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High Island

Planning Your Visit

High Island Bleachers
High Island Bleachers

High Island Patch

High Island Spring 2020

The kiosk at Boy Scout Woods opens on Friday, March 27 and closes on Tuesday, May 5.

New this spring: We'll open the brand new Kathrine G. McGovern Canopy Walkway in Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. This 600-foot elevated boardwalk will provide an interpreted experience through the forest layers, culminating with commanding overlooks at both Smith and Claybottom ponds. We will also open new restrooms in Smith Oaks.

Birding Walks: The Tropical Birding guides will lead three bird walks a day, five days a week (every day except Tuesday and Wednesday) in our High Island sanctuaries and surrounding hotspots. The walks begin on Thursday, April 2 and end on Sunday, May 3. The 8:30 AM walk is at Boy Scout Woods. The Noon shorebird walk meets at the gate for Boy Scout Woods and visits various sites for shorebirds and other coastal birds. The 4:00 PM walk starts at the Old Mexico Rd parking lot at Smith Oaks and searches for warblers in the woods followed by a quick circuit of the Rookery. Houston Audubon staff and volunteers plan to lead guided bird walks on the days that the Tropical Birding guides are recuperating and exploring. Free, no reservations required.

Land Sea and Sky at High Island: The knowledgeable staff of Land Sea and Sky will once again provide High Island visitors the opportunity to try out several binoculars and scopes in the field. They will be set up in Boy Scout Woods Friday through Sunday (April 10–12, April 17–19, April 24–26) and during Flight in Focus (May 2–3). A portion of purchases will go toward supporting Houston Audubon programs!

RV Volunteer Caretakers at High Island: Our Coastal Operations Center and Volunteer Campground at High Island is almost ready! It will feature RV hookups, showers, and an outdoor picnic pavilion to make your volunteer experience convenient and comfortable. Take advantage of this opportunity to camp in exchange for 20 hours of service per week conducting tasks such as greeting guests, leading tours and sharing information about our bird sanctuaries and more! Overnight and short term camping opportunities will also be available for our monthly work parties and Spring Migration. We plan to open the grounds in Spring 2020. Get on the list now to reserve your space by emailing Lauren Miheli at Variety of timelines and schedules offered.

Sanctuary System

Houston Audubon has 4 sanctuaries at High Island. Boy Scout Woods is the headquarters, which is staffed by volunteers during peak spring migration season from mid-March to mid-May. Smith Oaks is the largest sanctuary and home to the Rookery. The Rookery is fascinating to visit throughout the year. The High Island sanctuaries are fee sites. The fee helps defray the costs of maintenance, utilities and improvements for the entire Houston Audubon sanctuary system. A day pass costs $8, or for $30 a patch may be purchased which gives you an unlimited number of admissions to all High Island sanctuaries for one year. Children under 18 years old are free. High Island residents are also free (proof of residency such as a driver's license is needed).

The kiosk at Boy Scout Woods should be your first stop during the spring season. There you can purchase a day pass or patch and find out about the latest sightings. Our friendly volunteers are glad to assist you with directions and provide help with which areas may be best suited for your interests.

TOS Partnership: Our High Island makes it easier to visit both Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) and Houston Audubon sanctuaries. Purchase of a day pass or annual patch from Houston Audubon will provide passage to the ever-popular Hooks Woods on First St.

Tropical Birding Partnership

For the past 12 years during spring migration season, the professional guides at Tropical Birding have volunteered their services, enabling us to offer free birding walks at High Island and Bolivar Flats. Thank you, Tropical Birding!

Best Time to Visit

Our High Island sanctuaries are open daily throughout the year. Peak spring migration season is from mid-March to mid-May. Numbers are highest during a "fallout", which sometimes occurs with a fast-moving cold front. During fall migration, late September to mid-October usually produce the best results.


No dogs or other domestic animals are allowed at any of the High Island Sanctuaries. The use of laser pointers is prohibited. No pishing or use of playback devices unless special permission is obtained. Drone photography is prohibited. Smoking is prohibited except in the parking lots.

  • Details of policies and rules for all the High Island sanctuaries including information for photographers and campers

Our Sanctuary Neighbors

Please be considerate of our neighbors! Birds can be found almost anywhere on High Island, including our neighbors' yards. Please do not enter their yards and be careful when you aim your binoculars, as some people get the idea that birders are looking in their windows and invading their privacy.

Oil Field Roads

Please note that the oilfield roads are temporarily inaccessible.

High Island Community

Please support local businesses and civic organizations as much as possible. Communities are more willing to support local conservation efforts if they feel protected habitat helps the local economy. See the list of accommodations, food, and other useful addresses compiled by Houston Audubon members.

  • Citgo
  • BP
  • Chevron Retiree Association
  • Land Sea & Sky
  • Shell Oil Company Foundation
  • Strabo Tours
  • Tropical Birding