Davy Crockett Loop
- Crockett Area COC, (936) 544-2359, www.crockettareachamber.org
Lakeview Methodist Conference Center
From the intersection of Loop 256 and FM 322 on the south side of Palestine, travel south on FM 322 for 6.7 miles to Hwy. 294. Go west on Hwy 294 for 2.3 miles to the entrance of the Center on the right. Please call ahead before visiting.
The sprawling 1300-acre wooded campus entices visitors as the eye-pleasing Lake Lemons appears on your left. Cross Thunder Bridge, and make sure to check in at the office before heading out to explore the area.
Over 110 species of birds have been recorded at the Center. Campus roads provide a great place for walking and nature study. Numerous species of birds and wildlife may be observed, including Red-headed Woodpeckers along the entrance road leading to the office. Woodlands along the property edges and near the nature trails consist of pine and mixed pine/hardwood forests. Walk the back road around the lake near the RV sites and you will experience excellent wildlife habitat with an inspiring view of the lake.
The lakeside trail follows along the south side of Lake Lemons. This trail takes you through a variety of habitats and is a great place to explore the lake edge. Wetland vegetation lines the shore edge and provides opportunity for looking at some interesting species. Great Blue Herons can be observed stalking prey while Kingfishers may be heard flying overhead. A variety of waterfowl and wading birds can be found around the campus.
Hike the prayer trail that starts on the southeast side of Thunder Bridge. This trail takes you through an east Texas hardwood forest composed of eastern red cedar, winged elm, laurel oak, mockernut hickory, and dogwood. Search for resurrection ferns that grow on some of the trees. They may appear lifeless, but with a good rain, their leaves will become vibrant and green. Watch and listen for a variety of birds, including Red-headed Woodpeckers. Many snags along the trail are dotted with various size holes, attesting to the woodpecker's presence. Follow the many intermittent creeks winding through the area and check for Anoles and other reptiles among the vegetation.
Phone: (903) 538-2711, www.lakeviewmcc.org
Ivy's Wildlife Refuge
Call for directions. Check in at the house to let caretakers know you are there. You can camp near the pavillion where they have restrooms, a kitchen and showers.
Take a walk through woodland of pines and hardwoods, across a rustic bridge, to a beautiful creek. The rock substrate of the creek is pitted and pocked and holds isolated pools of water very attractive to Water Striders. Carefully pick up a few small rocks and look for the small aquatic invertebrates taking refuge under the rock. Although you shouldn't touch these sensitive creatures, a glance is rewarding enough. As water flows over the rock bluff into the large pool of water below, look for fish and enjoy the relaxing scenery. Ferns thrive in the cool dense forest and jut out from the rock walls.
Walk, ride your bike, or jog the many sand and red clay trails on the property. Forest vegetation includes water oak, sugarberry, winged elm, post oak, willow oak, redbud, mockernut hickory, black cherry, American basswood, dogwood, American holly, sassafras, blackjack oak, American beautyberry, and Virginia creeper. Unique mushrooms and shelf fungus can be studied in several trail locations. Wood debris on the forest floor provides excellent habitat for reptiles and insects. Coral Snakes, Copperheads, and Cottonmouths occur in the area. Other wildlife observed on the property include deer, vultures, hawks, feral hogs, Red-eyed Vireo, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Chickadee, Great-crested Flycatcher, as well as Snoutnose and Swallowtail butterflies.
The pipeline right-of-way that traverses the property grows abundant wildflowers, including Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, and asters. The open fields around the house produce yellow Coreopsis and bee balm. Bird feeders and nest boxes are located around the house and several Carolina Wrens can be observed nesting in the spring and summer.
Phone: (512) 804-1981; (903) 764-2605, www.napa-texas.org/ivys.html
Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site
From the intersection of US 69 and Hwy 21 in Alto, go southwest on Hwy 21 for 6.0 miles to Caddoan Mounds.
This unique site combines history, archeology along with grassland and woodland habitats. At first glance, the site appears to be an open field, but further investigation reveals its unusual features.
Take a walk around the 0.7-mile loop featuring interpretive displays about this Caddoan village and ceremonial center. Features include a burial mound, borrow pit, temple and ceremonial sites of the ancient Caddo Indians. Exhibits displaying information and artifacts uncovered onsite are found in the museum.
The trail runs beside woodland as the land slopes down to a riparian area that is a great place to see wildlife. Visitors must stay on the designated trail, but several resting areas and an observation deck for the borrow pit provide excellent places to stop and look for birds and other wildlife. A cluster of elderberry grows near the platform and when blooming in the late spring to early summer, may be a place to spot some magnificent butterflies. Black walnut trees are dominant along the trail. Use the leaflets to help you identify this tree or look on the ground for dropped walnuts. Other forest species include gum Bumelia, sweetgum, dogwood, water oak, sugarberry, and box elder. Also watch for a nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks, which are known to feed in the area. Barn Swallows swoop across the open prairie and in winter are joined by Northern Harriers and American Kestrels, who are regular visitors. Bald Eagles have been observed in the park and can be seen along the Neches River and a 40-acre lake located south of the park. Cedar Waxwings visit the park during migration and join nesting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Mockingbirds. Coyotes are frequent visitors along the trail and Armadillos and feral hogs occasionally venture from the woods.
This once native pine-oak forest and savanna communities near the Neches River have been replaced by introduced grasses and weeds. However, active management to restore the native vegetation is underway. Wildflowers abound at the park year round. In addition to the boldly colored wildflowers, careful examination of the plants along the trail will reveal some diminutive, yet beautiful species. Take the challenge of counting the number of different species you can find. lamb's ear, crimson clover, bull nettle, sensitive briar, black-eyed susan, and passion flower are just some of the species visible in late spring and early summer.
Phone: (936) 858-3218, Caddoan Mounts SHS
Neches Bluff Area
Between Crockett and Alto on Hwy 21, turn south on FR 511 which is about 1.0 mile southwest of the Neches River bridge. Follow FR 511 for 0.6 miles, turn left on FR 511-A, and follow it for 0.3 miles. Turn right on FR 511 and follow it for 1.1 miles to the T-intersection at the powerline. Turn right and park about 100 yards from that turn.
Deep in the heart of the Davy Crockett National Forest, this site provides a high interspersion of habitats including wetlands, marshes, ponds, hardwood bottomlands, and upland pine forest.
Bird songs ring through the forest like a symphony. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Downy Woodpecker, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird are just a few of the species that can be seen. Herbaceous plants include American elder, trumpet creeper, goldenrod, blackberry, and wild rye. A trail crosses several small creeks, which are alive with Water Striders, caddisflies, and dragonflies, such as Petaltails, Darners, Sand Dragons, Skimmers, and Dragonlets. Look ahead as you traverse the trail, many species may cross in front of you. Lizards, Armadillo, White-tailed Deer, damselflies, and butterflies can also be observed along the trail.
Enjoy the beautiful wetlands along the trail, including ponds with Bald Cypress and unique areas tucked back in the woods. These wetlands provide scenic stopping points and great wildlife viewing. Look for wading birds and waterfowl including herons, teals, and Wood Ducks. Several Wood Duck nest boxes are located on the ponds.
The spring breeding season is a great time for wetland wildlife, although a variety of species can be observed year round. Rushes, sedges, and a plethora of other wetland plants line the banks of the pond. Careful observation may reveal a curious otter. Warblers are common in the hardwoods and underbrush. Look for the jet black and canary yellow feathers of the Hooded Warbler as it calls from the brush. In September, be sure to look for the beautiful, large, white flowers of the rare Neches River rose mallow around wetland edges.
Phone: (936) 655-2299.
Mission Tejas State Park
From Weches, go southwest briefly on Hwy 21. The headquarters is approximately 100 feet off Hwy 21 on the right. Brown highway signs designate the area.
Located near the northern end of the Davy Crockett National Forest, the park offers an atmosphere of rustic beauty and tranquility, among the tall pines. The park was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a commemorative representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas, established in 1690. Also in the park is the restored Rice Family Log Home, built in 1828 and restored in 1974. The home, which Joseph Redmund Rice, Sr. constructed between 1828 and 1838, is one of the oldest structures in the area. The home served as a stopover for immigrants, adventurers, and local residents traveling the Old San Antonio Road across pioneer Texas.
The trail from the picnic area traverses hilly terrain and winds through mixed pine/hardwood forest. Trees and shrubs are marked and an interpretive guide is available at the park entrance. Enjoy watching dragonflies and butterflies at the 3-acre pond located adjacent to the trail. Listen to frogs and watch beetles swimming on the water surface. The diverse vegetation provides excellent habitat for wildlife and birds, including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Summer Tanager, Pine Warbler, and Indigo Bunting. Migratory birds are plentiful during spring and fall. The trail continues to a boardwalk over a riparian area and pond, an opportunity to view the area from an elevated vantage point.
Phone: (936) 687-2394, Mission Tejas SP
Big Slough Wilderness and Four-C's Natio
From the intersection of SR 7 and FM 227 in Ratcliffe, go north on FM 227 for 0.9 miles to CR 1165. Go north 3.4 miles on CR 1165, then east on CR 1165/ 1170. A faded sign at this intersection directs visitors to the right. Follow to CR 1175 where another faded sign directs visitors to turn left (west). Follow this road 1.2 miles to the Wilderness Area boundary. There is a parking area on the left and a trail map. The trailhead will be a few hundred yards down on the right and left. A detailed map of the area is available from the Forest Service.
Known for its undisturbed, old growth bottomland hardwoods, Big Slough is located in the Davy Crockett National Forest. Four C's Recreational Trail traverses the area. You can also take the Big Slough Canoe Trail to the interior. The hiking trail highlights some very large, old pines and oaks. Portions of the trail have dense underbrush, including American beautyberry, a plant with excellent wildlife value. Other areas along the trail are dominated by grasses and sedges.
The fluted, muscle-like trunks of the American hornbeam and the striated, shaggy bark of the Eastern hophornbeam are distinct characteristics of some of the dominant trees along the path. You may notice the marks left by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on many of the trees. Rows and rows of tiny holes have been bored into many of the tree trunks. Listen for the rustle of squirrels and watch for the miniature umbrellas of the Mayapple. Parula Warblers, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, vireos, and woodpeckers are a few of the forest birds that may be seen. Other wildlife includes Beaver, White-tailed Deer, and American Alligator.
Phone: (936) 655-2299.
Alabama Creek Wildlife Management Area
From Apple Springs, take FM 357 south for approximately 6-8 miles. A series of Forest Roads will head east through the area. A large sign along the road will tell you that you are entering the Wildlife Management Area; however, there are a few tracks of private land interspersed, so only go within areas marked by the small yellow signs. For more accessible areas, take FM 2501 to Nigton to FM 2262. From the intersection of FM 2501 and FM 2262 in Nigton, travel for 1.2 miles to a roadside sign and map for the Area. Holly Bluff Road is located 2.0 miles from the intersection and provides access to the Neches River. Access can be gained all along the east and west side of FM 2262. When FM 2262 meets FM 357, you can travel west on FM 357 and there will be several other access points including FR 541 and 531.
Spend an hour or spend the day exploring the 14,000-acre management area located within the 150,000-acre Davy Crockett National Forest. Habitats include upland pine forest, mixed aged stands of hardwood and pine forest, bottomland hardwood forests, and Neches River frontage and adjacent wetlands. The interspersion of vegetation types provides numerous levels of habitat, from the forest floor to the upper canopies, resulting in a profusion of wildlife. Holly Bluff Road is a great place to gain river access. Watch for hawks, owls, vultures, kites, Bald Eagles, Prothonotary Warblers, and various waterfowl, and wading birds along the miles of river frontage within the management area. Several paths venture from the forest roads, but these are not designated or signed trails; so if you move into the interior, be careful not to get lost.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters are one of the many highlights of Alabama Creek. This endangered species prefers park-like stands of pines and an area relatively devoid of hardwoods and understory vegetation. The birds live in family groups and are most visible at dawn and dusk between April and June. A heavy white resin coating around the hole typically marks the active cavities. These protected areas are marked by signs. When entering these areas, use common sense and keep your visits short. These birds are sensitive to disturbance and are protected by federal law. Drive along FR 541 and FR 531 for easy access to several clusters immediately adjacent to the roadway.
While there are numerous forest management practices, none is as evident as prescribed burning within the area. Notice the charcoal black burn marks along the bases of the pine trees. Forest thinning and prescribed burning are key management tools used to help maintain the required habitat of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Along FR 341, you will see both open forests and the dense understory of the mixed hardwood/pine forests. American beautyberry is often the dominant shrub species. The two types of habitats provide for a diversity of wildlife, especially birds.
Additional forest management practices readily visible from the roadways include forest thinning and clearing. Notice the open, meadow-like areas within the forest that have been cleared to create openings for wildlife. Significant sunlight reaches these areas, which are often dominated by tender, nutritious grasses and forbs. These are good places to observe deer and other wildlife. Deer, feral hog, turkey, waterfowl, doves, quail, squirrel, rabbits, and migratory game birds are some of the species that may be hunted (by permit only) within this management area.
Phone: (936) 639-1879, Alabama Creek WMA