’s highest ground. The center would have informational exhibits, touch and interactive elements, a lecture hall, a laboratory, offices and adequate restrooms for busloads of students. An observation tower and hillside amphitheater are also part of our future vision. Hiking trails with improved rest areas and interpretive signage will allow visitors to venture deep into the varied delta habitats. A conceptual master plan was developed in 2010 and funding opportunities are being explored to make this plan and vision a reality.
The CBBEP’s Delta Discovery utilizes the Nueces Delta Preserve as a learning, living, and outdoor laboratory to teach teachers and their students about the estuary. Student activities follow state curriculum and can be tailored to classroom lessons. From second-graders learning about cloud formations to middle-schoolers measuring salinity levels with refractometers or high-school students examining whatever small animals happen to get stuck in a transect trap, the delta field trips provide a quality, hands-on educational experience. Learn more about CBBEP’s Delta Discovery at http://www.nuecesdeltapreserve.org/.