Texas Discovery Loop
- Dallas CVB, 800-232-5527, www.dallascvb.com
- Duncanville COC, 972-780-4990, www.duncanvillechamber.org
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garde
From I-30 East in Dallas, take the Barry/East Grand Exit. Stay straight on the service road crossing Barry and turn left on East Grand Ave./Hwy. 78. Stay on East Grand Ave. for approximately 3 miles as it becomes Garland Rd. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is on the left.
The gardens offer a great opportunity to learn about native Texas plants and associated wildlife. Look for birds such as Tufted Titmouse, American Robin and Common Nighthawk. White Rock Lake, located nearby, provides an opportunity to see a variety of ducks, egrets and herons. Native Texas trees at the Arboretum include Texas madrone, rough-leaf dogwood, Texas ash, cherry laurel, escarpment live oak and Texas mountain laurel. Visitors can enjoy a variety of flowering and fragrant plants such as azaleas, paperwhite narcissus, English daisy, verbena, Japanese katsura, Mexican heather and many more. The arboretum and gardens have 5 major water features, including ponds and waterfalls which attract birds and insects. Visit this site to learn more about gardening with native plants to attract a diversity of wildlife.
Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area/White Rock Lake Park
Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake: From I-30 East in Dallas, take Exit 48A (Barry/E. Grand Ave.). Stay straight on the road crossing Barry and turn left on E. Grand Ave. (Hwy. 78). Turn left (northeast) on Hwy. 78/ E. Grand Ave. and follow it 1.8 miles to the intersection of E. Grand Ave. and Gaston Ave. Note: at this point E. Grand Ave. becomes Garland Rd. (SH 78). Continue northeast on Garland Rd. to its intersection with Winsted Dr. (there is a stoplight here). Turn left (northwest) onto Winsted Dr. and go 0.2 mile to a paved parking lot. If the lot is full there is a small dirt parking lot a little further down the road just after you pass under the Sante Fe trail. The White Rock Lake spillway will be immediately to the east/northeast and the Old Fish Hatchery will be immediately to the north. The White Rock Lake spillway and dam can be accessed via a pedestrian bridge at the end of the parking lot. The Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area can be accessed via a signed and gated entrance located 0.1 mile northwest along the White Rock Lake hike-and-bike trail.
The Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area is a 50-acre corner of White Rock Lake Park. A canopy of oak, elm, cottonwood and pecan trees provides habitat for warblers, titmice, chickadees, vireos, wrens, woodpeckers and sparrows. Habitat consists of moist woodland with low-lying areas and ponds, a small prairie remnant, a beaver pond and the remains of hatchery ponds. Understory vegetation consisting of greenbrier, American beautyberry, eastern redbud and red mulberry provide wildlife cover. Year-round resident birds include Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Wood Duck, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Phoebe and Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons. The site also supports a naturalized colony of introduced Monk Parakeets. Beaver, gray fox, bobcat and coyote have also been observed here.
White Rock Lake: From I-30 East in Dallas, take Exit 48A (Barry/E. Grand Ave.). Stay straight on the service road crossing Barry and turn left on E. Grand Ave. (Hwy. 78). Turn left (northeast) on Hwy. 78/E. Grand Ave. and follow it 4.2 miles. Turn left (north-west) on Loop 12/N. Buckner Blvd. The lake can be accessed from several places along Buckner Blvd., including Lake Highlands Dr. and Mockingbird Rd. Use Lawther Rd. (East and West) to travel around the lake.
The trails of White Rock Lake Park are well maintained and offer benches to rest along the way. This area offers refuge for a variety of wildlife in an area where habitat has been lost due to development. Remember to bring binoculars, field guides and mosquito repellent.
From I-30 heading east in Dallas, take Exit 47A (2nd Ave./Fair Park). Bear right as you exit and continue to Grand Ave. Turn left on Grand Ave. to enter the park. Turn right just inside the gate and park.
Fascinating sculptures on both ends of the lagoon draw visitors out to the pond for a closer look. The sculptures, which represent duck potato and huguenot fern, serve as sunning pads for red-eared sliders and other turtles. In addition, the sweeping curves of their stems and leaves create walkways and bridges that allow the visitor to enter the pond environment. Visitors can sit and enjoy the antics of Western Kingbirds as they dive and hover over the pond picking insects off the lily pads. Barn Swallows can also be seen swooping around the pond, while the occasional Green Heron or Common Egret stalks its prey along the shore.
Large trees growing at the edge of the pond include bald cypress, sycamore, eastern redcedar, mesquite, sweetgum, live oak, red oak, cottonwood and pecan. Wetland plants such as duck potato (arrowhead), pickerel weed, cattails, horsetail (scouring rush), fragrant water lily and yellow cow-lily decorate the pond. The lagoon attracts an amazing diversity of birds. Nesting species have included Least Bittern, Wood Duck, Mallard, Killdeer, Common Nighthawk, Red-winged Blackbird, American Kestrel, Chimney Swift, Downy Woodpecker and Western Kingbird. Other species that frequent the pond include Eastern Phoebe, Common Yellowthroat, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cooper's Hawk, Double-crested Cormorant, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, American Coot and Yellow and Black-and-white Warblers.
The pond is also home to an assortment of native fish, including largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, bluegill, catfish and gar. Softshell, snapping, musk and mud turtles can be seen sunning or slipping into the water, while dragonflies and damselflies patrol the shores, hunting their next meal.
Texas Discovery Gardens
From I-30 East in Dallas, take Exit 47A (2nd Ave./Fair Park), curve to the right and turn left on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (the second light). Enter the gates to Fair Park and park in the lot on your right.
The first certified organic public garden in the state, Texas Discovery Gardens provides an opportunity to see a wide variety of butterflies, insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Birds such as Cedar Waxwing, Downy Woodpecker, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, House Wren, Western and Eastern Kingbirds, American Goldfinch and Ruby-throated Hummingbird frequent the gardens.
Butterflies often seen in the gardens include Pipevine, Giant, Eastern Tiger and Black Swallow-tails, Checkered Whites, Dainty and Cloudless Sulphurs, Great Purple and Banded Hairstreaks, Eastern Tailed-Blues, American Snouts, Gulf Fritillaries and Monarchs. Other insects frequently seen include various dragonflies, damselflies, carpenter bees and ladybugs. The pond near the center of the gardens provides a home for several species of frogs and turtles.
Plants featured in the gardens include hundreds of native species from the collection of Texas A&M; researcher, Benny J. Simpson, as well as a collection of adapted roses, conifers and ornamental grasses. The native species include Texas sage, prairie rose, black Dalea, Texas persimmon, Hercules' club, agarita, Wright acacia, Mexican blue oak, Lantry red oak, evergreen sumac, four wing saltbush and Texas bouchea.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
From I-20 in southwest Dallas take Exit 458 for Mountain Creek Pkwy. Turn left (south) onto Mountain Creek Pkwy and follow it 2.5 miles to Cedar Ridge Preserve.
A visitor to this 633-acre nature preserve is first drawn to the garden near the entrance where butterflies float among the flowers. Make a quick stop at the visitor center for a trail guide and then head to the trails. Ten miles of trails through open oak woodlands offer beautiful views of streams, ponds and the geology of the escarpment. Look for fossils in the rock formations. Wildflowers add color to the forest greenery. The very rare dog-tooth violet blooms on the stream banks for a few weeks in March.
Look for White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Chickadee, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Listen for the characteristic calls of Downy, Ladder-backed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Cedar Hill State Park
From I-20 West in Dallas, take Exit 457 (FM 1382/Grand Prairie/Cedar Hill). Turn left (south) on FM 1382/S. Belt Line Rd. and follow it south 3.8 miles to Cedar Hill State Park located at 1570 West FM 1382.
This unique 1,800-acre state park is located where two climax ecosystems converge. The tallgrass prairie and its rolling black clay soil meet the rugged limestone escarpment. Small remnants of tallgrasss prairie are dominated by Indiangrass, little bluestem, big bluestem, sideoats grama, switchgrass and other native grasses and flowering plants. Other habitats include upland forests with cedar elm, honey locust, mesquite and juniper trees. In the scenic, wooded hills, common animals include bobcat, coyote, gray fox, squirrel, armadillo and raccoon.
Joe Pool Lake is a beautiful reservoir with wetland edges where visitors can stop to see Double-crested Cormorant, herons, egrets, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope and Greater Yellowleg in the springtime. During the fall and winter, look for Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls, Least Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Forster's Tern and Canada Goose.
The trails in the park offer secluded locations for wildlife viewing and enjoyment. The DORBA Trail leads visitors through a native tallgrass prairie where Dickcissel, Northern Bobwhite, Indigo and Painted Buntings, Field Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark are common. Savannah, Song and Lincoln's Sparrows and Lapland Longspur are often seen during winter.
A hike along the Talala Trail provides good birding opportunities as it winds through open oak woodlands. During spring and summer look for White-eyed Vireo, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Carolina Chickadee, Summer Tanager, Carolina Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson's Thrush, Tufted Titmouse, Black-throated Green Warbler and Loggerhead Shrike. Fall and winter species include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Orange-crowned Warbler.
Audubon Center at Dogwood Canyon/Cedar Mountain Preserve
From I-20 West in Dallas, take Exit 457 (FM 1382/Grand Prairie/Cedar Hill). Turn left (south) onto FM 1382/ S. Belt Line Rd. and follow it south approximately 5.2 miles. Dogwood Canyon is located on FM 1382 between I-20 and SH 67, about 0.5 mile southeast of the entrance to Cedar Hill State Park.
The trails and educational programming available at the center and preserve provide an excellent opportunity to learn about Texas birds. The convergence of these two distinct geological formations creates a habitat for plant and animal species usually found in east, west and central Texas, creating a unique experience for visitors that cannot be found at any other preserve. Permanent residents of the escarpment and adjacent grasslands include Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wrens, Red-bellied, Downy and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. Familiar summer residents include Chuck-will's-widow, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Painted and Indigo Buntings, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, Summer Tanager and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Regular winter residents include Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Brown Creeper, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers and Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. The canyon supports mature Ashe Juniper trees, the last known nesting habitat of the federally-endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-chinned Hummingbird.
Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
From Dallas, go south on I-45 and take Exit 274 (Dowdy Ferry Rd./Hutchins). Turn left at the first stop sign; left at the second stop sign and then from the northbound access road of I-45, turn right on Cleveland Rd. (Cleveland is just north of Dowdy Ferry on the east side of the highway). Follow Cleveland Rd. approximately 1 mile to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, on the left, adjacent to the Trinity Waste Services facility.
Built on a former landfill site, this avian rehabilitation center and USDA-licensed farm animal sanctuary offers close-up views of non-releasable wild birds as well as wildlife viewing in a natural setting. The wetlands, especially the pond and marsh system on the Trinity River, provide habitat for wintering waterfowl and year-round resident birds. Unusual species observed on the property include native Wood Stork, Scarlet Ibis and Bald Eagle. Other commonly observed birds on the property include herons, egrets and Canada Goose. Also watch for Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Sapsucker, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, kingbirds, swallows, vultures, roadrunners, Wood Duck, Inca and White-winged Doves, cuckoos and gulls. The site also has a small butterfly garden where visitors can see Giant Swallowtails, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and fritillaries. A spectacular array of 300 bluebird nesting boxes throughout the property provide for bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and wrens. Popular among birding groups and school groups, Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center offers easily accessible opportunities to view wildlife.
Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park
On I-20, going eastbound towards Dallas, take the Matlock Exit and go south (right turn), travel 6.4 miles, and the park is on the left (east) side. If going westbound towards Fort Worth, take Matlock and go south (left turn), and in 6.4 miles, you will enter the park.
This park is located at the intersection of 2 ecoregions: the eastern Cross Timbers and the northern Blackland Prairies. The 80 acres of the park contain several different ecosystems including forests, prairies and riparian areas. Each section is unique in plant and animal life. For instance, you'll see squirrels playing in the trees of the forest, but they rarely explore the grassy areas of the prairie. Wildflowers shine in the brightness of the sun in the prairie, but they cannot tolerate the shade of the trees. Each animal and plant is adapted to a certain area of the park. Look for other examples of these kinds of adaptations along approximately 1 mile of trails.