- Decatur, 940-627-3107, www.decaturtx.org
- Denison Area COC, 903-465-1551, www.denisontexas.com
- Denton CVB, 888-381-1818, www.discoverdenton.com
- Gainesville, 940-668-4500, www.gainesville.tx.us/default.asp
- Sanger, 940-458-7702, www.sangertexas.com
- Sherman, 888-893-1188, www.shermantexas.com
Eisenhower State Park
From US 75 in Denison, take Exit 72 for Hwy. 91. Go north on Hwy. 91 for 1.7 miles to Denison Dam. Turn left (west) on FR 1310 and follow 1.8 miles to the park entrance.
Eisenhower State Park is located northwest of Denison on the shores of Lake Texoma. Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, nature study, fishing, boating and boat rentals, water skiing and swimming. A 4-mile nature trail is available for hiking and mountain biking. Grassy uplands, including tallgrass prairie remnants, terminate in rocky, shoreline bluffs and woodlands. Visitors can enjoy a large variety of colorful wildflowers blooming throughout the growing season. Common trees include oak, ash, elm, cedar, dogwood, cottonwood, soapberry, locust, redbud, persimmon and bois d'arc. Commonly observed mammals include armadillos, coyotes, white-tailed deer, gray fox, nutria, opossums, cottontail rabbits, raccoons, skunks and squirrels. Bald Eagle, American White Pelican, Pied-billed Grebe and a variety of gulls and waterfowl can be seen during winter months. Check the woods between the campgrounds for Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal and Blue Jay. The open grassy fields provide habitat for Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
From US 75 between Denison and Sherman, take Exit 65 for FM 691. Go west on FM 691 for 3.5 miles to the county airport and FM 1417. Turn right (north) on FM 1417 and follow 1.4 miles to Refuge Rd. heading west 6.2 miles to refuge Headquarters.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge spans over 11,000 acres along the southern shores of Lake Texoma. This complex of shallow marshlands, deep bays and riparian woodland hosts an impressive array of wildlife, including thousands of geese and other waterfowl during the winter. In spring and early summer, the grasslands are filled with songs of Dickcissel, as well as Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak on occasion. Herons and egrets are common along the shoreline. In late summer and early fall, look for wanderers such as Tricolored Heron, Roseate Spoonbill or Wood Stork. Late summer is also the time to look for wandering terns, especially the interior subspecies of Least Tern, which occasionally move to the lake from their nesting grounds on the Red River.
A driving loop brings visitors into close association with the wildlife and provides an opportunity to observe the numerous dragonflies of the marsh. Look for Widow Skimmer, Black and Red Saddlebags and Eastern Pondhawk.
Cross Timbers Hiking Trail
From the intersection of US 82 and US 377 in Whitesboro travel north 13.7 miles to Juniper Point West Recreation Area on the left, just before crossing Lake Texoma. The trail starts from a parking area on the west end of the park.
The Cross Timbers Hiking Trail meanders 14 miles along the southern shore of Lake Texoma, providing an intimate look at the shoreline and adjacent woodland. Along the way, hikers will be accompanied in summer by the tireless song of the Painted Bunting, the insect-like croaking of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and the unmistakable wheeze of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A quiet search along the shoreline could turn up a stately Great Blue Heron stalking its prey in the shallows. In winter, look for a variety of waterfowl. Scan the open areas of the lake for wintering loons and grebes among the rafts of diving ducks. Check flowering shrubs for feeding butterflies, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Viceroys and Silver-spotted Skippers.
Bartush Land and Cattle Company
From I-35 North in Gainesville, take Exit 498B for US 82. Turn left (west) on US 82 and follow 12.4 miles to FM 373 in Muenster. Turn right (north) on FM 373 and proceed 12 miles to CR 454. Turn right on CR 454 for 0.6 mile until it joins CR 417; continue straight 0.2 mile to the ranch on the left.
The Bartush Family has been running cattle along the banks of the Red River for over 30 years. This well-managed ranch provides a wide variety of habitat for native wildlife. Over the years the mighty Red River has taken its share of Bartush land and given back acres of sand in return. This natural process of accretion and deposition provides for a constantly changing landscape of riparian habitats, providing some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities north Texas has to offer. The sand banks along the river provide habitat for nesting Least Terns. During winter, look for waterfowl and Bald Eagles. Listen for Indigo and Painted Buntings along the forest edge and Dickcissel in the open grasslands. Greater Roadrunner and Wild Turkey are often seen. Traveling up from the river and onto the drier mesas, visitors are treated to a fantastic view of the river stretching out of site in both directions. Look for spring migrants on the brushy hillsides and Lark Sparrow on the dry mesas. Lodging available for individuals or groups.
Miss Kitty's Bird & Bath
From I-35 North in Gainesville, take Exit 498B for US 82. Turn left (west) on US 82 and follow 12.4 miles to FM 373 in Muenster. Turn left (south) onto FM 373 and follow 7.7 miles. The farm is on the left (east) side of FM 373 and 0.2 mile in from the road.
Miss Kitty's Bird & Bath offers an excellent escape from the bustle of city life. The newly refurbished house was the homestead of the Felty family for almost 100 years. The caring hands of the Walter family have restored the house to its original glory. Visitors can relax in a quiet country setting and listen to the wind blowing through the grass, the constant turning of the windmill and the characteristic whistle of the Northern Bobwhite. Habitats on the ranch include streambeds and ponds, hardwood forest and open grasslands. Check along the stream or at the 20-acre lake for Green Heron, Wood Duck and other water fowl, or watch overhead for the aerial antics of Mississippi Kites chasing Widow Skimmers and Halloween Pennant dragonflies in the treetops. In the uplands, look for Eastern Meadowlark and Lark Sparrow and check the numerous wildflowers for butterflies such as Viceroy and Queen. Try your luck at catching bass and catfish at the old fishing hole or hike over 650 acres to catch sight of deer and Wild Turkey.
(940) 759-2712, (940) 736-1147
LBJ National Grasslands
Black Creek Lake Recreation Area: From the intersection of US 380 and US 287 in Decatur travel north on US 287 for 9.7 miles to FM 1655 in Alvord. Turn right and go 0.7 mile through downtown Alvord and across the railroad tracks to Old Decatur Rd. Turn right on Old Decatur Rd. and go 4.9 miles to CR 2372. Turn left onto CR 2372 and proceed 1.4 miles to CR 2461. Turn left onto CR 2461 and go 0.4 mile to FS 902. Turn left again onto FS 902 and continue 0.4 mile to the recreation area.
The Caddo and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) National Grasslands are located in two areas northeast and northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. They not only provide grazing land for cattle and habitat for wildlife, but offer you a variety of recreation. The most popular activities are hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, wildlife viewing and photography. You will have plenty of room to do all these things_the grasslands cover 38,098 acres. The recreation areas on the Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands offer a variety of facilities for camping, picnicking and other outdoor activities. All are open year-round.
White-tailed deer, small mammals, coyotes, bobcats, red fox, waterfowl, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey and songbirds thrive in the diverse habitats provided by the grasslands. Largemouth bass, blue, channel and yellow catfish and perch are common catches at the many lakes that dot the grasslands' landscape. In spring, almost anywhere on the grasslands, visitors enjoy viewing neotropical migratory birds, and the spring show of wildflowers is sure to please photographers.
The Black Creek Lake Recreation Area is one developed access point which provides a good starting point for exploration. Species to be on the lookout for include Mississippi Kite and Turkey Vulture overhead in summer, and a variety of buteos in winter. Black Creek Lake and the other roadside water sources could turn up Cattle Egret and Little Blue Heron, while the woods ring with the sounds of Painted Bunting and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. In late afternoon scan the woodland edges for white-tailed deer in the process of leaving their daytime haunts to browse in more open areas. For those interested in a more adventurous hike, the Cottonwood Black Creek Trail starts at the far end of the recreation area and can be followed for several miles through the riparian forest along Black Creek.
Cottonwood Creek Lake Recreation Area: From the intersection of US 380 and US 287 in Decatur, travel north on US 287 for 9.7 miles to FM 1655 in Alvord. Turn right and go 0.7 mile through downtown Alvord and across the railroad tracks to Old Decatur Rd. Turn right on Old Decatur Rd. and go 4.9 miles to CR 2372. Turn left onto CR 2372 and proceed 1.4 miles to CR 2461, turn left onto CR 2461 and go 3.2 miles to CR 2560. Turn left again onto CR 2560 and continue 2.2 miles to Cottonwood Lake on the left. Turn left and proceed 0.4 mile to the recreation area.
Cottonwood Creek Lake Recreation Area provides another point of reference for the sea of habitat that is LBJ National Grasslands. The small camping and picnic area along the lakeshore is a great place to view wildlife. Check the numerous trees near the boat landing for Red-bellied Woodpecker and scan the far shore for Little Blue or Great Blue Herons or Wood Duck. The lake is also a great place to watch dragonflies, including Common Whitetail, Widow Skimmer and Eastern Amberwing. In winter, the area hosts a large variety of waterfowl, and the roadside shrubs and woodlands support a large diversity of wintering sparrows and raptors.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park - Isle Du Bois Unit
From I-35 in Sanger, take Exit 478 for FM 455. Go east on FM 455 for 10.2 miles to the park entrance on the left. Turn left and continue 0.4 mile to the entry gate.
The Isle du Bois Unit of Ray Robert Lake State Park provides excellent access to the southern shores of Lake Ray Roberts. Activities include picnicking, camping, hiking, biking, swimming, boating and fishing. Although the park offers great wildlife-viewing opportunities year-round, it is especially appealing during fall and winter months when the waterfowl arrive and the summer crowds thin. Wintering Bald Eagles are occasionally seen.
An obvious attraction during the summer months are the 2 pairs of Mississippi Kites that frequent the park. These aerial acrobats are wonderful to watch as they pursue dragonflies and proceed to eat them on the wing. Other residents worth some extended viewing are the Greater Roadrunners, which are entertaining to watch at any time. Look for brilliantly colored Painted Buntings singing from perches or Great Egrets stalking frogs in the shallows.
Mammals to watch for include opossum, beaver, plains pocket gopher, fox squirrel, California jackrabbit, eastern cottontail, white-tailed deer, nine-banded armadillo, raccoon, mink, striped skunk, gray fox, coyote, bobcat and little brown bat.
The park is located in the Eastern Cross Timbers ecoregion, a narrow strip of wooded terrain bordering the Blackland Prairie to the east and the Grand Prairie to the west. Common plants include blackjack oak, post oak, winged elm, American elm, rough leaf dogwood, eastern red cedar, persimmon, black hickory, black walnut, eastern redbud, honey locust, honey mesquite, wild plum, toothache tree, eastern cottonwood, little bluestem, big bluestem and mustang grape.
Greenbelt Corridor at Ray Roberts Lake State Park
Elm Fork of the Trinity River at FM 455: From I-35 in Sanger, take Exit 478 for FM 455. Go east on FM 455 for 9.3 miles to the entrance to Elm Fork Park. Turn right and go 0.9 mile to the first parking area on the left below Ray Roberts Dam.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park's Greenbelt Corridor follows the Elm Fork of the Trinity River from where it leaves Lake Ray Roberts to where it enters Lake Lewisville 11 miles downstream. This well-maintained trail offers easy access to the river and its associated riparian woodland, making it an excellent area for wildlife viewing in the midst of a major metropolitan area. Upon entering the Greenbelt from its northern entrance, check the drainage canals just below the dam for herons and egrets and listen for Indigo Buntings calling from the forest edge. Once you are in the woods, the calls of Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers can be heard echoing throughout. Check the small flocks of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice for migrating songbirds, such as Northern Parula, Nashville Warbler and American Redstart. Several migrant songbirds stay in the area each summer to breed, including Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and White-eyed Vireo. Look for three-toed box turtle or nine-banded armadillo in the undergrowth.
Elm Fork of the Trinity River at FM 428: From I-35 North in Denton take Exit 470 for TX 288 Loop. Go east on North SR 288 Loop for 3.6 miles to FM 428. Turn left (north) onto FM 428 and follow it 5.5 miles to the middle access point just after crossing the river on the left.
Only 4.5 miles downstream from the dam at Ray Roberts Lake the riparian forest along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River gives way to open farmlands with a thin buffer of trees. These open areas host Eastern Meadowlark and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and in winter attract a variety of sparrows to the brushy edges. Butterflies can be especially numerous, with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails catching the eye as they flutter through the canopy or along the forest edge. Within the forest, look for Tawny and Hackberry Emperors. The numerous branches and limbs along the river's edge provide loafing spots for a variety of turtles. Check among the numerous red-eared sliders for the less common Mississippi map turtle and the occasional common snapping turtle.
Elm Fork of the Trinity River at Hwy. 380: From I-35 in Denton, take Exit 469 for US 380/ W. University Dr. Bear right (east) onto US 380/ US 377 for 7.6 miles to the third access point on the left just after crossing the river.
At the southern entry to the greenbelt, the riparian forest associated with the Elm Fork of the Trinity is at its most impressive. Here numerous cottonwoods, sycamores and pecans tower over the trail providing excellent wildlife-watching opportunities and some welcome shade from the sun. The stately woodland here supports healthy numbers of eastern woodland species such as Carolina Wren and Northern Cardinal. Yellow-billed Cuckoos can be spotted creeping through the canopy in search of their favorite meal of caterpillars, while Blue Grosbeaks venture in from their normal haunts along the forest edge. Look for both Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos. A visit to the riverbank should produce a series of plops and ripples as turtles and leopard frogs submerge to safety leaving only the black and white Widow Skimmers to cruise the shores where they once sat.