Hiking trails offer refuge
Monday, 19 November 2012 by Keith Bahlmann
With the onset of cooler autumn weather, now is a good time to start spending time outdoors. Spanish red oaks could be turning a nice red color this year.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, on the north side of Lake Travis, offers outdoor recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching, nature study, and wildlife photography. Admittance is free and is open every day during daylight hours.
Hikers and nature enthusiasts may enjoy about one mile of mostly wooded nature trails with Spanish red oaks at Warbler Vista. These trails are moderately difficult. However, a short accessible path goes to the Sunset Deck where one can get a view of Lake Travis and the surrounding hills. Warbler Vista is 1.2 miles west of the Lago Vista High School on FM 1431.
Refuge headquarters is 3.5 miles west of Warbler Vista on FM 1431. A unique photo blind with a water drip feature/bird bath to attract birds overlooks Turtle Pond. This photo blind is accessible. A .4 mile Post Oak Creek Trail starts near the blind and follows alongside Turtle Pond and the creek. Headquarters is generally open weekdays from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. excluding federal holidays. Although the office won't be open, this trail will be open on the following weekends: November 10-11, November 17-18, December 1-2, and December 8-9.
At Doeskin Ranch, visitors can explore native prairie, a pond, a stream, bluffs, and hike up onto the Post Oak Ridge to see the expansive views.
Spanish Oaks are most common along the hillsides on the 2.2 mile Rimrock and 1.5 mile Indiangrass trails. The Creek Trail, probably the most popular trail at Doeskin Ranch, has some Spanish red oaks too.
Watch for songbirds at all seasons: watch for warblers, gnatcatchers, and orioles in migration, sparrows and towhees in the winter, and buntings and grosbeaks in the summer. Redbirds or cardinals are here year-round.
Portions of the Doeskin Ranch trail system are accessible. The five miles of nature trail is located on RR 1174 about 4.5 miles north of FM 1431. Doeskin Ranch is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. This year, Doeskin Ranch is not one of the management hunt units during the Big Game Hunts. Doeskin Ranch is open to the general public for hiking every day during daylight hours.
For more information regarding the refuge, go to: www.fws.gov/refuge/balcones_canyonlands.