El Paso Uplands Loop
El Paso Uplands Loop map
- El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-351-6024, wwww.visitelpaso.com
Entrance is located 3.5 miles east of I-10 (or 7.5 miles west of US 54) on Transmountain Rd.
At the Tom Mays Unit of Franklin Mountains State Park, visitors watch Scaled Quail, Mourning Dove and White-winged Dove coming back and forth for water and food at the Wildlife Viewing Area. Crissal Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow and Lesser Goldfinch frequent the area throughout the year. The canyons above are home to a diverse sparrow population in winter, including Black-chinned. During spring and summer Black-chinned Hummingbirds can be seen throughout the park, with Rufous, Broad-tailed and occasionally Calliope arriving in later summer. Golden Eagle (primarily in the winter), Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk (summer), Norther Harrier (winter), American Kestrel, and other raptors can be observed soaring in the air or perched on top of sotol and yucca stalks.
GPS: 31° 54' 28.43" N, 106° 31' 37.12" W
From I-10 in El Paso, take exit 23 onto US 54. Follow US 54 north 8.3 miles to Loop 375/Transmountain Rd. Turn left (west) onto Loop 375 and the museum will be immediately on the right (north).
Here an interpretive nature trail leads visitors through native vegetation, augmented by the presence of water in the gardens. Look and listen for Cactus, Canyon and Bewick’s Wren, Gambel’s and Scaled Quail, and Black-throated Sparrow. Depending on the season, Verdin, migratory sparrows and Horned Lark may be present. Flowering vegetation attracts Black-chinned Hummingbird in summer, and additional hummingbird species in fall. Even the shy Crissal Thrasher can be seen with a little patience. During migration periods look for Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s), Townsend’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers.
GPS: 31° 54' 14.81" N, 106° 26' 57.19" W
From I-10 in El Paso, take exit 23 onto US 54. Follow US 54 north 8.3 miles to Exit 9 at Loop 375/Transmountain Rd. Turn right and go east for 1.9. Turn left (north) onto McCombs St./RR 2529 and follow it 6 miles to Stan Roberts Sr. Ave. This route constitutes "Hawk Alley."
Along this north-south route, watch the power lines for a diverse array of hawks and falcons. Specifically, Hawk Alley provides a great opportunity to observe nesting Chihuahuan Raven, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and Harris's Hawk; the nests are either overhead in the supports of transmission lines or in nearby shrubby trees. The route is also a very good place to observe other raptors such as Golden Eagle (usually adults and birds-of-the-year), Burrowing Owl, American Kestrel, and Accipiter species.
GPS: 31° 54' 5.36" N, 106° 24' 20.52" W
Go north on US 54 to exit 9 at Loop 375 (Transmountain Rd). Turn right and go east for about 3 miles. Turn left onto Railroad Dr. and proceed for about 3.5 miles to the plant entrance. As the main road curves left towards a building complex, stay straight ahead on the dirt road toward a grove of trees and series of ponds. Only the southernmost pond is a wetland habitat. The other ponds have reverted back to a desert habitat.
Check out the cottonwoods and willows for migrants, particularly during spring and fall migration when flycatchers, vireos, warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings and orioles feed in the trees. Look for raptors overhead. Typically there are several species of swallows present, except during winter. Once you access the ponds, you will find open water, shoreline, mud flats, and marsh-type vegetation. Usually present are grebes, herons, egrets, ibis, waterfowl, rails, shorebirds and, at times, gulls and terns. The dry ponds are frequented by desert birds such as dove, quail, Greater Roadrunners, Burrowing Owls and raptors.
GPS: 31° 56' 36.53" N, 106° 20' 39.48" W
From US 62/180, turn north onto RR 2775 and travel for approximately 5.5 miles. Continue through the park gate to the headquarters building. The park is 32 miles northeast of El Paso.
Year-round residents include Gambel’s and Scaled Quail, Say’s Phoebe, four species of wrens, Curve-billed and Crissal Thrashers, Canyon Towhee, and White-throated Swift. The highest diversity occurs during migration; look for raptors, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, sparrows, grosbeaks, and orioles. Several rare birds have managed to find the park including Olive Warbler, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Lawrence’s Goldfinch. Normal winter populations can be enhanced by the appearance of northern irruptives. Look for woodpeckers, thrushes (Western and Mountain Bluebird and Townsend's Solitaire), jays, chickadees and nuthatches during invasion years. Reservations are highly recommended for self-guided access and required for guided access.
GPS: 31° 55' 2.27" N, 106° 2' 37.98" W