- Eldorado COC, (325) 853-2691, www.eldoradotexas.us
- Sonora COC, (888) 387-2880, www.sonoratx-chamber.com
- Ozona COC, (325) 392-3737, www.ozona.com
Eaton Hill Nature Center
From I-10 and US 277, head south on US 277. Make an immediate left on Water St., turn left on Mulberry St. and take the next left on City Hill Rd. The entrance to Eaton Hill Nature Center & Preserve is at the top of the road.
These 37 acres of Hill Country woodland and West Texas desert provide wildlife watching, hiking, picnicking and opportunities to enjoy geology, botany and even fossil studies for free. Deer, fox, Rock Squirrels and the occasional coyote may be seen, and the assortment of Central and West Texas birds that occur here is numerous. From the endangered Black-capped Vireo to Painted Bunting and Bell's Vireo, to the western influence of Scrub Jay, Hooded Oriole and Cactus Wren-it is a birder's paradise. The Nature Center is a natural history museum with a library, gift shop, birding room and a restroom.
(325) 387-2615 www.eatonhillnaturecenter.com
Caverns of Sonora Loop
From Sonora, take I-10 west to Exit 392. Take FM 1989 south for 5.6 miles to the large rock entrance sign on the left. Turn left and continue 1.5 miles to the office.
This limestone cave was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1996, and is one of the top 5 caves in the world for beauty and variety of formations. More than 90% of the cave's formations are still active, and the trip down into the caverns is unforgettable. New passages are still being discovered. A 0.5-mile nature trail winds along oak/juniper/mesquite woodland, and Elf Owl can be found in the area near the RV camp.
(325) 387-3105 www.cavernsofsonora.com
X Bar Ranch
Take I-10 west to Exit 388. At FM 1312 turn left, going west for 1.5 miles. At FM 2129, turn right (east) and continue for 6.8 miles to the ranch entrance on the right.
This 7,100-acre ranch offers 15 miles of nature, hiking and mountain biking trails. The trails meander through the rocky terrain, with scenic views of valleys and hillsides. Look for Greater Roadrunner, Scaled Quail, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Canyon Towhee, Verdin, Pyrrhuloxia, Curve-billed Thrasher and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. In the winter, look for sparrows, woodpeckers, Mountain Bluebird and Sage Thrasher. Dragonflies are plentiful at the pond near the lodge. A wide variety of reptiles and mammals also inhabit the ranch. Activities include wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, stargazing, swimming and relaxing in the peaceful surroundings. The ranch has a lodge and cabins as well as a secluded guest house available for overnight guests and groups. RV and tent camping is also available. Advance reservations are required.
(325) 853-2688 www.XBarRanch.com
From Big Lake, take US 67 west 4 miles. Turn left (south) onto RM 1676 and proceed 19.5 miles (RM 1676 turns into CR 208), stay on pavement.
Twistflower Ranch is 6,000 acres with 5 distinct eco-regions including creek bottoms, prairie grasslands, steep-sided canyons, plateau tops and plateau shoulders, which provide diverse habitat for a wide range of birds, plants and mammals. Over 100 flowering plants have been identified. Interesting mammals include badgers, bobcats, Red and Grey Foxes, javelina, ringtail and an occasional mountain lion. There is an abundance of Painted Bunting and Orchard and Bullock's Orioles. Species found on the ranch include Vermilion Flycatcher, Elf Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Phainopepla, Curve-billed Thrasher, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Verdin, MacGillivray's Warbler, Canyon Towhee, Bushtit, Cactus Wren and Say's Phoebe. A few rarer species, such as Gray Vireo, Crissal Thrasher and Lazuli Bunting, can also be seen here. Accommodations include luxurious cabins and an entertainment lodge with a wrap-around porch offering endless views. An on-site Master Naturalist gives tours of Native American sites (rock shelters, rock art and midden mounds), as well as discussions on the historic ranch facilities, local culture and unique plant life.
(512) 343-1821 www.twistflowerranch.com
CROCKETT COUNTY INTERPRETIVE TRAIL
From I-10 and TX 163/Ave. E in Ozona, head south on TX 163 1 block to Ozona Visitor Center. The trail is located across the parking lot from the Ozona Visitor Center.
This outdoor exhibit showcases the importance of water conservation and native plants from the Texas Hill Country and Trans Pecos regions. The trail includes over 200 native plants, a rain harvest exhibit, wildlife viewing area and a watering hole for birds and butterflies.
(325) 392-3737 www.ozona.com/interpretivetrail
ESCONDIDO DRAW RECREATION AREA
From Ozona, take I-10 west 22 miles to Exit 343. Head south on TX 290 4.2 miles to CR 406. Turn left on CR 406 and continue 7.8 miles to park on left.
The 3,400-acre park is primarily an off-road vehicle park with over 50 miles of birding, hiking and off-road vehicle trails. Birders can expect to see a variety of local birds, and the site has protected nesting habitat for Black-capped Vireo. Primitive tent and RV camping with potable water is available.
(325) 226-4124 www.escondidodraw.org
Fort Lancaster Historic Site
The site is located 8 miles east of Sheffield off I-10 on US 290 (Scenic Loop). Take Exit 325 east and travel approximately 13 miles on US 290 to the site.
Fort Lancaster was established in 1855 to protect the San Antonio_El Paso Road. Confederate and Buffalo Soldiers had separate occupations of the post after the start
of the Civil War in 1861. Today, visitors can tour the ruins of 25 permanent buildings
of this once impressive establishment. Visitors can see Texas Horned Lizard, Greater Roadrunner, Red Racer Snake, many varieties of spiders and insects, along with diverse bird species and other wildlife living amongst the ruins in the spring, summer and fall.
(432) 836-4391 www.visitfortlancaster.com
Jarrett Juno Ranch
From TX 163 and RR 189, travel south towards Comstock on TX 163 14.5 miles. Gate is on the right.
The land on this 9,080-acre ranch falls from grassy upland areas through rugged
hardwood canyons to the mesquite-wooded, mile-wide Dry Devils River Canyon, which passes through the ranch. The terrain provides ideal cover and forage for White-tailed Deer, Rio Grande Turkey, Aoudad, javelina, wild hogs, Scaled Quail and dove. Expect to see Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Open March_September, reservations required.
(512) 785-7968 www.jarrettjunoranch.com