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A great egret fishes at the Neches River Wildlife Refuge in Cherokee County.

On July 19, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 38 miles of the Neches River in Cherokee County as a national wildlife refuge. The Neches forms the border between Anderson and Cherokee counties.

Today the refuge welcomes hundreds of visitors a month to the 7,200-acre sanctuary. Facilities and activities are being added gradually. Hiking, wildlife observation, education, and photography are currently available. Volunteers at the refuge maintain eight hiking trails that vary from one-half mile to eight miles long. They’ve also installed wood duck nesting boxes and food plots to support wildlife.

The Neches is one of the largest rivers in East Texas and the refuge protects the wintering, nesting, and habitat for migratory birds of the central flyway. The refuge also protects the ecological diversity of the area’s bottomland hardwood trees. The refuge is authorized to purchase more land from willing sellers and add 25,000 acres to its total area. Texas has 19 national wildlife refuges with roughly 700,000 acres.

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