Lake Tyler Loop
- Athens, (888) 294-AVIP, athenstx.org
- City of Tyler, (800) 235-5712, www.cityoftyler.org
From the intersection of US 69 and North Loop 323 in Tyler, take US 69 south for 1.1 miles to Martin Luther King Dr. Turn left (northeast) onto W. Martin Luther King Dr. and follow 0.25 mile to zoo entrance.
This privately funded zoo exhibits wildlife species from North America, South America and Africa. The exhibits are constructed to depict wildlife in appropriate habitats. Highlights of the North American exhibit include a pond and open prairie habitat where ducks, geese, bison, Wild Turkey, river otter and American alligator can be observed. There are also exhibits featuring amphibians and reptiles as well as wildlife of East Africa and South America. Visitors can also enjoy native wildlife drawn to the ponds and woodlands on the zoo property. Look for waterfowl during the winter and migrating songbirds in the spring.
Rose Rudman Trail
From the intersection of US 69 (Broadway St.) and South Loop 323 in Tyler, go east on Loop 323 for 0.3 mile to Donnybrook Dr. adjacent to Robert E. Lee High School. Turn right (south) on Donnybrook Dr. and follow south to Shiloh Rd. The trail runs along Donnybrook to Grande Blvd. in Tyler.
Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the trail leading to the creek. Riparian hardwoods along the creek provide habitat for Pileated Woodpecker, the largest North American woodpecker. Other resident species include Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, American Robin and Pine Warbler. During the winter, there can be several species of sparrows, including the less common White-crowned Sparrow. Spring and fall bring migrant songbirds. The colorful American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, can be found perched on utility wires during winter months.
Boat Ramp and Picnic Area at Lake Tyler East
From Chapel Hill, just east of Tyler, take US 64 east approximately 5.1 miles to the public boat ramp. On the east side of the bridge crossing Lake Tyler East there is a public boat ramp and picnic area on the south side of the road.
A good place to rest, picnic and watch wildlife along Hwy. 64, this site includes shoreline habitats and deciduous forest. Look for wading birds such as egrets and herons along the shoreline and in the shallows of Mud Creek. Check tree perches and power lines for Belted Kingfishers, which frequently fish the creek. In the winter, look for dabbling ducks in the shallows and diving ducks in the deeper water further out in the lake. The deciduous forest adjacent to the parking lot hosts Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak and Orchard Oriole. During the spring and fall, look for migrating songbirds.
From the intersection of FM 848 and Spur 248 in Tyler, take FM 848 south 4.5 miles, then turn left on McElroy Rd. (CR 2127). Go 0.6 mile and turn left into Camp Tyler. Alternatively, from the intersection of Hwy. 848 and 246 in Whitehouse, take 848 north 2.7 miles and turn right on McElroy Rd., go 0.6 mile and turn left into Camp Tyler.
Located on 287 acres of variable habitat along the Lake Tyler shoreline, Camp Tyler provides excellent birding and wildlife-viewing opportunities. The camp serves primarily as an educational facility serving the Tyler Independent School District and other youth groups in the East Texas area. The site offers a diversity of habitats, including pine forest, deciduous riparian forest, shoreline and open field/pasture. Over 220 species of birds have been recorded at the site. Common nesting species include Wood Duck, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebird, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Painted Bunting and Orchard Oriole. In grassland areas during winter months, up to 10 species of sparrows can be found, including LeConte's, and rarely, Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows. During spring migration, over 29 species of warblers and 7 species of vireos have been documented. Visitors should call the office to obtain permission to bird there at least 24 hours in advance, and are required to check in at the office when they arrive.
Lake Tyler Concession Area #1
From the intersection of Hwy. 110 and South Loop 323 in Tyler, go south on Hwy. 110 for 6.9 miles to FM 346. Turn left and follow FM 346 east in Whitehouse about 2.7 miles to Concession Rd. Turn left and follow Concession Rd. to the dam parking lot.
This site offers wildlife viewers multiple habitats within a small area. Habitats include lakeshore, deciduous forest, wetland and open grassland. Look for Killdeer, egrets and herons along the shoreline. In the winter, expect to see diving ducks, Snow Geese, or perhaps a Bald Eagle or Ross's Goose. A variety of sparrows and flycatchers frequent the more open habitats. In the summer, look for Painted Buntings singing atop the tall branches to claim their territory. Listen for the call of the Barred Owl at dawn and dusk. Other summer nesters include Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse and Red-headed Woodpecker. Migrant bird species are most abundant during late April and early May.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
From Loop 7 on the southeast side of Athens, turn east on FM 2495 and follow it 4.4 miles to the Freshwater Fisheries Center on the right.
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) is an innovative aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by TPWD. Here, visitors can see the broad range of life that lives in the rivers and reservoirs of Texas. The 23,000-square-foot visitor center features a dive show auditorium, more than 300,000 gallons of aquaria featuring native species of Texas fish, a fishing museum, a Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, replicas of the largest catfish, bass and other species of fish caught in Texas and a gift shop. Videos and interactive displays help visitors learn how TPWD manages Texas fisheries, and a narrated tram tour of the outdoor hatchery explains how TFFC raises about half the largemouth bass stocked in Texas each year. An ADA-accessible Wetlands Trail features interpretive displays and the chance to see a variety of native vegetation, wildlife and birds. Visitors can fish in the 1.2-acre pond stocked with channel catfish in summer and rainbow trout in the winter. Rods, reels, bait and instruction are provided, and fishing is catch-and-release (no fishing license is required).
Because of the diversity of habitats, visitors can see a variety of birds, including Red-winged Blackbird, Great Egret, Carolina and Sedge Wrens, Red-headed Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Dickcissel and Lark Sparrow. Ospreys and Bald Eagles visit during the winter. The diversity increases even more during spring migration, when a variety of shorebirds and raptors pass through.
(903) 676-BASS (2277)
East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society
From the intersection of US 175 and SR 19 in Athens, go west on US 175 for 1.7 miles to Patterson Rd. Turn left on Patterson Rd. and follow it to the Arboretum (located between US 175 North and Loop 317 West at the northwest outskirts of the city of Athens).
This site has an extensive native wildflower/herb garden that attracts many species of butterflies, dragonflies and hummingbirds. The trail system extends across 100 acres, traversing deciduous forest, a pitcher plant bog, open fields, riparian habitat and a spring-fed stream. Interpretive stations are well marked along the trail with an accompanying handout that provides information about the habitat types, significant features and enhancement/restoration efforts. An observation deck at the pitcher plant bog provides an excellent vantage point for observing wildlife.
Eastern cottontail rabbits, eastern fox squirrels and white-tailed deer inhabit the site. Summer avian residents include Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Painted Bunting, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Look for migrating songbirds during May and October.
Purtis Creek State Park
From the intersection of US Hwy. 175 and North Loop 317 in Athens travel north on Hwy. 175 for 9 miles to FM 316 and turn right (north) for 3.5 miles to the park entrance on the left.
This 1,582-acre state park offers deciduous woodlands, open prairie and a large lake. Good fishing and shady campsites are the major attractions at Purtis Creek. The park's unique 355-acre lake has an extensive shoreline, and coves and snags attract a variety of waterbirds. Common species include Double-crested Cormorant, Belted Kingfisher, egrets, herons, White-faced Ibis and Eastern Kingbird. Look for Bald Eagles during the winter, along with a wide variety of dabbling and diving ducks.
A 1.3-mile hiking trail leading to primitive campsites along the northern shoreline takes you on a journey into deciduous woodland. Resident woodland birds include Eastern Bluebird, Painted Bunting, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Mourning Dove, Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse. Open prairie areas support Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel and various sparrows including the more elusive Grasshopper and Bachman's Sparrows. During migration months the park is even more alive with visiting shorebirds, hawks, flycatchers, warblers, tanagers and orioles as they drop in for food and rest.
Bird Island (Cedar Creek Islands Wildlife Management Area)
From the intersection of CR 2104 and SR 334 in Seven Points, go east on SR 334 for approximately 2.3 miles to Bird Island (south side of bridge), which is located between Seven Points and Gun Barrel City on Cedar Creek Lake.
Access to Cedar Creek Islands WMA is by boat only. Three islands encompassing 160 acres of waterbird rookeries compose this WMA. Visitors may view birds from a boat (rentals available nearby), but beaching on the islands is prohibited because of conservation efforts to minimize disturbance to breeding waterbirds. Hundreds to thousands of Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Tricolored Herons and cormorants congregate and nest here. The birds use every available space in the trees to nest. Using binoculars, visitors can observe the wonder of hundreds of nesting waterbirds. Other species to look for include Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Turkey Vulture and a variety of ducks during winter months.