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15 Best Spots on the Coast

The Big Tree

Goose Island State Park

The Big Tree.
Justin Carrasquillo

J. R. R. Tolkien’s towering Ents, the ancient, gnarled beings in The Lord of the Rings, have nothing on the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park. This gargantuan live oak was already more than five hundred years old when Cabeza de Vaca arrived on Texas shores; in the course of a thousand journeys around the sun, its trunk has grown to a circumference of some 35 feet, while the crown now spans almost 90 feet. Goose Island bridges the St. Charles and Aransas bays, and though merely 321 acres, it boasts forest, prairie, and wetland, as well as some excellent fishing. But the Big Tree, one of the oldest living organisms in Texas, is its jewel. Named the State Champion Coastal Live Oak, in 1969, it is believed to have withstood more than forty hurricanes. As I stood in the shade of its heavy, serpentine limbs, which reach to the edge of a protective fence, I wondered what stories the tree might tell if only it could talk. 

To get there: The Big Tree is on a small parcel of public land just outside Goose Island SP, about 10 miles northeast of Rockport. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Take Texas Highway 35 to Park Road 13, then follow the signs for a couple of miles to the tree and park headquarters (361-729-2858). Entrance fee is $5 per day. 

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