Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center is a premier 312-acre Harris County Precinct 4 nature preserve open daily to visitors free of charge. The park features a variety of plant and wildlife species, white sand beaches along Spring Creek, swamps and sloughs with century-old cypress trees, and a pristine floodplain located in a hardwood and pine forest. All features are accessible by over eight miles of paved, handicap-friendly pedestrian trails and several unpaved primitive trails. The Spring Creek Greenway, with over 12 miles of paved trail system along Spring Creek, is also accessible from the park’s Judy Overby Bell Trail.
The Nature Center features environmental displays, dioramas, and mounted specimens of local wildlife species; a permanent display of live snakes native to Harris County and surrounding areas; and live amphibian and fish aquariums. A collection of native landscape plants that attract wildlife are featured in the beds surrounding the Nature Center.
The Redbud Hill Homestead, a recreated 1820s-30s Texas homestead, features a log cabin, smokehouse, root cellar, chicken coop, kitchen garden, barn, an outhouse, and blacksmith and woodworking shops. A re-created Akokisa-Ishak Indian Village, adjacent to the homestead, displays seasonal encampment structures of local tribes that inhabited the forests of southeast Texas during the colonization era.
The picnic loop surrounds a fort-style playground for children of various ages and ability levels and includes a separate toddler play area. The picnic loop features a covered picnic shelter with four tables and a grill, as well as 28 separate uncovered picnic tables, three of which are handicap-accessible. Most tables have accompanying barbecue grills. All picnic areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A large, covered barbecue pavilion with ten picnic tables and two grills is available for use at no charge; however, advance reservation is required. Reservations must be made at least two weeks prior to event dates. Visit the Nature Center or call 281-446-8588, for more information and to make reservations. Note: The spring and fall months are the busiest seasons for reservations.
A variety of innovative, educational, and entertaining programs are offered on most weekends. These free programs include a cornucopia of natural science-related topics covering local reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, botany, wild edibles, tree walks, birding tours, park after dark activities, freshwater ecology, fishing, and wildscaping. Other activities include guided canoe and pontoon boat trips on Spring Creek, Second Saturday Settlers in the homestead, Second Sunday Pickers (folk music) in the Nature Center, plus much more.
Jones Park hosts five annual family-friendly festivals: Homestead Heritage Day, held the second Saturday in February, features historians and re-enactors highlighting many eras important in Texas’ history; NatureFest, held the first Saturday in March, offers speakers, exhibits, nature crafts, and activities relating to the environment; Tricks & Treats Among the Trees, held in October; Pioneer Day, held the second Saturday in November, showcases settler life during the early 1830s; and an Old-Fashioned Christmas, held the first Saturday in December, brings 19th-century holiday traditions to life.
The Tadpoles Club, a regularly scheduled program for preschoolers, meets Wednesday morning and afternoon of rotating months during the school year. This program introduces nature topics to three- and four-year-olds and their parent or guardian using finger plays, puppets, hand’s-on learning, walks, and stories.
A four-day Summer Nature Camp for kids ages 5 through 12 is held in June and July each year. Programming focuses on outdoor nature discovery and activities. Registration begins the first Saturday in May and requires proof of the child’s age and Harris County residency. Non-Harris County residents may register beginning the following day.
Guided nature and settler history tours are available during the school year for groups of 10 to 80 students, or four classes with chaperones. Pioneer TOTS (preschool and kindergarten) and Pioneer TYKES (first graders and older) programming takes place in the homestead on select dates. Costumed staff and volunteers create a more visual, hands-on approach to demonstrating Texas settler history. All guided tours require preregistration.
All programs are free and open to the public. The program schedule is published seasonally. Due to space limitations, some programs require reservations or are open to one reservation per person/household. Group reservations are not allowed unless otherwise indicated. All private and school tours require preregistration. Anyone requiring special assistance to participate in any program should contact the park beforehand. Comfortable, closed-toe shoes and the use of insect repellent are recommended year-round.
The Jesse Jones Park Volunteers (JJPV) assist park personnel in a variety of ways, including park maintenance, festivals, programs, tours, and handcrafts. JJPV holds meetings including informative programs in the Nature Center the last Monday of most months.
Fishing is permitted on the banks of Spring Creek only, and compliance with state fishing laws is enforced by game wardens. Late winter and early spring are successful times for catching white bass and crappie; catfish can be caught year-round.
Specially formulated turtle food is available at the Nature Center and is a popular snack for the diverse water turtle population at the Overlook Turtle Pond off the Canoe Launch Trail.
Access to a creek side canoe launch and take out point is available with 24-hour prior notice and reservation. Canoeing/kayaking guidelines and reservations are available online at www.hcp4.net/Community/Parks/CanoeKayak or at the Nature Center. Vehicles must be parked in the parking lot and cannot be left overnight.
Bike riding is welcome on the Jones-Bender Trail, Judy Overby Bell Trail, and the Spring Creek Greenway (SCG). Accessible from the Judy Overby Bell Trail, the SCG connects Jones Park to Pundt Park and Dennis Johnston Park.
The recycling drop-off currently accepts aluminum cans, monofilament fishing line, paper, and flattened cardboard. Not accepted at this time are glass, plastic, tin, batteries, oil, and household hazardous waste.
A detailed park map along with park rules, various check lists, and educational brochures are available in the Nature Center or on the park website.
Nature Center, Office, and Park Hours:
The Nature Center and office is open daily* from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The park opens daily* at 8 a.m. and closes at dusk.
The park entrance gate closes 30 minutes prior to the park’s closing.
*Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.