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 Drive. Turn left (northeast) onto W. Martin Luther King Dr. and follow 0.25 miles to zoo entrance.
A trip to Caldwell Zoo will take you on a global journey without getting on an airplane. 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.
Phone: (903) 593-0121, www.caldwellzoo.org
Rose Rudman Park
From the intersection of US 69 (Broadway Street) and South Loop 323 in Tyler, go east on Loop 323 for 0.3 miles to Donny Brook Dr adjacent to Robert E. Lee High School. Turn right (south) on Donny Brook Dr. and follow south to Shiloh Rd. The park runs along Donny Brook to Shiloh in Tyler.
Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the trail leading to the creek. Riparian hardwoods along the creek provide habitat for Pileated Woodpeckers, the largest North American woodpecker. Other resident species include Northern Cardinal, Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, American Crow, American Robin, and Wood Thrush. During the winter expect to find a diversity of sparrows, including White-crowned, Harris, Savannah, Song, and the more uncommon, Le Conte's. Spring and fall bring migrant songbirds, flocks of waterfowl, and kettles of hawks. The colorful American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North American, can be found perched on utility wires during winter months.
Phone: (903) 531-1370.
Boat Ramp and Picnic Area at Lake Tyler
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 Great and Snowy Egrets, and Great Blue and Little Blue 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. Look for dabbling ducks in the winter. 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.
Phone: (903) 939-1538.
From the intersection of FM 848 and Spur 248 in Tyler, take FM 848 south 4.5 miles, then turn left on McElroy Road (CR 2127). Go 0.6 miles 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 Road; go 0.6 miles 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 Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Pileated Woodpecker, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Painted Bunting and Prothonotary Warbler. Less common species include Lazuli Bunting, Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, Roseate Spoonbill, Cinnamon Teal, Smith's Longspur and White-winged Dove. In grassland areas during winter months, look for Grasshopper Sparrow and Henslow's Sparrow. During spring migration, over 29 species of warblers and seven species of vireos have been documented. Visitors are required to check in at the office.
Phone: (903) 262-1225, www.camptyler.org
Lake Tyler Concession Area #1
From the intersection of US 69 and South Loop 323 in Tyler, go south on US 69 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, Great Egret, Little Blue and Great Blue 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 'Who cooks for you - who cooks for you allllll?' call of the Barred Owl at dawn and dusk. Other summer nesters include Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, and Red-headed Woodpecker. Migrant bird species are most abundant during May and October.
Phone: (903) 939-1538.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
From the intersection of US 175 and SR 19 in Athens, go east on US 175 for 0.8 miles. Continue east on Crestway Dr. for 0.5 miles. Bear right (northeast) on SR 31/ E. Tyler St. for 0.3 miles to FM 2495. Turn right on FM 2495 and follow it 4.4 miles to the Freshwater Fisheries Center on the right.
The Freshwater Fisheries Center is an innovative aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Here, visitors can see the broad range of life that lives in the rivers and reservoirs of Texas. The Center is an outdoor classroom bursting with information on the diversity and beauty of the aquatic ecosystems located across the Lone Star State. The 23,000-square-foot visitor center features a dive show auditorium, more than 300,000 gallons of aquariums, a fishing museum, and a gift shop. 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). Other attractions include an alligator exhibit, catfish feeding, aquatic plant identification, hatchery overlook, aquatic exhibit trail, a movie theater, and tram rides. Observation blinds and kiosks provide plenty of opportunities to observe and learn about aquatic plants and animals.
Because of the diversity of habitats, visitors can see a variety of birds, including Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Cardinal, Great Egret, Carolina Wren, Common Grackle, American Crow, Sedge Wren, Red-headed Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Dickcissel, and Lark Sparrow. The diversity increases even more during spring migration.
Phone: (903) 676-BASS (2277), Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
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 Road. Turn left on Patterson Road and follow it to the Arboretum. (Located between US Hwy 175 North and Loop 317 West at the northwest outskirts of the city of Athens).
This site offers so many educational and nature/wildlife viewing opportunities that one visit may not be enough. The facility 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.
Aside from the abundant Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, Eastern Fox Squirrels, and White-tailed Deer that inhabit the site, birding opportunities also abound here. Summer residents include Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Painted Bunting, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Look for migrating songbirds during May and October.
Phone: (903) 675-5630, www.eastexasarboretum.org
Purtis Creek State Park
From the intersection of US Hwy 175 and North Loop 317 in Athens travel north on Hwy 175 for 9.0 miles to FM 316 and turn right (north) for 3.5 miles to the park entranc eon 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 was designed specifically for fishing, where largemouth bass are plentiful and can be fished on a 'catch and release' basis only. Also, large catfish and crappie are abundant and may be retained.
The extensive shoreline, coves, and snags attract a variety of water birds. Common species include Double-crested Cormorant, Belted Kingfisher, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Little Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Eastern Kingbird and Great Blue Heron. 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 Buntings, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Common Grackle, 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, April-May and September- October, the park is even more alive with visiting shorebirds, hawks, flycatchers, warblers, tanagers and orioles as they drop in for food and rest.
Phone: (903) 425-2332, Purtis Creek SP
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.
To visit the spectacular annual events at Cedar Creek Islands Wildlife Management Area, you will need to arrange transportation with a boat operator or rent a boat yourself since access to this site 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 Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Great Egrets, 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 water birds. Other species to look for include Great Blue Heron, Mallard and Turkey Vulture, and a variety of ducks during winter months.
Phone: (903) 389-7080, Cedar Creek Islands WMA