Caprock Canyons State Park And Trailway
From the intersection of TX 86 and FM 1065 in Quitaque, go north on FM 1065; the park is on the left after 3 miles.
The red rocks of Caprock Canyons are stunning, especially at dawn and sunset. Vegetation communities vary from the sparse badlands, with their juniper, mesquite and cacti, to the abounding bottomlands with tall grasses, cottonwoods, plum thickets and hackberries. Wildlife in the park includes Mule and Whitetail Deer, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, opossums, porcupines, Gray Foxes, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and over 175 species of birds. The park is home to the Official Bison Herd of the state of Texas. Get a bird checklist at the park headquarters, and take time to explore the trails that meander throughout this spectacular habitat. A variety of shorebirds have been seen during spring migration, including Avocet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet and Spotted, Least, Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers, as well as warblers.
In order to truly experience solitude, hike, bike or take a guided tour along the Caprock Canyons Trailway, a 64-mile route that cuts across three counties in what is one of the finest nature routes in the state. Bald Eagle, deer, coyote and other wildlife may appear along this route, providing wonderful viewing and photographic opportunities. Points of interest along the Trailway include The Historic Clarity Tunnel, Quitaque Canyon Trail and Kent Creek Trail.
Historic Clarity Tunnel: Designated in the National Register of Historic Places, Clarity Tunnel is an abandoned railway tunnel along the Caprock Canyons Trailway. One of the last railroad tunnels in Texas, it is home to up to half-a-million Mexican Free-tailed bats every summer. Tours are offered by park staff every Friday from June through August. Call the park for more information and reservations.
Quitaque Canyon Trail: Scenic canyonlands, flora and fauna are abundant along this portion of the Caprock Canyons Trailway as you make your way up the Caprock Escarpment onto the edge of the High Plains. Listen for the call of the Canyon Wren amongst the canyons.
Kent Creek Trail: Begin at the Quitaque East Trailhead and make your way along the Kent Creek Trail to Turkey to experience a vast amount of birding possibilities including Scissor-tailed and other flycatchers to the Painted and Indigo buntings and other seed-eating birds. Catch a glimpse of turkeys roosting on the trestles.
Texas 256 Scenic Drive
In Turkey, follow TX 70 north 13.2 miles to TX 256. The scenic route continues until the intersection of TX 86.
The route follows the northern border of Caprock Canyons State Park, and when connected to TX 70 South and TX 86 East, makes a loop that terminates at the park entrance. The red rock scenery provides some of the best scenic views in the Southwest. Watch the juniper that dots the hillsides for flocks of Mountain Bluebirds in winter, and the similarly colored but larger and much rarer Pinyon Jay.
Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
In Happy, take US 87 north 13.4 miles to FM 1714. Turn left/west and proceed 10.5 miles to FM 168. Turn right/north and continue 1.5 miles to the refuge entrance.
The large lake and surrounding prairie provide excellent winter habitat for Bald Eagle, Prairie Falcon and wintering geese and ducks. Common Raven has been seen on the farmland adjacent to the refuge. The refuge has a very good driving loop with interpretive signage that explains the ecology of the area. Golden Eagle, Osprey, Swainson’s Hawk and Northern Harrier are common in Spring, with Cooper’s Hawk, Goshawk and Mississippi Kite occasionally seen.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
In Canyon, go south on US 87 to TX 217 and go east for 12.5 miles to Park entrance.
This is the second largest canyon in the US, and truly a world-class destination. Few places in North America are as beautiful and ecologically rich as this canyon, a fact recognized by Native Americans, who used its shelter and abundant resources for thousands of years. Diverse habitats in Palo Duro Canyon support many species of wildlife, including the rare Texas Horned Lizard and Palo Duro Mouse. Other species include Wild Turkey, White-tailed and Mule Deer, Barbary Sheep, coyotes, Cottontail Rabbits, roadrunners and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Look for Townsend’s Solitaire in the wooded area along the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, as well as kinglets, woodpeckers, flycatchers and other woodland birds. The rim of the canyon is considered part of the short grass prairie, while the elevated moisture of the canyon floor supports a greater diversity of plants including medium and tall grass species along with shrubs and trees. Common plant species include sideoats grama, big bluestem, Indian blanket, star thistle, paperflower, black-foot daisy, tansy aster, fragrant sumac, mesquite and cottonwood.
Amarillo Southeast Park
From TX 217 and FM 1541 in Amarillo, go north 12.5 miles on FM 1541 to 46th St. East and turn right. After 1 mile the road runs directly into the park.
At the back of the park there is an extensive marsh accessible on foot over a dike, which leads to a small thicket. These constitute three major habitats for birds: lake, marsh and woodland. During summer and migrations, look for rails, bitterns, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat and a variety of raptors. In winter look for Prairie Falcon, and a variety of sparrows in the reeds.
Amarillo John Stiff Memorial Park
From I-40 and I-27 in Amarillo, head south on I-27 4.5 miles to Exit 119A and turn right on Hillside Dr. Continue on Hillside Dr. 1 mile to Bell St. and take a right. After 0.8 mile turn left on 48th Ave. and take the first left on Shoshone Trail. The park is on the left.
A concrete path around the lake is used by exercisers, bikers and other pedestrian traffic. The water attracts birds, with large flocks of geese and ducks in the winter. Other birds, such as American Kestrel and Western Kingbird, can be seen in the pasture south of the lake and the library, along with the occasional Black-tailed Jackrabbit.
From I-40 and I-27 in Amarillo, head west on I-40 3.5 miles to Exit 66 and turn right on Wolfin Ave. After 0.5 mile turn right on Port Ln. and then right onto Wallace Blvd., park is on the right.
Medi-Park has a playscape, lake and numerous wintering geese. Look here for 3 types of Canada Goose, Ring-necked Duck, Ring-billed Gull and American Wigeon. This site is good for photographing waterfowl up close and introducing children to birdlife.
Wildcat Bluff Nature Center
From I-40, head north on TX 335 (N. Soncy) 3.3 miles to the nature center on the left.
The nature center has 3 trails of 1.2, 0.93 and 0.81 mile(s) in length. They provide good views of the open mesquite woodland, lead hikers through native prairie habitat and terminate at a windmill and water tank, large, stately cottonwood trees and the bluff itself. The center’s habitat includes a small wetland. Enhancements include 5 acres of wheelchair and stroller access plus educational displays in the Visitor Center and Gilvin Natural Science Building, as well as public art projects such as a walkable labyrinth and interactive sundial.
Amarillo Thompson Municipal Park
From Loop 335 and US 87, go south on US 87 0.7 mile, the park is on the right at Hastings St. Exit. Parking for the park is on the west side of the highway.
The park has two large lakes that attract an assortment of wintering waterfowl. It also has excellent wooded habitat for migrants and woodpeckers.