Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Mt. Vernon Loop

Mt. Vernon Loop map

Mt. Vernon Loop mapColeman Lake ParkCooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur UnitCooper Wildlife Management AreaMidway Community PreserveSelah InnGibbs Ranch - Rockin G RanchDupree Park Nature PreserveEnglish Street in the city of Mt. VernonDaphne PrairieChoctaw Trails/Bluebird TrailsCherokee Trace - Franklin CR NE 2080TXU Monticello Mines Reclamation Area, US Hwy 67 between Winfield and Mt. PleasantThe Veranda ResortLake Bob Sandlin State ParkLake Cypress SpringsOaklea Mansion and Manor House Inn

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More information:

  • Franklin County COC
    (903) 537-4365,
  • City of Mount Vernon
    (903) 573-4495,
  • City of Sulphur Springs
    (903) 885-7541,
  • Winnsboro Area COC
    (903) 342-3666,

091.gif PPW-E 091 Coleman Lake Park

Site open for day use only.

From I 30 in Sulphur Springs, take Exit 122. The south entry is on the north access road to I 30 approximately 0.7 miles east of Hwy 19. To reach the north entry, go north on SR 19 to Main Street; turn right on Main Street and follow 0.4 miles east to the park entrance on the right.

This large reservoir surrounded by walking trails provides access to creek bed and riparian woodland habitats. Scan the lake for wading birds, such as Great Blue, Green and Little Blue Herons and Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets. In winter the lake hosts a variety of waterfowl. Lizards can often be seen dashing across the trail. Look for dragonflies such as Red Saddlebags and Widow Skimmers. At the far end of the lake the trail enters woodlands that provide habitat for White-eyed Vireos and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Colorful wildflowers along the trail attract Red-spotted Purple and Viceroy Butterflies. Other birds to look for include Purple Martins, Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks.

Phone: (903) 439-1189,

092.gif PPW-E 092 Cooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur Unit

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

From I 30 in Sulphur Springs, take Exit 122 on the west side of Sulphur Springs. Go north on SR 19 for 11.0 miles to FM 71. Turn left (west) on FM 71 for 4.1 miles to FM 3505. Go north for 1.4 miles on FM 3505 to the park entrance.

The South Sulphur Unit of Cooper Lake State Park is located on the southern edge of Lake Cooper. The lake covers about 19,000 acres and is surrounded by thousands of acres devoted to parks and wildlife management. The lake has evolved into one of the best all around fishing lakes in the region. The park offers great views of the water and access to the wooded shoreline. Activities include camping, fishing, water skiing, picnicking, boating, lake swimming, wildlife viewing, nature programs and tours, equestrian camping and horseback riding trails.

In winter, the lake supports a variety of waterfowl and occasionally vagrant gulls intermixed with the abundant Ring-billed Gulls. In summer, look for Killdeer near the parking areas and Eastern Phoebes perched on overhanging branches. Other resident birds include Red-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher and Red-eyed Vireo. Butterflies are numerous, including both yellow and black forms of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Dragonflies abound along the lakeshore, with Prince Baskettails being especially abundant. Look for the colorful Halloween Pennant hunting tiny prey over the neighboring fields.

Phone: (903) 945-5256, Cooper Lake SP

093.gif PPW-E 093 Cooper Wildlife Management Area

Site open for day use only.

From I 30 West in Sulphur Springs, take Exit 122 and go north on SR 19 for 14.3 miles to CR 4795. Turn left and travel west on CR 4795 for 0.8 miles to the Tira Boat Ramp Road. The WMA office is located on the Tira Boat Ramp Road on the left.

Nestled along the South Sulphur River, Cooper WMA, totaling 14,160 acres, exhibits bottomland hardwood forests, mixed upland hardwoods, native prairies, flooded dead standing timber, riparian habitat, shoreline, managed wetland units, and numerous natural wetlands. The WMA has designated hunting seasons and is open year round for fishing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. A portion of the WMA between the dam and SH 154 is a refuge, which currently allows hunting only during late winter for hogs. This access road running below the dam allows visitors to observe White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, hawks, Coyote, Wild Hog, squirrel and Bobcat moving through open fields early and late in the day. An additional 12 access points on this area provide an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities for the public.

The diversity of terrestrial habitats along with the 19,280-acre lake hosts an impressive variety of birds. Many rare sightings for northeast Texas have been documented in the vicinity of Cooper Lake. Numerous wading birds and waterfowl may be found on the lake and drainages, including resident Wood Ducks. Gulls, terns, and shorebirds are common, with uncommon Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Interior Least Tern being spotted. Also, American White Pelicans and Wood Storks congregate on the lake. Along the woodland edges, look for Painted Bunting and Indigo Bunting. Check for Black-and-white Warbler and White-breasted Nuthatch in the forested areas. At the parking area below the dam, watch for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Green Herons near the drainage ditches. In the shore grass along the spillway access road, you can fin Eastern Meadowlarks and Dickcissels. Lapland Longspur, Smith’s Longspur, as well as many other sparrow species have been sighted around the area during winter.

Phone: (903) 945-3132, Cooper WMA

094.gif PPW-E 094 Midway Community Preserve

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to US 67. From the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon, continue north on SR 37 for 8.0 miles, crossing White Oak Creek Bottom (watch for egrets feeding in the bottom). Turn right on CR NE2220, follow it northeast 3.6 miles to CR NE2120. Turn right on CR NE2120; go 1.5 miles to CR NE2110. Turn right (east) on CR NE2110 and go 2.4 miles to Midway Cemetery. Midway community Preserve is behind the cemetery. Scrub and old growth forests line both sides of the public road for miles on each side of this cemetery and offer great viewing, hiking, and driving. Park at the cemetery. Admission to the preserve is by reservation and fee.

This site offers a chance to see some of the largest trees left standing along White Oak Creek. Listen along the creek bottom for White-eyed, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, all of which nest on the property. These are joined in migration and occasionally in winter by Blue-headed Vireos. The vegetation of the preserve varies from small fields to cane breaks and from towering pecan trees to a large stand of overcup oaks. On the banks of White Oak Creek, the Barred Owls hoot nightly and tightly coiled Cottonmouths wait patiently for their prey.

Phone: (903) 537-2264.

095.gif PPW-E 095 Selah Inn

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north for 9.4 miles to CR NE1050. Turn right onto CR NE1050 and go 0.5 miles to the red pipe entry on the right. Turn right and follow 0.6 miles to Selah Inn.

Located just north of Mount Vernon, Selah Ranch and Inn offers over a thousand acres of rich east Texas habitats. The inn has a variety of accommodations and guest rooms, perfect for a family getaway. The ranch can also accommodate larger families and groups. Visitors can explore the grounds, hike into the fields, or just sit under massive oaks and pecans. Look for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds overhead or watch the antics of Lark Sparrows. Along the wooded trails, watch for White-tailed Deer and Wood Ducks hidden in the shadows. Listen for the tapping of Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers. During winter, resident Great Blue Herons are joined by a variety of waterfowl and birds of prey.

Phone: (877) 450-1122,

096.gif PPW-E 096 Gibbs Ranch - Rockin G Ranch

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

From Exit 146 on I 30 travel north on SR 37 for 1.4 miles to the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon. Go west on US 67 for 4.2 miles to CR NW1018. Turn north onto Franklin CR NW1018, follow the meanderings of NW1018 for 2.8 miles to Gibbs Ranch on the left (west). It is a large brown brick ranch house about 100 yards back from road; the entry marked at road.

This private ranch offers visitors access to large open grasslands and bottomland hardwood forest along White Oak Creek. The grasslands support numerous Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks along with Eastern Kingbirds and Dickcissels. Look for Indigo Buntings and Summer Tanagers along the woodland edges and Wild Hogs and Wild Turkeys along the creek. Bald Eagles nest near the creek. In winter, the open fields host passing flocks of geese and occasionally, longspurs.

Phone: (903) 537-2351.

097.gif PPW-E 097 Dupree Park Nature Preserve

Site open for day use only.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to CR NW1017. Turn left and follow CR NW1017 for 0.2 miles to the preserve on the right (Note: heading west on Mt. Vernon’s Main St.; cross US 37 and you are on CR NW1017).

Visitors to this site are often greeted by the cheerful songs of Painted Buntings. The 2-mile trail leading through the preserve’s 57 acres meanders through a maze of mesquite brush alive with singing Field Sparrows before its conclusion at the creek. In winter, look for a variety of sparrows in this habitat. In the creek bottom, listen for the quiet tapping of Downy Woodpeckers or the insect-like croaking of Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Look for turtles such as Red-eared Slider around the pond, and check for a plethora of hovering dragonflies, such as Black and Red saddlebags, Eastern Amberwings, Slaty Skimmers and Banded Pennants.

Phone: (903) 537-2264; (903) 537-4760.

098.gif PPW-E 098 English Street in the City of Mt. Vernon

Site open for day use only.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to US 67 in Mount Vernon. Go east on US 67/ Main St. for 0.4 miles to English St. on the left. Turn north on English and go 0.6 miles, following along the road for 0.6 miles until it rejoins SR 37.

Although English Street is just off the main square in downtown Mt. Vernon, the area holds a surprising variety of wildlife. The tall trees along the road provide habitat for both Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Brown Thrashers are found in the roadside thickets. These residents are joined by numerous species of sparrows in winter along with large numbers of resident Northern Cardinals. The few lawns along the road attract foraging American Robins and the occasional wetland may host the recently arrived Black- bellied Whistling Duck. Listen for Chimney Swifts tittering overhead or White-breasted Nuthatches calling from the trees with their characteristic “yank-yank.”

Phone: (903) 537-2264; (903) 537-4495,

099.gif PPW-E 099 Daphne Prairie

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to US 67. At the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon, go east on US 67 for 3.3 miles to FM 1896. Turn left (north) on FM 1896 and continue for 3.7 miles to the gate. Note: Visits are by appointment only. Continue from the gate north for 2.0 miles; prairie and mounds intermittently line both sides of the road.

This site provides an opportunity to explore a unique and rare east Texas tall grass prairie habitat. Look for a variety of grassland birds in early summer, such as Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Eastern Kingbirds. Listen for the characteristic whistle of Northern Bobwhites and look for Wild Turkey along the creek. The windrows planted around the old farm buildings provide habitat for Great-crested Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. During fall, migration brings a population of short-eared owls to the Prairie. Scan the 3,000 acres for resident population of jack rabbits intermixed with the more common cottontails. During winter, the prairie turns to a grassy marsh, with the Mima Mounds (slight elevations characteristic of this soil type) forming islands in the surrounding marsh. Look for Smith’s Longspur in the wet grassland. From fall through spring, look for Sprague’s Pipits in the short grass. Taller grasses harbor Sedge Wrens, Le Conte’s Sparrows and the occasional Henslow’s Sparrow.

Phone: (903) 537-2264.

100.gif PPW-E 100 Choctaw Trails / Bluebird Trails

Site open for day use only.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to US 67. Go east on US 67 for 0.3 miles to CR NE2010. Turn left (east) on CR NE2010 for 4.1 miles (east 1.0 mile of FM 1896).

The Choctaw Trail is one of the earliest highways in Texas. Over a hundred years ago pioneers from the east traveled this road. Before European settlement, the Choctaw trail was part of a larger trading network used by Native Americans. Today, the trail passes through forest and fields, regularly crossing streams and creek beds. Along the trail wildlife abounds, with Painted Buntings singing from perches and Northern Bobwhite whistling from the fields. Check roadside thickets carefully for Brown Thrashers and watch overhead for Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. In spring and summer, Eastern Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers line the fencerows while Dickcissels call from every direction. In winter, look for a variety of sparrows along with Northern Harriers and American Kestrels.

Phone: (903) 537-2264.

101.gif PPW-E 101 Cherokee Trace - Franklin CR NE 2080

Site open for day use only.

From Exit 146 on I 30 take SR 37 north 1.7 miles to US 67. At the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon, go east on US 67 for 3.5 miles to Franklin CR NE2080. Turn right (southwest) on Franklin CR NE2080 and follow it 0.8 miles to the north service road of I 30.

For over 2,000 years this stretch of what is now called Franklin County Road 2080 has served travelers. The early French explorers mentioned it in their memoirs and Hernando DeSoto probably traveled this way in 1542. When the former Texas president Mirabeau B. Lamar ordered the Cherokee Indians to leave in 1839 they traveled north on this road as an extension of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Although much has changed since the first travelers used this road, some things remain the same. Painted Buntings still sing from roadside perches and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers still dart across the road, their tail streamers fluttering in the breeze. In winter the roadside shrubs fill with Slate-colored Juncos and dapper White-crowned Sparrows. Fox Squirrels can be seen chasing each other under the large oaks as Red-winged Blackbirds trill from the pond edges.

Phone: (903) 537-2264.

102.gif PPW-E 102 TXU Monticello Mines Reclamation Area US 67 between Winfield and Mt. Pleasant

Site open for day use only.

From the square in Mount Vernon, go east on US 67 for 6.9 miles to the railroad bridge just past Winfield. After crossing under the railroad bridge the reclaimed lands will be on both sides for 4.2 miles.

This former mining site has been restored to native habitats. The new landscape has ponds and open rolling hills which attract a variety of wildlife. The fencerows support dozens of Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels in summer and Savannah and Vesper Sparrows in winter. The ponds provide habitat for Great Blue Heron, Great and Cattle Egrets and Killdeer. A variety of waterfowl is present during fall and winter. Red-tailed Hawks sit on suitable perches watching for prey. Although Red-tails predominate, many other raptors visit the area, including Northern Harriers and American Kestrels. Occasionally, less common raptors from farther north as well as Bald Eagles occur. The habitat mix of ponds and fields attracts numerous dragonflies. Hundreds of Halloween Pennants and Four-spotted Pennants line the barbed wire fences in mid-summer.

Phone: (903) 537-2264,

103.gif PPW-E 103 The Veranda Resort

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

From the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon, go south on SR 37 for 1.0 mile south past I 30 to FM 21. Turn left (east) on FM 21 and go 4.4 miles east on FM 21 to CR SE4115. Turn left (north) on CR SE4115 and go 0.1 miles to the entrance on the right.

This fully restored Victorian B&B offers exquisite dining and lovely accommodations. The owner and proprietor, Robert Whiteside, is also a master goldsmith and jeweler. The home is surrounded by extensive gardens surrounded by acres of serene woodland, providing a quiet retreat for visitors. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice are common in the open woodland. Also look for White-eyed Vireos in the shrubs and migrant Spotted Sandpipers near the pond. Raptors such as Red-shouldered Hawks are frequently seen.

Phone: (903) 588-2402,

104.gif PPW-E 104 Lake Bob Sandlin State Park

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

From I 30 East in Mount Pleasant, take Exit 160 and go left (south) on US 271/ W. Ferguson Rd. for 1.6 miles. Turn right (south) on FM 127 and follow it south 10.1 miles to FM 21. Bear left (south) on FM 21 for 0.9 miles to Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. / From I 30 West in Mount Vernon, take Exit 146. Go right on FM 37 for 0.8 miles to FM 21. Go left on FM 21 for about 10.0 miles to the park.

Located on the heavily wooded north shore of the 9400-acre Lake Bob Sandlin, this 640-acre state park offers picnicking, hiking, swimming, mountain biking, and fishing. Varieties of oak, hickory, pine, dogwood, redbud, and maple produce spectacular fall color. A nature trail guides visitors through the woods and along the shore of the lake, providing limitless opportunities for wildlife viewing. In the open areas near the trailhead, look and listen for Painted Buntings. In the forest, listen for Red-eyed Vireos and look high in the canopy for Great-crested Flycatchers. Check the shoreline for wading birds and turtles. A variety of swallows can be seen feeding, perching and preening on the numerous dead snags. Look for Tree and Rough-winged Swallows among the more common Purple Martins and Cliff Swallows. The shore is also a good place to watch dragonflies, with Slaty Skimmer and Prince Baskettail frequently seen. Butterflies in the area include Little Wood and Gemmed Satyrs and the iridescent Red-spotted Purple.

Phone: (903) 572-5531, Lake Bob Sandlin SP

105.gif PPW-E 105 Lake Cypress Springs

Site open daily. Developed camping available.

From the intersection of SR 37 and US 67 in Mount Vernon, go south on SR 37 for 1.7 miles to the frontage road south of I 30. Turn left (east) and go 0.5 miles on the frontage road to FM 115. Bear right (south) onto FM 115 and follow south 13.0 miles CR 3007. Turn left onto CR 3007 and go 3.2 miles to the dam and picnic and camping areas.

The best way to see Lake Cypress Springs is from the water. Visitors can rent a boat from one of the numerous marinas around the lake. While exploring the plentiful shallow bays look for Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and waterfowl such as Wood Ducks and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. In winter, the lake fills with ducks and attracts a sizeable flock of American White Pelicans. Bald Eagles also occur during the winter months and often perch on the tall pine trees flanking the lake. Pines along the shore provide habitat for Pine Warblers and Brown-headed Nuthatches as well as other woodland species. If a boat ride doesn’t interest you, there are several access points around the shore where you can view the lake.

Phone: (903) 537-4536,

106.gif PPW-E 106 Oaklea Mansion and Manor House Inn

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

Traveling east on I 30 in Mt. Vernon, take Exit 146. Go right (south) on SR 37 for 14.5 miles to Winnsboro and Oaklea Mansion & Manor House will be on the left side of the street.

Located in downtown Winnsboro, the Oaklea Mansion and Manor House has been welcoming travelers for over one hundred years. The Wilkinson family has recently restored the mansion to its original grandeur. A stay at the mansion provides a great getaway for those who enjoy nature and Texas history. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the numerous plantings, feeders and ponds scattered throughout the grounds. Check the ancient trees for Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers or watch the pond as American Robins, Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays come to bathe. Spring migration brings a diversity of warblers and vireos. In winter, American Goldfinches crowd the feeders. Whether you want to sit and watch the busy antics of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds or choose to stalk the hedgerow for Brown Thrashers and other nesting birds, a stay at the Oaklea Mansion is sure to please.

Phone: (903) 342-6051,

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