Three of Capt. Day Trips fave wildlife preserves
Local nature parks preserve valuable parcels of land around the state. These islands of wilderness become even more precious when you consider that only a small percentage of land in Texas is set aside for use by the public and wildlife. Often owned by communities, counties, or regional conservation districts and maintained by volunteers, local wildlife preserves are often little known and lightly used. Here are three of my favorites:
One of the prettiest of these local nature parks is Cooks Slough Sanctuary and Nature Park on the outskirts of Uvalde. Built on the site of a former landfill by the city and the Edwards Aquifer Authority, the park is a man-made wetland that is part of the city's sewage treatment facilities. Wastewater is cleaned through a natural multistep process of settling ponds and mud flats that break down bacteria and filter the water before it is reintroduced into the Leona River.
The process also provides a 200-acre nature park that attracts wildlife and wildlife lovers. Although the park only has a couple of miles of hiking trails, the covered viewing pavilion provides an all-weather platform to see a variety of migratory and resident birds, dragonflies, and butterflies. It is also possible to spot such land-based animals as deer, fox, and armadillos rooting around the brush.
To get to Cooks Slough Preserve from U.S. 90 in the center of Uvalde head south on U.S. 83, turn off on FM 117, make a right on CR 106, and the parking lot is at the end of the road. For information, call 830/278-4115.
Hidden among the pastures and fields east of Floresville, Jackson Nature Park opens to the public a large section of riparian forest along Cibolo Creek. The two miles of easy to moderate trails are for human hikers only. A $1 fee is collected on the honor system.
Not only does the 50-acre park have a wide variety of native plants and wildflowers, but it also has very unusual geology for the region. The San Antonio River Authority, the park's manager, hosts bimonthly guided nature walks at the preserve. For information, call 210/302-3625 or go to the "Parks" section at www.sara-tx.org. The preserve is on CR 401 between FM 1922 and Stockdale in Wilson County.
For something completely different, head to Eaton Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the West Texas town of Sonora. Here the Hill Country meets the Chihuahuan Desert. The 37-acre park occupies a high spot on the edge of town near the interstate highway and offers a nice view of the surrounding country. With a little more than three miles of hiking trails, the nature preserve showcases the diversity of the area's plants, wildlife, and geology. Eaton Hill is on a major migratory flyway plus has a variety of resident birds. For information, go to www.eatonhill.blogspot.com or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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