Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Heart of the Hills Loop

Heart of Hills Loop map

Heart of Hills loop mapThe RookerySouth Fork MarshMo-Ranch Presbyterian AssemblyStowers RanchKerr Wildlife Management AreaStowers Ranch Roadside on FM 1340 at Boneyard DrawKerrville Kayak and CanoeHeart of the Hills fisheries centerSunset Cemetery at Heart of the Hills Research StationMountain Home Bridge

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More information:

  • Kerrville CVB, 830-792-3535, 800-221-7958,
  • Kerrville Area COC, 830-896-1155,

062.gif HOTW 062 The Rookery

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

From Lost Maples SNA, go north on FM 187 for 14.3 miles to TX 39. Turn right onto TX 39 and go 8.5 miles to Lynxhaven Lodge. Park in the vicinity of the Lodge, or a bit downstream, toward Hunt.

For at least 15 years, a small colony of Great Blue Herons has nested in the sycamores and other tall trees along this stretch of the South Fork of the Guadalupe River. Watch for their large stick nests near the treetops. Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants occur here as well. Along the road, listen for Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, and Chipping Sparrow. Upslope from the road, you may hear or see Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warblers, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Field and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon and Bewick’s Wrens. Mourning Warbler (skulking in the understory) and Nashville Warbler (active in the treetops) are among the species that have been noted during migration.

063.gif HOTW 063 South Fork Marsh

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

From the Lynxhaven Lodge, continue east on TX 39 for 3 miles to the marsh on the right. This large marsh provides habitat for birds that are relatively uncommon in the Hill Country. Besides harboring songbirds in the surrounding oaks, black walnuts, sycamores, junipers and other trees, the marsh has attracted Laughing Gulls, Sedge and Marsh Wrens, and wintering Swamp, White-throated, and Song Sparrows. During summer, watch for Green Herons, Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallows. Dragonflies are abundant in summer, including Checkered and Swift Setwings, Eastern Pondhawk, Banded Pennant, Black and White Widow Skimmers, and Western Comanche Skimmer.

064.gif HOTW 064 Mo-Ranch Presbyterian Assembly

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Fee charged.

Continue 8.4 miles east on TX 39 to Hunt. Turn left on FM 1340 and go 10.7 miles. Turn right into the Mo Ranch Presbyterian Conference Center.

The Mo-Ranch is a 475-acre site used as a conference center, religious and social retreat, and summer camp. Its rolling grounds offer a variety of habitats from tall oaks, sycamore and black walnut in the riparian zone to cedar, agarita, yucca and persimmon on the upper limestone slopes. Birds include Eastern Screech-Owl, Rock, Bewick’s and Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmouse, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Scott’s Oriole, Summer Tanager, House Finch, and Blue Grosbeak. Along the Guadalupe, watch for Green Kingfisher, Black Phoebe in winter, Great Blue and Green Herons, and wintering waterfowl. A restaurant, gift shop, and a variety of lodging are available, and activities include camping, swimming, hiking, horseback riding, and canoeing.


065.gif HOTW 065 Stowers Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

This well-managed ranch has a diversity of wildlife and habitats that include rolling oak dotted hills, steep slopes with stands of mixed juniper woodland, sculptured cliffs, dense riparian woodlands and the clear, cool Flat Rock Creek, which is the headwaters of the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. Birds to see include Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos, Canyon Wrens, Cliff Swallows, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Lark and Field Sparrows, and Scissor-tailed and Vermillion Flycatchers. Fish, amphibians, and dragonflies can be seen along the creek. Ranch guests may stay in cabins on site and have access to much of the ranch’s 11,000 acres.

830-238-4346,, Call for directions.

066.gif HOTW 066 Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA)

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons, open daily except during special hunts

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

Continue 2.0 miles west on FM 1340 from Mo Ranch. The well-marked gate is on the north side of the road. Purchased in 1950, this 6,493-acre WMA supports healthy plant and animal communities representative of the Hill Country. Calf weights, White-tailed Deer weights (all age classes), fawn survival, antler development, and occurrences of endangered species (Golden-cheeked Warblers, Black-capped Vireos, and Tobusch fishhook cactus) have increased under a holistic management program that has evolved over the past 50 years. This program involves brush management, rotational grazing, prescribed burning, deer harvest (whitetails and exotics), and cowbird trapping.

Wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world come to the Kerr to enjoy the abundant birds and other wildlife. Two of the most sought-after bird species are the endangered Black-capped Vireo (BCV) and Golden-cheeked Warbler (GCW). Since GCWs are generally located near stands of mature cedar (Ashe juniper), the best opportunities for viewing them on the Kerr is in the Spring Trap pasture. This area can be accessed on foot only and is located approximately 0.6 mile east of the main entrance to the Area on FM 1340. The gate is marked with a sign indicating the Spring Trap. You may enter through the gate on foot (close it behind you!) and continue up the dirt road approximately 100 yards. At this point the road will intersect a foot path through the cedar which will eventually end up back at the dirt road. GCWs are frequently seen in this area.

Black-capped Vireos are much more abundant on the Kerr, with over 400 singing males documented during the 2000 survey. This species is mainly associated with low-growing brush, which is their preferred nesting structure. BCVs are located throughout most of the Kerr; however the best viewing opportunities are in the Doe and Fawn Pastures. From the headquarters, go north on the main paved road approximately 1.2 miles. You will intersect another paved road to the left which is closed to the public; however, you may park at this location and walk into the pasture a short distance. Another ideal location is down the main road another 0.3 mile where you will notice a tour shelter on your right.

Familiarization of the calls of these birds will greatly enhance your chances of seeing them. Remember, harassing endangered species is a violation of federal law. Please view at a distance with binoculars. Visitors need to register at the bulletin board located at the Area office. Regularly scheduled tours are available and additional information can be obtained from TPW staff during office hours (M - F, 8 am - 5 pm).

830-238-4483, Kerr WMA

067.gif HOTW 067 Stowers Ranch Roadside on FM 1340 at Boneyard Draw

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Go 1.8 miles further west on FM 1340 from Kerr WMA. You will reach a long bridge with a sign for the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. Park at the east end of the bridge. The North Fork of the Guadalupe flows beneath tall cliffs on the south bank. Scan the cliffs from either end of the bridge for both Bald and Golden Eagles roosting on the cliffs from early November to late March. One of the state’s largest winter roosts of Wild Turkey occurs here as well, and late in the day these birds return to trees below the cliffs. Winter birds include Verdin, Sage Thrasher, and a variety of puddle ducks. During spring and summer, watch the cliff area for breeding Zone-tailed Hawk. Wood Ducks are present much of the year in the pool on the north side of the bridge.

068.gif HOTW 068 Kerrville Kayak and Canoe

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return on FM 1340 to TX 39 and go east/left 0.5 mile to picnic area on right. This is the canoe put-in for a 4-mile trip down the South Fork of the Guadalupe, ending at the Ingram Lake boat ramp. The banks of this stretch are under private ownership, so paddling is the best way to see these clear, spring-fed waters. Paddlers may encounter bass, catfish, frogs, water snakes, Red-eared Sliders, and Soft-shelled Turtles, as well as river birds such as Belted and Green Kingfishers, Black Phoebe, Swallows, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Yellow-throated Warbler. Dragonflies and damselflies are abundant, and include the needle-like Orange-striped Threadtail, whose U.S. range is restricted to a few Hill Country rivers. The large, bright blue Comanche Dancer, another Hill Country specialty, is one of many damselflies you may see. Arrangements for canoe or kayak rental, as well as shuttle services, maps, and information concerning river conditions are available at Kerrville Kayak and Canoe, 130 W. Main St, Kerrville.

800-256-5873 or 830-459-2122

069.gif HOTW 069 Heart of the Hills fisheries center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons, Monday-Friday

Site open for day use only.

Continue 5.5 miles on TX 39 to Ingram and take TX 27 West/left for 9.1 miles. Entrance is on the left/south. This TPW fisheries research site contains 25 shallow ponds that provide excellent habitat for wintering waterfowl. Pied-billed and Eared Grebe, Northern Pintail, three varieties of teal, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead are a few of the species that occur here. Killdeer, Common Snipe, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers are other birds to look for. The ponds are particularly inviting to Hill Country frogs—Chorus Frogs, Cricket Frog, Leopard Frog, and Bullfrog all make use of the shallow, muddy habitat. Visitors need to check in at the office, open M-F, 8 am-5 pm.


070.gif HOTW 070 Sunset Cemetery at Heart of the Hills Research Station

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue north 0.1 mile on TX 27 to a small road on the left that leads 0.3 mile to the cemetery, just past the Fisheries Center.

This cemetery is sparsely wooded by oak, pecan, hackberry, some cypress, and a few mesquite trees. Wildflowers scattered throughout the site include green milkweed, Texas thistle, gaillardia, Mexican hat, monarda, and skeleton plant. Look for butterflies such as Checkered White, Sleepy Orange, Queen, and Variegated Fritillary. Orchard Oriole, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, and Eastern Phoebe can also be seen here.

071.gif HOTW 071 Mountain Home Bridge

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 27 West and go 1.7 miles to the first left turn north of the center, an unmarked county road. Turn left on this road and follow 0.5 mile to the bridge.

This bridge overlooks Johnson Creek. From the bridge, enjoy a scenic view of the rock bottom creekbed lined with pecan, mesquite, and elm trees. Above the creek lie slopes of cedar from which singing Golden-cheeked Warbler may be heard in late spring and early summer. Birds include Painted Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, and Canyon Wren. Wild Turkey can be spied crossing the creek. Green and Belted kingfishers occur along the creek as well. Butterflies include Pipevine Swallowtail, Sleepy Orange, Hackberry Emperor, Question Mark, Dainty Sulphur, and Red-spotted Purple. In the spring and fall, Mexican Free-tailed Bats roost beneath this bridge, and can be seen emerging at dusk and returning at dawn.

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