Author: Danielle Taylor

Danielle Taylor is a freelance writer whose work covers outdoor recreation, conservation, public lands and travel, and she's spending much of 2016 on a road trip to America's national parks. To learn about her work and travels, follow her on Twitter ( and Facebook (, and visit her website (

It’s hard to get kids to sit still for an educational lesson, but when the subject is alligators and they’re right at the front of the classroom, parents find their children wide-eyed and rapt with attention. These rare interactions are business as usual at Gator Country, just 20 minutes southwest of downtown Beaumont, where more than 300 alligators sprawl across the 15-acre property. At 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day, owners Gary and Jana Saurage and their team bring out gators as well as crocodiles, snakes, turtles and other reptiles, and they use the opportunity to teach

Visitors who come to Beaumont for the city’s museums, historical attractions and nightlife may not realize they’re cradled in one of the most biodiverse parts of the world, but a peek into the woods and waterways of Big Thicket National Preserve reveals a surprising side of east Texas that’s easy to overlook. This federally protected area stretches north and west of Beaumont across 112,250 acres of land and water, and it preserves the area’s unusual combination of habitats that converged here during the last ice age. Along the Neches River, which serves as the