Balcones Loop

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  • Round Rock COC, (800) 747-3479,
  • Marble Falls COC, (800)759-8178,
  • Austin CVB, (800) 926-2282,
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Balcones Canyonlands NWR, Shin Oak Observation Deck
HOTE 024

From TX 29 and US 281 in Burnet, go east on TX 29 for 11.1 miles to Bertram. Turn south/right on FM 1174 for 7.2 miles. Turn left/east onto FM 1869 for 1.3 miles to the observation deck on the right.

This site provides a good view of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge with an immediate view of a large stand of shin oaks from which you can see and hear Black-capped Vireo during the nesting season. There are also viewing opportunities for other nesting species such as Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Black-chinned Hummingbird. Observe only from the boardwalk and observation deck. The deck is closed for several weeks in April to minimize disturbance to Black-capped Vireo during critical nest building, and for several days during November and December for management deer hunts.

(512) 339-9432

Latitude: 30.6608
Longitude: -98.05

Balcones Canyonlands NWR, Doeskin Ranch Trailhead
HOTE 025

From Liberty Hill, head west on FM 1869 to FM 1174; turn left on FM 1174 and head south 2.4 miles to the entrance and parking lot on the left.

Three trails originate here and pass through the various ecosystems and habitats found on the refuge. The Pond and Prairie Trail is a short 0.4-mile hike to a small pond bordered by grassland prairies. Look for nesting Painted Bunting, Eastern Phoebe and White-eyed Vireo. During migration, this can be a popular stopover for warblers, vireos and flycatchers. Sections of this trail are ADA-accessible. The Creek Trail is 0.6 mile long and takes you by ranch structures and along a scenic creek. Summer Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Blue Grosbeak can be seen. The Rimrock Trail is a more difficult, 2.2-mile trail that ascends into the juniper woodlands atop the highest elevations of the refuge. The Shin Oak Trail is an extension of this trail, which offers panoramic views of the Hill Country from the top of the plateau. These trails offer visitors good chances to see and hear nesting Golden-cheeked Warbler. Fall migration of raptors can also be spectacular along the Rimrock Trail.

(512) 339-9432

Latitude: 30.6212
Longitude: -98.0747

Turkey Bend Recreation Area
HOTE 026

Follow FM 1174 south to its dead end at FM 1431. Turn left on FM 1431, heading east 4.7 miles to Shaw Dr. Turn right on Shaw Dr. and follow 1.9 miles to the dead end into Turkey Bend.

This 1,138-acre park consists of oak-juniper woodlands, mesquite savannas and riparian brush. Hiking trails offer a chance to see Painted Bunting, Bewick's Wren and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, as well as Common Gray Fox, Ringtail and White-tailed Deer. Look for waterfowl, shorebirds, herons and dragonflies along the shoreline and in the coves. Look for Texas Spotted Whiptail along the roadside and Texas Spiny Lizard camouflaged against tree trunks. Boating, camping and picnicking facilities are available.

(512) 473-3366

Latitude: 30.493
Longitude: -98.1142

Balcones Canyonlands NWR Headquarters

Driving east on FM 1431, Refuge Headquarters is 1 mile east of the FM 1431/Cow Creek Rd. intersection on the left side of the road.

Native plant gardens attract butterflies, Black-chinned Hummingbird and other pollinators from spring through November. An accessible wildlife blind overlooks a turtle pond, and a bird bath and drip feature attract birds year-round. The 0.4-mile Post Oak Creek Trail goes alongside a Chimney Swift tower, turtle pond and creek. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-crested Titmouse, Canyon and Carolina Wrens, Eastern Phoebe and Northern Cardinal can be seen throughout the year. Spring migrants including various warblers are enticed

by the water and tall trees. Nesting season residents include Barn Swallow, White-eyed Vireo and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

(512) 339-9432

Latitude: 30.5054
Longitude: -98.0258

Balcones Canyonlands NWR, Warbler Vista and Sunset Deck
HOTE 027

From Jonestown, take FM 1431 west 5.5 miles. Entrance is on the right.

This 1.25-mile trail leads into old-growth woodland where Golden-cheeked Warbler nest in the spring. The 0.75-mile Ridgeline Trail is another excellent place to seek Golden-cheeked Warbler. Other nesting birds include Black-and-white Warbler, Painted Bunting, Black-crested Titmouse, Western Scrub Jay and Field and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Sunset Deck is accessible and overlooks the warbler's habitat.

(512) 339-9432

Latitude: 30.4959
Longitude: -97.979

Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point
HOTE 028

From the intersection of FM 1431 and US 183, go south on US 183 for 4.1 miles to Loop 620.

Turn right on Loop 620 for 7.1 miles to Comanche Trail. Turn right onto Comanche Trail, following 2.9 miles to the park entrance on the left.

Located along the south shore of Lake Travis, the park offers shoreline and lakeside views and a hiking trail through grasslands and gently sloping oak-juniper woodlands. During spring migration, warblers, vireos, tanagers and flycatchers can be seen along the trail. In the summer, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, White-eyed Vireo, Black-and-White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Western Kingbird are common. Red-winged Blackbird and various herons frequent the shoreline. In the winter, look for Bufflehead, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Mallard. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers occur along the rocky shorelines.

Latitude: 30.4165
Longitude: -97.8989

Creekside Park and Brushy Creek Regional Trail
HOTE 029

From Loop 620 and US 183, head east on Loop 620 to Parmer Ln. Go north/left on Parmer Ln. to Brushy Creek Rd. Continue on Brushy Creek Rd. 2.4 miles to Creekside Park.

This park along Brushy Creek includes a trail through riparian woodlands. Bordered by limestone edge and rock outcrops, Brushy Creek widens and then drops into a tumbling waterfall. The creek is alive with dragonflies in spring and summer. Widow Skimmer and Swift Setwing are most common, but also look for Eastern Pondhawk, Red and Black Saddlebags and American Rubyspot. Eastern Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Grosbeak, Black-and-white Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting and Summer Tanager occur here in the summer, as do Barred Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl.

(512) 943-1920

Latitude: 30.5194
Longitude: -97.7393

Good Water Trail at Lake Georgetown
HOTE 030

Tejas Camp: Return to US 183 North for 17.7 miles to FM 3405. Take FM 3405, heading east 1.7 miles to CR 258. Turn right on CR 258 and go 1.5 miles past the river crossing to the park entrance on the left.

Cedar Parks Breaks: Continue south on CR 258 1.4 miles. Turn left on Ronald Reagan Blvd. and travel 7 miles to D.B. Wood Rd. Turn left and travel 2 miles to Cedar Breaks Rd. Turn left and travel 1.4 miles to entrance on the left.

The 16.6-mile Good Water Trail was named after the Tonkawa Indians who made their homes near the North Fork of the San Gabriel River. Milepost 0 is in Cedar Breaks Park as the trail proceeds westerly along the river to milepost 11 at Tejas Camp. Here the trail curves around the river at West End Crossing and proceeds to the east along the opposite shore of the river. The trail passes through Golden-cheeked Warbler nesting habitat at Cedar Breaks Park and then meanders back towards the river. The riparian habitat here is lush and densely vegetated with elm, oak, hackberry and other hardwoods. Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, White-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, Great Horned and Barred Owls, Eastern Screech-Owl and Wood Duck are regular nesters along these riparian woodlands. In the winter, the outlying grassland areas provide habitat for up to 16 species of sparrows.

Latitude: 30.6959
Longitude: -97.8281

Granger Lake
HOTE 031

From TX 29 and I-35, head east on TX 29 15.9 miles, turn right on TX 95 South and go 0.8 mile to FM 1331. Turn left on FM 1331 and go 4.9 miles to the entrance of Taylor Park and the Comanche Bluff Trail.

This is an excellent winter birding site. Granger Lake is surrounded by four parks: Taylor Park, Wilson H. Fox Park, Friendship Park and Willis Creek Park. Each park varies on admittance for day use areas; some are free and some require a fee. By traveling on FM 1331, crossing the dam onto FM 971 and back to TX 95, you may access each of these park entrances. Fall and spring can produce numerous migrants, and in the winter expect a large number of shorebirds and waterfowl. Look for Hooded Merganser, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Eared, Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, American White Pelican, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Anhinga, Tricolored Heron and a variety of gulls and terns during the appropriate season. The outlying areas of most of these parks are surrounded by grassland prairies that are home to a large number and diversity of sparrows during winter. The lake is surrounded by agricultural land. Off of TX 95 near Granger Lake, take CR 347 to CR 345 and CR 346. In the winter, the only habitat along these county roads is barren agricultural fields. Mountain Plover has become a regular winter resident in these fields. All four North American species of longspurs have been found here as well. Also look for wintering raptors and Whooping Crane.

(512) 859-2343

Latitude: 30.6652
Longitude: -97.365

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