The 10,941-acre Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area is on U.S. Highway 287 twenty miles northwest of Palestine in northwest Anderson County. The land, in the post oak savannah region of the state, was purchased by the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission (see TEXAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION) between 1950 and 1960 for a state-owned and operated wildlife management area. Most of it was bought from W. L. Derden, and the area was originally named the Derden Wildlife Management Area. It was renamed in 1951, when Gus A. Engeling, the first biologist assigned to the area, was shot and killed by a poacher. Development was accomplished under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, approved on September 2, 1937, by the United States Congress. The Engeling Wildlife Management Area operates under the Wildlife Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The staff consists of six permanent, full-time employees.
The EWMA has a well-defined drainage system that empties into Catfish Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River. The system covers 2,000 acres of bottomland. Abundant understory vegetation, fallen timber, beaver dams and ponds, and natural succession have altered and reduced the flow of Catfish Creek, thus aiding in the formation of sloughs and marshes. In 1990 more than eight miles of Catfish Creek provided a strong, continual water flow with abundant fish and other aquatic life. The United States Department of the Interior has named this section of Catfish Creek a national natural landmark, suitable for registering because it "possesses national significance in illustrating the natural heritage of the United States."
The purpose of the area is to provide consumptive and nonconsumptive use to the general public compatible with other programs and the resource itself. The principal goals are to plan experimental land-use and game-management programs for the area, to conduct vegetation and wildlife studies applicable to management of wildlife habitat resources in the post oak region of Texas, to establish sound management practices for wildlife and habitat resources, to document trends in wildlife population for use in setting open seasons and bag limits, to establish information on wildlife management practices and demonstrate the application of these practices, and to provide opportunities for education about natural resources. The Engeling Wildlife Management Area illustrates quality wildlife habitat and proper management, necessary attributes of proper land stewardship.