San Marcos Loop
- San Marcos CVB
Fom the intersection of FM 2325 and FM 12 in Wimberley, go south on FM 12 for 4.6 miles to the FM 32/FM 12 intersection. Turn left to stay on FM 12 and go 7.8 miles to entrance on the left.
This site is a good place to learn about gardening to attract birds or butterflies. Vegetation on the property includes juniper, prickly pear and large stands of lemon beebalm that provide nectar for butterflies, including Pipevine Swallowtail, Queen and Gulf Fritillary.
Ringtail Ridge Natural Area
Take RR 12 (Moore St.) toward Wimberley about 0.1 mile past Craddock Ave. Turn right onto dirt road between Dakota Ranch Apartments and Crestwood Center. Follow road until you reach the big oak and parking lot behind the apartments.
This site has 40-plus acres of lightly developed parkland off of RR 12. The natural area features a 0.5-mile accessible trail with a kiosk and benches and about 2 miles of unmarked loop trail, including a spur that meets RR 12 in the 30-ft.-wide swath between Community Baptist Church and Dakota Ranch Apartments. The 2-mile trail was designed by San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance for mountain biking, but it also offers pleasant hiking in a surprisingly diverse natural area in a part of town that is developing rapidly. Oak groves, flowering meadows, cactus stands and persimmon thickets are all found in Ringtail Ridge and provide a diverse ecology for birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Small, wet weather ponds are active bird viewing areas.
Schulle Canyon Greenspace and Trail
Take RR 12 west from San Marcos, turn right on Holland St. at the traffic light and travel 0.2 mile to Alamo St. Take a left and follow Alamo to dead end at the kiosk and parking area
This natural area has 21 acres of undeveloped parkland with 0.5-mile of 6-ft.-wide, crushed granite, accessible trails and just under a mile of natural surface trails. The west end of the natural area is a large grass meadow. At the heart of the natural area is a wet weather creek and several benches are placed along the trails. Although surrounded by neighborhoods, the sloped canyon hills provide a sense of being deep in the woods. Mature live oaks, red oaks, cedar elm and juniper trees provide habitat for a wide variety of birds. Butterflies are numerous in the summer, especially Texan Crescents, Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Common Mestra and Texas Powdered Skipper. Birds such as Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren and Tufted Titmouse are often seen. This is a great birding site for the beginning birder or one with limited mobility.
Purgatory Creek Natural Area
The 570-acre Purgatory Creek Natural Area is within the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. It is home to Purgatory Creek, and includes upland meadows, canyon bluffs of 40 ft. or more, dense juniper thickets, champion oaks and a flood control dam. Several areas within this natural area are habitat for Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. A trail runs along the narrows of the frequently dry, Purgatory Creek bed. Purgatory Creek Natural Area is divided into three sections: Prospect Park, Lower Purgatory and Upper Purgatory:
Prospect Park: From downtown San Marcos, take W. Hopkins St. to N Bishop St. Turn west (uphill) on Bishop and then go left on Prospect St. Go 2.5 blocks to the dead end. Park on the street near the kiosk on the right.
Prospect Park is about 9 acres of parkland with about 3 miles of trails, including a 1-mile accessible, crushed limestone trail. Prospect Park sits on a rather porous section of the Edwards Aquifer where juniper groves, meadows, ephemeral wetlands and oak mottes co-exist. Benches and interpretive signs are located at various points along the accessible portion of the trail. Visitors will find a karst cave, a large compass and group seating at the Learning Tree in the lower meadow.
Lower Purgatory: From downtown San Marcos, take W. Hopkins St. past Bishop St. and Belvin St. to the intersection of Hunter Rd. and Wonder World Dr. (Hopkins turns into Hunter). Just past the intersection of Hunter and Wonder World, turn right onto an unpaved road to the parking area and trailhead.
The Lower Purgatory access point is at the intersection of Wonder World Dr. and Hunter Rd., which includes parking, a kiosk and the trailhead for Dante's Trail, which runs through the length of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. The first 1-mile section is a crushed stone and dirt hiking and biking trail. Where the trail's bike ramps merge onto the roadway at the northern end of Wonder World Dr., the trail splits south (connecting Prospect Park along Virgil's Way) and north (connecting more challenging Upper Purgatory trails).
Upper Purgatory: From downtown San Marcos, take W. Hopkins St. past Bishop St. and Belvin St. to Wonder World Dr. and turn right (west) on Wonder World. At the intersection with Craddock Ave., make a left onto a ranch road and watch for natural area signs guiding you to the parking area and trailhead.
Upper Purgatory has mostly natural hiking trails, including Dante's, Paraiso and Malcoda. Malcoda is a branch from Dante's that leads visitors to the grotto, a limestone formation shaped in part by Purgatory Creek.
San Marcos River Walk
From I-35 and TX 80 near San Marcos, head west on TX 80 to CM Allen Pkwy. Turn left and then left again into the parking area.
The gateway to the trail system is the San Marcos Nature Center located on Riverside Dr. adjacent to the Tourist Information Center. The Nature Center features a variety of theme gardens that attract wildlife, including succulents, bird, bee and butterfly gardens, wildflower gardens, medicinal plants, grasses and vines. These gardens lead to a 2.5-mile riverside trail system that takes you through the heart of San Marcos. Resident birds such as Green and Great Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Red-shouldered Hawk occur here, as do all three kingfishers (Ringed more rarely). Wintering waterfowl, large numbers of migrating songbirds and a variety of woodpeckers can also be seen. Dragonflies and butterflies are common, and include specialties such as Neotropical Bluet and Dragonhunter. Interpretive panels along the trail discuss the Edward's Aquifer, endangered species, birds and other wildlife inhabiting the park. Some sections are ADA accessible, and there are benches, water fountains and restroom facilities.
Spring Lake Preserve Natural Area/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University
From I-35, exit 206 on Aquarena Springs Dr. and proceed west towards town. The Texas State University football stadium will be on your left and you will take a right on W. Laurel St., immediately after you cross the train tracks. At the 'Y,' stay to the left and enter the parking lot.
To get to the trailhead of Spring Lake Preserve Natural Area, cross Laurel St. heading towards the golf course maintenance facility. You will see a 3x6-inch blue plastic trail marker (a blaze), nailed to a large tree within the maintenance area parking lot. Continue following the blazes through the steel gate and up the hill to a sheltered kiosk marking the Spring Lake Natural Area.
Spring Lake is home to the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and the Spring Lake Visitor Center. Over 1,000 springs bubble up from the bottom of Spring Lake, forming the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Several endangered species occur here including Texas Blind and San Marcos Salamanders and Fountain Darter. These species, as well as other aquatic species of the Edward's Aquifer, may be observed in the Center's _Discovery Hall and Endangered Species Aquarium Exhibit.' Spring Lake is best appreciated via a glass-bottom boat ride (fee), where birds, turtles and other animals can be observed. The lake may also be viewed from its banks, which are shaded by tall cypress trees, and from an elevated viewing deck and boardwalk. These areas provide excellent views of cormorants, Least and Pied-bill Grebes, Osprey, wintering waterfowl and wading birds. Dragonflies such as Slaty and Widow Skimmers, and Halloween and Four-spotted Pennants are common. During migration, songbirds often concentrate in the tall shrubs along the boardwalk. Over 110 species of birds have been recorded, many on the wooded slopes rising from the lake's shore. Several trails wind through these woodlands. Watch for nesters such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Carolina Wren, Summer Tanager and Carolina Chickadee. You can also view a nesting pair of Red-shouldered Hawks who have been annual residents in one of the large cypress trees.
Blanco Shoals Natural Area
Take I-35 north from San Marcos. Take Aquarena Springs Exit 206 and go straight on northbound frontage road to overpass at River Ridge Pkwy. and turn right. Go to the end of the road near the apartments. Park your car in the cul-de-sac and walk toward the river.
Blanco Shoals is a unique area in the San Marcos area park system; it is a completely undeveloped riparian area, and will remain that way with the exception of a few existing trails. It contains high bank bluffs and shoals along the Blanco River, tall cottonwoods and sycamores, gigantic pecans and mesquite. Anaqua trees cling to the riverbanks. Because of the constant water source, this is a good year-round birding site.
Five Mile Dam Park Complex
On I-35 in San Marcos, take Exit 210. Take the frontage road to Yarrington Rd./CR 159 and go west 0.6 mile until it veers left and becomes Blanco Vista Blvd. Go 1.4 miles on Blanco Vista Blvd. until it ends at Old Stagecoach Rd. The park entrance is directly across the road.
The riparian habitat of the park is home to a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers, shrikes, flycatchers, cardinals, bluebirds, sparrows, doves and the occasional kingfisher, Osprey, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and even killdeer in the open soccer fields beside the park. The birds are spread out along the length of the park, so be sure to walk through as much of the park as possible, including the dry gravel beds below the dam when the water level is low and birds and rabbits find shelter in the shrubs. Golden-fronted Woodpecker is common in the park, while Ladder-backed Woodpecker and wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can also be seen. Chipping and Vesper Sparrows are among the wintering sparrows found in the grassy areas and chinaberry trees below the dam. Eastern Bluebird is easy to spot, especially in the spring, and keep an eye out for Loggerhead Shrike on the fences, power lines or in trees. There is usually a raptor or two, along with both Black and Turkey Vultures. Morning is best to keep the sun at your back as you look toward the river.
Lake Kyle Park
From I-35, take exit 214 toward FM 150/Kyle. Turn right onto FM 150E and turn left (north) onto Lehman Rd.
Lake Kyle Park consists of Blackland prairie with a large man-made pond. Four miles of marked trails wind through the 115-acre area, offering views of the creek, pond and dam. The area attracts waterfowl including American White Pelican, Bufflehead Duck and Great Egret. You can also spot Red-tailed Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird and Crested Caracara.
From I-35 in Buda, take the Loop 4 Exit and go west on Loop 4/W. Main Street for 0.5 mile. Entrance to park is on the right and marked with a rock/wood sign out front.
Stagecoach Park is a lovely destination with natural beauty, historic significance and amenities to enjoy. The park's 51 acres offer a variety of bird habitats. There is a vast old wooded area leading down to a creek with very large oaks, hackberry, mesquite, cedar, vines thick with native plants and underbrush ideal for bird habitat. There is a natural creek running along the property, and a man-made pond in the center of the park. Birds to note include House Finch, Turkey and Black Vultures, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pine Siskin, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Eastern Bluebird.
John J. Stokes, Sr. Park at Thompson's Islands
From I-35 and Guadalupe St., take the I-35 access road north on the east side of the interstate. After 0.7 mile, turn right/east on River Rd. and drive 0.4 mile to Cape Rd./CR 299. Turn right and park after the first of two river crossings, about 0.1 mile.
This site is a combination of dense riparian thickets, mowed lawns, tall, weedy edges and scattered sycamores, willows and pecans near the San Marcos River. During the winter, Vesper, Song and Savannah Sparrows and Spotted Towhee forage in the tangles of grapevines and ragweed at the wooded edge. Look for Orange-crowned Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo in the canopy. Watch for kingfishers, woodpeckers, Osprey and American Kestrel. During the summer, the river-edge and weedy fields are alive with dragonflies.
CR 266 between the San Marcos River and Staples Rd.
Going south on Cape Rd./CR 299, turn left on TX 123, and then immediately left at the light onto FM 621. Go 0.5 mile and note the state fish hatchery on your left. Continue 1.7 miles to CR 266/Old Bastrop Hwy. Turn left and go 0.5 mile to a large farm pond on the right. Park well off of the road.
En route to this site, look for Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, Upland Sandpiper and other shorebirds in the wet fields. Scan the fields and hedgerows for Lincoln's, White-crowned, White-throated and Harris' Sparrows. In the summer, watch for Loggerhead Shrike, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Crested Caracara, Painted Bunting and Dickcissel. In the winter, look for Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier. Gulls, puddle ducks, shorebirds and large wading birds make this a good winter venue. In early spring, look for Yellow-headed Blackbird. Where the road crosses the San Marcos River, look for Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting.
Lockhart State Park
To reach the park, go 1 mile south of Lockhart on US 183 to FM 20; then travel southwest on FM 20 for 2 miles to PR 10 and continue 1 mile south on PR 10.
Lockhart State Park boasts 263.7 acres, with a pool, picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, a nature study and a nine-hole golf course. Wildlife includes deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, nutria, rabbits, squirrels, many varieties of birds and several types of snakes.
San Marcos National Aquatic Resource Center
From I-35, go south 2.9 miles on the western frontage road to McCarty Ln./Exit 201. Exit right/west and go 0.1 mile to a left turn at the entrance. Go to the office to check in.
The hatchery grounds provide a variety of habitats that include extensive Blackland Prairie, a pond, wetlands, mowed turf, parcels of brush and tall trees near a creek. Open areas are filled with nesting Dickcissels, tall grasses and wildflowers. About 70 species of birds have been recorded on the site, which is best during winter when puddle ducks are on the pond and raptors hunt the open fields. The wetlands, brushy edges and prairies have Le Conte's, Savannah, Swamp, Vesper, Song and Lincoln's Sparrows in the winter. Also look for Great Blue and Green Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Belted Kingfisher, Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls, migratory shorebirds and other wintering waterfowl.
CR 234 at Southridge Estates
From I-35 go southeast 1.5 miles on Centerpoint Rd. Turn right on CR 266/Old Bastrop Hwy., then immediately left on CR 234. Go 1.8 miles and turn left into Southridge Estates. Enter on Pauls Rd., turn left on Crest Circle Dr. and back to Pauls Rd. to exit.
As you drive along CR 234, you will pass mesquite habitat that is productive for wintering and migrating birds such as Ash-throated Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Bewick's Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, as well as a variety of sparrows, towhees and buntings. Watch for flocks of Sandhill Crane on the roadsides during migration. At Southridge Estates, Crest Circle Dr. circles a lake that must be birded from the roadside. In the winter, watch for ducks such as Mallard, Gadwall, various teal, Northern Pintail, Canvasback and Ring-neck Duck. During migration, Wilson's Phalarope and other shorebirds use the lake. At times, there are large numbers of wintering Common Snipe and occasionally flocks of White Pelican. When you exit, turn left on CR 234 and check the three additional roadside ponds within the next 0.5-mile.