Canadian Breaks Loop
Lake Palo Duro
At the intersection of TX 15 and FM 760 in Spearman, go north on FM 760 for 8.2 miles until you see the sign for the Palo Duro River Authority, Lake Palo Duro South Entrance.
Besides being an excellent year-round birding location, this is one of the best sites in the Panhandle to see large numbers of wintering Bald and Golden Eagles. These majestic birds may be present in the snags directly in front of the boat ramp. On the way to the lake, particularly along TX 207 North, stop to check mixed flocks of Horned Larks for the 3 species of Longspur found here in winter. The lake itself is habitat to thousands of Canada and Snow Geese, as well as Ross’s and White-fronted Geese and numerous puddle ducks. Check the weedy margin of the lake for seed-eating birds. The tall grass around the boat launch is excellent for wintering American Tree, Song and White-crowned Sparrows and Pine Siskin. Use a spotting scope to scan the middle of the lake carefully in winter for Common Merganser and Common Loon, which both occasionally appear in the Panhandle. A scope will also be helpful for identifying the different species of goose, as they tend to stay in large flocks towards the middle of the lake. Along the entrance road you may see flocks of Mountain Bluebird that contain hundreds of birds. On the way to and from Lake Palo Duro, as with the rest of the northern Panhandle in winter, look for Rough-legged Hawks, which are relatively abundant here.
Lake Fryer And Wolf Creek County Park
From Perryton, head south on US 83 for 12.8 miles, turn left on CR U for 5.7 miles, then turn right onto CR 25A.
Wolf Creek County Park and Lake Fryer offer excellent facilities for camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming and boating. In winter American Tree Sparrow has been found here. The wooded edges of the lake are good habitat for White-breasted Nuthatch, flocks of Dark-eyed Junco, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Carolina Chickadee and other woodland birds. The park has full facilities for picnics. Watch for Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser and a variety of puddle ducks. Snags around the lakeshore provide good habitat for woodpeckers.
North Canadian River Road
From the intersection of US 83 and US 60, take US 83 north 7.3 miles to CR F on the left to the east end of the Canadian River Rd. (about 20 miles).
In winter, flocks of Mountain Bluebirds can be found along this scenic road. Bring a camera because the wildlife is often close to the roadside. Loggerhead Shrike can be seen along this road, as well as the occasional Northern Shrike that wanders into the Panhandle during hard winters. At 12 miles from the east end the road climbs into limestone mesas that are dotted with juniper. Look here for Pinyon Jay in winter, as well as for mammals such as White-tailed Deer and Pronghorn.
Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area, Pat Murphy Unit
From Lipscomb, go south on TX 305 for 3.7 miles to a gate and wooden notice board and sign on the east side of the road. Park at the gate and walk into the site.
The W.A. Pat Murphy Unit of the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area is 889 acres, encompassing native short grass prairie, conservation reserve program grassland and creek bottom. Common plant species in the short-grass prairie include sandsage brush, sand plum, buffalo grass, little bluestem and blue grama. Dominant plants found in the creek bottom include eastern cottonwood, big bluestem, switchgrass, indiangrass and sand plum.
Wildlife species occurring on the Murphy Unit, including Bobwhite and Scaled Quails, Wild Turkey, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Pronghorn, White-tailed and Mule Deer, coyote, bobcat, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, raccoon, Eastern Cottontail, Texas Horned Lizard, Mourning Dove, Prairie Rattlesnake, Western Massasauga Rattlesnake, plus numerous birds associated with wetland or riparian areas. Self-registration is required on the west side of the Murphy Unit. This Unit is a walk-in area only and camping is not permitted.
Canadian River Wagon Bridge, Hemphill County Recreation Area and Canadian Golf Club
From the intersection of US 83 and US 60 in Canadian, head south on US 83 for 1.1 miles. Turn right and the road will parallel the highway, terminating in the parking area for the wagon bridge.
Trails at the north end of the bridge provide access to miles of hiking along the banks of the Canadian River, and dirt access roads beginning at both the north and south ends of the bridge allow you to walk or drive to the river’s edge. Beaver dams and spring rains turn much of the area beneath the bridge into a wildlife-rich wetland, with dragonflies, damselflies, frogs and colorful wildflowers. During spring and summer, watch for Wood Duck, Mississippi Kite (in and over the cottonwood trees), Downy, Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird and Bullock’s Oriole. Spectacular sunrises/sunsets are easily viewed from the bridge.
Across the highway from the bridge, check the Hemphill County Recreational Park; its ponds hold wintering waterfowl and the trees and shrubs attract a variety of woodpeckers and wintering sparrows.
After walking the bridge and following the trails west along the river bottom, return to US 83/60 North, go under the trestle and turn left at 1.5 miles where US 83 and US 60 fork. Make the first left turn after Dry Creek, entering the golf club. Park at the clubhouse and walk the 200 yards back to the highway, scanning the trees and brush. Winter can produce Harris’s, White-crowned and Fox Sparrows and Sharp-shinned Hawk. During summer, Mississippi Kite and other birds of prey can be seen at the overlook. Deer are locally abundant, especially at dusk. During summer Purple Martins nest alongside the parking lot. Other common birds include Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, American Robin and Northern Cardinal.
Canadian River Wagon Bridge: www.canadiantx.org/images/stories/documents/bridge2.pdf
Hemphill County Recreation Area: www.canadiantx.org/component/content/article/20-lodging-information/25-hemphill-county-recreation-complex.html
Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area
WMA Headquarters: From US 83 turn east on FM 2266 and follow signs 4.9 miles to the Gene Howe WMA headquarters building on the right. Stop here to register and check the feeders and the small stand of trees for woodland birds.
The road through Gene Howe teems with birdlife; Mississippi Kites and Warbling Vireos nest in the tall cottonwoods along the more wooded western part of the road through the WMA. Other common species include Red-tailed Hawk, Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Barred Owl, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. Closer to Lake Marvin where the road passes through more open sand sagebrush habitat, Eastern and Western Kingbirds share fence lines with Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Western and Eastern Meadowlarks overlap and Field Sparrows deliver their sweet bouncing ball song from roadside shrubs. Wild Turkey abounds all year. Be sure to watch for displaying toms during late winter and spring.
Prairie Dog Town: From Headquarters follow FM 2266 east 0.5 mile. Turn left at the dirt road just east of the entry to the campground. Continue straight for 2.5 miles, bearing right where the road forks.
This is the only Wildlife Management Area in the state with a prairie dog town. Ducks can be found on the windmill pond, and Mississippi Kites are seen here in summer.
Upper Meadow Amphitheater: From Headquarters follow FM 2266 west for 1.1 miles turning right into the parking area.
Wild Turkey is found here and bobcats, coyotes and Barred Owl are regular residents. Mississippi Kite is also seen in the area.
West Bull Slough: From Headquarters follow FM 2266 East for 1.1 miles to West Bull Pasture on the right, which leads to West Bull Slough.
The slough provides spots along the trail for observing waterfowl and other birds in the trees and brush that surround the wetland. Hackberry, persimmon and willow trees provide good birding habitat, as do the wild plum trees, cattails, reed grass and sedges. In winter, Harris’ Sparrow is a common visitor, as is Spotted Towhee and the occasional Tree Sparrow. White-breasted Nuthatch calls from the taller trees and woodpeckers, including Hairy, are numerous. Closed during special hunts.
Lake Marvin, Black Kettle National Grasslands Recreation Area
From US 60 and FM 2266 in Canadian, take FM 2266 east for 12 miles and bear to the right where the road forks once you’ve entered Black Kettle. The road leads directly to Lake Marvin.
This is one of the premier birding spots in the Panhandle. In winter, check the lake for numerous ducks including Ring-necked, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddy and both Hooded and Common Mergansers. Watch for Eared Grebe and the less common Horned Grebe. Bald Eagles occur in small numbers. Check the woods along the edge of the lake for Red-tailed Hawk, Mountain Bluebird and Brown Creeper.
In spring and summer, woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, House, Bewick’s and Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Warbling Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Yellow Warbler occur here. Marsh Wren and Common Yellowthroat occur in the reed beds at the end of the boardwalk.
Check the unpaved roads leading into Lake Marvin. Sand sagebrush habitat dotted with thickets of wild plum, cottonwoods and roadside ponds provide habitat for Great Blue Heron, ducks, a few shorebirds in season, Warbling Vireo, Mississippi Kite, Northern Flicker, Red-headed Woodpecker and Hooded Merganser. Cassin’s, Lark and Field Sparrows are common. Lesser Prairie-Chicken is extremely secretive and virtually impossible to see off the booming grounds during spring. Grasshopper Sparrow is quite common, as are Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlark, Roadrunner and Common Nighthawk.
Tours to Lesser Prairie-Chicken booming grounds provide an incomparable display of the rites of spring. One of the greatest concentrations of the dwindling Lesser Prairie-Chicken is in Hemphill, Wheeler and Lipscomb Counties. Intensive efforts to stabilize and restore the population are underway, and the Anderson Ranch has a significant tract of land that is in excellent range condition. Anderson Ranch has an estimated 26 Lesser Prairie-Chicken breeding leks and, depending on the year, good populations of Northern Bobwhite. The ranch also has prairie dog towns and well-managed native grasslands that include big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass and yellow Indiangrass. A blind near the riverbank provides ideal opportunities for wildlife photography or observation. Wild Turkeys roost in the cottonwood stands along the river at night. Look for a plethora of wildflowers in the spring, as well as raptors that can be found hunting above the grasslands. Golden Eagle has been seen by the large pond as you enter the ranch, and numerous puddle ducks and geese spend the winter here.
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Just below the working ranch house is a wetland that comprises the headwaters of the Washita River. Six miles of walking trails follow breeding sites for a cornucopia of dragonflies, as well as habitat for waterfowl and a variety of sparrows. Deer blinds along the creek provide a superb viewing opportunity for people seeking to photograph deer or flocks of Wild Turkey. There is also a prairie dog town with Burrowing Owls. Besides providing a splendid panoramic view, Cedar Mountain, the highest point on the property, is a good site for viewing deer and coyotes, as well as Eastern Bluebird, found on the ranch year-round. During winter, Mountain Bluebird occurs throughout the ranch, often in large flocks. Other birds commonly observed in winter include Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Horned Lark, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Dark-eyed Junco, Mountain Bluebird, White-crowned Sparrow and American Crow.
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