Little Sandy Loop
- Grand Saline, (903) 962-7147, www.grandsaline.com/chamber/chamber.html
- City of Mineola, (800)-MINEOLA, www.mineola.com
- Mineola COC, (903) 569-2087, www.chamber.mineola.com
Pine Mills Pottery
From the intersection of US 80 and US 69 in Mineola travel north on US 69 0.2 mile to FM 49, turn right (east) onto FM 49 and travel 13 miles to Pine Mills Pottery on the left.
Daphne and Gary Hatcher have been making world-class pottery in the woods of East Texas since 1979. Their gallery and studio are regularly open to visitors, as is access to their beautiful patch of pine and hardwood forest. The towering pines hold numerous Pine Warblers and echo with the songs of Brown-headed Nuthatches. There are many varieties of woodpeckers, such as Pileated, Red-headed, Red-bellied and Downy, as well as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A trail leads from the Hatcher's gallery to a well-vegetated pond that attracts waterfowl during the winter. Look for banded and diamond-backed water snakes as well as dragonflies. Moist areas along the trail support a groundcover of ferns and spring-fed creeks drain into the lake. Look for a variety of wildflowers during spring. The Hatchers also have a guest rental property next door (Peace and Quiet Cottage) if you wish to spend time in the area.
(903) 857-2271, (903) 316-1696
Tyler State Park
From I-20 East in Tyler, take Exit 562 for FM 14. Go north on FM 14 for 2 miles to the park entrance located at the intersection with PR 16.
Tyler State Park is a 994-acre facility with fishing piers, 2.5-mile hiking trail, 0.75-mile interpretive nature trail, 13-mile mountain bike trail, swimming, camping, boating and boat rental, hiking and great wildlife viewing. The trails take visitors through varied habitats that support a wide array of birds and other wildlife. For the more adventurous, the park has a challenging mountain bike trail system that follows steep terrain around the 65-acre lake.
Along the shoreline of the lake, look for regulars such as Wood Duck and Great Blue Heron and visiting Gadwall, American Widgeon, Redhead Duck and Spotted Sandpiper.
In summer, watch for residents such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Louisiana Waterthrush, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Chuck-will's-widow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Indigo Bunting, White-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Warbler. During winter months, look for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Eastern Towhee, Gold-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, various sparrows, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch.
From the intersection of Hwy. 69 and FR 176 in Lindale, go north on Hwy. 69 approximately 4.8 miles to the park entrance on the left.
This multiuse park includes a paved walking trail that weaves through loblolly pine, deciduous woodland and open fields as it makes its way around a 15-acre lake. Expect Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Painted Bunting, American Robin and White-breasted Nuthatch.
Along the shore of the lake, look for herons, egrets, Belted Kingfisher and Pied-billed Grebe. Open field and forest edge habitats support Eastern Bluebird, Blue Grosbeak, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Prothonotary Warbler. Look for migrating songbirds during spring and fall and waterfowl during winter.
Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area
From the intersection of US 69 and FM 16 East in Lindale, take FR 16 east 0.6 mile to FM 2710. Turn left on FM 2710 and go 5 miles north to the 4-way stop at CR 4106. Go straight (north) on CR 4106 for 1.5 miles to the WMA entrance.
This 5,727-acre WMA features important bottomland hardwood habitat. Many roads, trails and parking areas are available for visitor use. An information kiosk with a map of the area is located at the entrance. Visitors can enjoy 24 miles of trails accessible by bicycle, horseback (written permission required) or foot. Mature oak, elm, ash and other hardwood trees cover much of the WMA. Since it is located within the Sabine River floodplain, habitats include a variety of wetlands and oxbow lakes. Wildlife viewing includes neotropical migratory songbirds, Wood Duck, Mallard, Snowy Egret, Barred Owl, white-tailed deer, feral hogs and beavers.
Look for herons, egrets and Belted Kingfisher along the shorelines of the oxbow lakes and Sabine River. In the forest, watch for Great Horned and Eastern Screech Owls, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers. During the nesting season look for Prothonotary Warbler and Northern Parula. Swallow-tailed Kites can be observed during migration. Limited Use Permit or Annual Public Hunting permit required to access area.
Mineola Nature Preserve on the Sabine River
From the intersection of Hwy. 69 and FM 37 in Mineola, go south on US 69 for about 2.5 miles and turn left (east) on FM 564, then follow the signs to the Mineola Preserve. This involves turning right (east) on Wood CR 2724 and following that to the preserve entrance, which is on the right. The site is bordered on the south by the Sabine River, on the west by US 69, on the north by Wood CR 2740, and on the east by a fence between the adjacent private property.
The Mineola Nature Preserve on the Sabine River is a premiere natural outdoor educational area. The 2,921 acres of the preserve include pine uplands, open grasslands, bottomland hardwood forest and successional woodlands. The diversity of habitats provides for a variety of wildlife, including over 200 bird species. Over 20 miles of trails, fishing ponds, picnic areas, primitive camping areas, RV, 2 pavilions with restrooms, playground and educational opportunities abound. Don't miss the active beehive on Johnnie Bendy Trail that can be viewed behind safety glass. There is an abandoned rail bed that lends itself well to accommodate walkers.
During the summer, look for Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee and White eyed, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed and Bell's Vireos. The area is particularly good for breeding bottomland warblers, including Northern Parula, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Yellow-throated and Swainson's Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat and Common Yellowthroat. Check areas of open water for herons, American Bittern, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork. The site is excellent for migrating warblers and other songbirds in late April through mid-May.
Great Cats of Texas at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
From I-20 East and Hwy. 69 North in Tyler, travel east for 6 miles to Exit 562/FM 14. Turn left (north) on FM 14 and follow 4.8 miles to the entrance road on right (park is located 2.8 miles north of Tyler State Park entrance).
This non-profit facility rescues abandoned or unwanted big cats from various sources around the country, and was featured on Animal Planet's "Growing up Tiger" series. A living resort that provides the best living environment attainable for captive felines including security, food, enrichment and medical care, with extensive habitat dimensions and educational programming that is both entertaining for the felines and the people visiting the facilities. Large cats on display include indigenous cats of Texas, various subspecies of tigers, African lions and Asian leopards. Personal guided tours are provided along nature trails and through medical quarantine units. Additional viewing opportunities include a native cats platform and various observation stations. The site is host to flora and fauna indigenous to East Texas including a variety of wildflowers, plants and native trees as well as many migratory birds. Special attention should be given to the many indigenous animals, especially those located and cohabiting along the restored wetland systems.