- Brenham/Washington County, 888-BRENHAM, www.brenhamtexas.com
- Burleson County COC, (979) 596-2383, www.rtis.com/reg/somerville
- La Grange Area COC, 800-524-7264, www.lagrangetx.org
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site
From Brenham, take Hwy 105 East for 14.0 miles, turn right on FM 1155 and follow to the park entrance. From Navasota, take Hwy 105 West for 8 miles, turn left on FM 1155 to park entrance.
Known as the 'Birthplace of Texas,' this park was founded in 1916 to commemorate Texas' independence from Mexico. Here, Texas delegates met in a general convention in 1836 to declare Texas' independence from Mexico, as well as draft the Constitution and create the first Government of Texas. The 293-acre park includes the town of Washington (once the Capital of the nation of Texas), a visitors center, Barrington Living History Farm, the Star of the Republic Museum, scenic overlooks of the Brazos River, a picnic area, and a well maintained nature trail. The site combines a unique opportunity to provide historical and wildlife viewing opportunities to its patrons.
The nature trail extends through several habitats offering a diverse bird watching experience. Follow the trail by the Beaver Pond, a hackberry thicket, and a mixture of open grassland/prairie areas looping to a scenic overlook of the Brazos River. The shaded picnic area in the open understory of overhead pecan trees offers a great opportunity to watch birds and squirrels and provides additional viewing access of the Brazos River.
During the winter months, multiple species of sparrows can be observed along the nature trail, including Spotted Towhee, and Fox and Harris's Sparrows. Bewick's Wren are present in the woodland areas. Infrequent observations of Pyrrhuloxia, American Bittern and Bald Eagle have also been made. The Beaver Pond draws aquatic species such as Wood Duck, Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Common Goldeneye, grebes, cormorants, and other pond ducks. Nesting and resident species include Mississippi Kite, Dickcissel, and several species of buntings, vireos, and flycatchers. Pileated Woodpeckers can be seen year round. During migration, birds observed along the Brazos River include vireos, warblers, tanagers, and orioles, with Blue Grosbeaks observed at the Barrington Farm area of the site. Look for neotropical migrants, including warblers, in the picnic areas along the nature trail that parallels the Brazos River.
Phone: (936) 878-2214, Washington-on-the-Brazos SHS
From Hwy 290 and FM 1155 intersection in Chapell Hill, travel north 1.1 miles on FM 1155. The site is located at 4412 FM 1155 on the west side of FM 1155 and is bordered by a white rail fence.
Located in wildflower country, the tallgrass prairie and pasture come alive with wildflowers during the springtime. The well-maintained landscaped garden next to the creek attracts wildlife and provides the visitor a place to reflect.
The site is approximately 69 acres in size and contains an 8-acre lake on Ash Creek. Riparian woodlands adjacent to Ash Creek and Little Cedar Creek provide woody habitat. There is ongoing native tallgrass prairie restoration work on the western side of the lake. Extensive landscaping and gardens have been constructed along the eastern edge of Ash Creek, in addition to the meditation garden located on the southwest edge of the property.
Look in the trees along Cedar and Ash Creeks for neotropical migrants during the spring and fall migrations. Ebony Jewelwing damselflies flitter along the banks of the creeks.
The open pasture hosts many grassland species of birds including Le Conte's and Swamp sparrows, Sedge Wren during the winter months, Loggerhead Shrike, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Painted Bunting during the nesting season. Over 190 species of birds have been identified on the property since the initiation of bird surveys in 2000. The lake provides habitat for multiple grebe species, three species of tanagers, five empidonax flycatcher species, six vireo species and 28 warbler species, in addition to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
Eastern Fox Squirrel, White-tailed Deer, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit and Raccoon are the most commonly observed mammals. Be sure to ask about the story of the fountain showering Raccoons.
Visitors are welcome to make their own path once onsite, but site access is restricted to reservation only with occasional open weekends in the spring. Group tours are also available. Please call (979) 251-0887 for reservations.
Reservations: (979) 251-0887, www.brenhamtexas.com
Birding Tours: (979) 251-9662
Chappell Hill/Brazos River Valley Trail
The site includes multiple roadway right-of-ways beginning at the intersection of Hwy 290 and FM 1155 in Chappell Hill. From the Hwy 290 and FM 1155 intersection, travel north 0.5 miles through historic downtown Chappell Hill to the FM 1155 and FM 2447 intersection. Turn right (east) on FM 2447. Red Gully Creek Bridge is 3.3 miles and New Years Creek Bridge is 4.6 miles down FM 2447. Brazos River Road is gravel and is located after 5.6 miles and doglegs to the right. Where Brazos River Road again elbows to the right, is the end of the site on this road. The end of the pavement on FM 2447 is 7.0 miles and represents the end of the site on FM2447.
Spring and fall migrations release a river of neotropical birds through this area. The land adjacent to FM 2447 and Brazos River Road includes cropland, fallow fields, and improved pastures. The trees along the highway right-of-way provide habitat for a diversity of birds. Because FM 2447 and Brazos River Road are lightly traveled, the right-of-way enables safe viewing from the shoulders. Two creek crossings along FM 2447 provide for viewing of resident Indigo and Painted Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Dickcissels, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed Vireos and Summer Tanagers during the nesting season. Rarities such as Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Phalarope and Black Tern have been seen during fall migration.
In the winter months, look for raptors, meadowlarks, and sparrows, with rare sightings of White-tailed Kite and Say's Phoebe. Summertime nesting residents include Orchard Oriole, Lark Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Parula, buntings, grosbeaks and Dickcissel. Look for nesting Mississippi Kites in Historic downtown Chappell Hill and Wild Turkey in the rural areas. This site offers year-round bird watching opportunities along quiet country roads.
Somerville Lake - Overlook Park, Rocky C
Overlook Park: From Brenham, TX, go north on SR 36 for 9.0 miles to FM 1948. Go left (southwest) on FM 1948 for 0.1 miles. Turn right (northwest) onto LBJ Drive and follow it 0.6 miles to Overlook Park.
Nestled on the southeastern edge of Lake Somerville, Overlook Park offers access to the dam and nearby inlets as well as 70 acres of woodland habitat. Amenities include a picnic area, marina and campground.
Visitors to Overlook Park are immediately drawn to the lakeshore, which, depending on the season, can support muddy banks that provide habitat for migrating shorebirds. Scan the numerous snags that line the shoreline for perching Double-crested Cormorants and the occasional Osprey or wintering Bald Eagle. The shores also hold Great Blue and Green Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, and a variety of migrant shorebirds including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, as well as Pectoral, Spotted, Least, Baird's, and White-rumped Sandpipers and Killdeer.
The steady stream of Forster's Terns patrolling the open waters of Lake Somerville are joined by Ring-billed Gulls in winter and Franklin's Gulls during migration. Open water is also an ideal place to search for swallows. Barn and Cliff Swallows can be found skimming the surface for tiny prey and taking the occasional sip of water. Look for both species nesting nearby on structures near the dam.
The small patches of Post Oaks scattered through the park support breeding Painted Buntings and Inca Doves. White-eyed Vireos can be heard calling almost constantly in late spring and early summer. More open areas of parkland provide habitat for Eastern Bluebirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Look for Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Belted Kingfishers perched on the utility poles.
In spring, bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush grow in the open meadows. Other wildflowers include Spiderwort, Dayflower, and Meadow Pink. The flowers attract a variety of butterflies, including Spicebush and Black Swallowtails. Dragonflies such as Red and Black Saddlebags and Common Whitetails can also be observed.
Yegua Creek Park: From Brenham, go north on SR 36 for 9.0 miles to FM 1948. Go left (southwest) on FM 1948 for 2.7 miles to Yegua Creek Park. Turn right and go 1.0 mile to the gate.
One of the highlights of a trip to Yegua Creek Park is the relaxing, quiet stroll along the interpretive nature trail. This easy trail takes the visitor through lakeside habitats found on the southern shores of Lake Somerville and includes a small section of native tallgrass prairie. Many of the trees and shrubs along the trail are identified, providing a good opportunity to learn about the native plants of the area. Birdsong fills the air in spring, when migrant White-eyed Vireos and Yellow-billed Cuckoos join the resident Tufted Titmice and Carolina Wrens. The area also hosts numerous species of dragonflies with Red and Black Saddlebags, Prince Baskettail and Blue Dasher especially evident. The more open areas of the trail are great for spotting large butterflies such as Monarch and Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails.
Rocky Creek Park: From Brenham, go north on SR 36 for 9.0 miles to FM 1948. Go left (southwest) on FM 1948 for 5.0 miles to Rock Creek Park. Turn right and follow the road 0.3 miles to the gate.
Rocky Creek Park offers extensive access to the southern shores of Lake Somerville and features several great areas for wildlife viewing. Visitors can walk through the park on a well-mowed trail that runs through woods and fields, providing opportunities to see White-eyed Vireos, Painted Buntings, and migrant songbirds. The park runs along a peninsula jutting out into the lake. On the western side of the peninsula the open waters of Lake Somerville hold numerous Forster's Terns and at times Franklin's Gulls and migrant shorebirds. The eastern side of the peninsula is shallower and muddier with a large heron and egret rookery on the far bank. Here, hundreds of Cattle Egrets with lesser numbers of Little Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants gather. Black Vultures are also common here. Follow the peninsula all the way to the point and look for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds flycatching from the treetops. In winter, this is a great area to look for waterfowl and Bald Eagles. Look for Osprey year round.
Phone: (959) 596-1622, http://swf67.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/somerville
Lake Somerville State Park Complex
Nails Creek Unit: From the intersection of US 290 and FM 180 about 6.5 miles east of Giddings, go left (northeast) on FM 180 for 13.1 miles until the road ends into the park
In the Post Oak Savannah vegetation region, Lake Somerville State Park includes a diversity of habitats, including lake, creek, pond, prairie, riparian and upland forest. These habitats are linked by 16 miles of multi-use nature trails, including a 1.8-mile accessible trail and the 13-mile horseback/hiking/mountain bike Somerville Trailway connecting to the Birch Creek Unit. The Somerville Trailway passes through dense stands of yaupon, post oak, hickory, blackjack oak, and water oak forests, past scenic overlooks and water crossings. The trail has one of the best spring wildflower displays in the Texas State Park System.
Nails Creek is located on the south shore of Lake Somerville along a major tributary to the Brazos River. Both Nails Creek and Birch Creek to the north offer a multitude of recreational opportunities such as camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, backpacking, and horseback riding (visitors must bring their own horses).
In spring and summer, the peaceful cove lined with mixed oak and elm riparian forest hosts Painted Buntings, Carolina Wrens, White-eyed Vireos and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Listen for the summer serenade of birdsong and cicadas. The quiet cove shoreline offers a front row seat for viewing butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies feeding on the nectar of the large yellow blossoms of American Lotus flower. Enjoy watching the skill of Snowy and Great Egrets as they hunt along the shorelines. American White Pelicans, with their 9-foot wingspan, commonly fish and rest in the deeper waters of the lake during the winter, spring and fall.
For a list of these and the more than 260 species of birds seen here, pick up a field checklist of the Birds of Lake Somerville, which lists the birds of Lake Somerville and their seasonal abundance.
Flag Pond, located approximately 4 miles from Nails Creek Unit and 9 miles from Birch Creek Unit along the Somerville Trailway, provides wildlife viewing opportunities in conjunction with a system of interpretive trails, nature study, outdoor classrooms, and wildlife photography. The Flag Pond Nature Theater provides an excellent wildlife-viewing platform. Campgrounds for equestrian and backpackers are located along the trailway. Along this trail keep your eyes open as Bobcat, White-tailed Deer, Raccoon, and Opossum have been spotted by visitors on a regular basis.
Plant communities are diverse and include eastern plant species such as palmetto and Spanish moss intermingled with western species like yucca and prickly pear. Five species of oak including willow, post, water, live and blackjack, as well as American and winged elm and hackberry dominate the forest. Other species include mockernut hickory, red mulberry, Carolina laurelcherry and western soapberry. Vibrant wildflowers include bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, buttonbush, Turks cap, Texas prickly poppy and coreopsis.
Birch Creek Unit: From the intersection of SR 36 and FM 60 about 3.7 miles north-west of Somerville, go left (southwest) on FM 60 for 7.1 miles. Turn left (south) on PR 57 and follow 4.2 miles to the Birch Creek Unit of Lake Somerville State Park.
Located on the north shore of Lake Somerville and connected to Nails Creek Unit on the south shore by the 13-mile Somerville Trailway, Birch Creek Unit provides wonderful opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The wide grass covered banks and many lake access points make it ideal for swimming, fishing, viewing the large flocks of wintering waterfowl or quiet contemplation from one of the many secluded coves. In addition to the 13 mile Trailway, several miles of nature trails wind through the prairie and forest linking many natural areas of interest to the campsites. Total trail mileage (including the Trailway) is 19 miles with 13 for backpacking and equestrian use and the entire 19 for day hiking, mountain biking, birding, and nature study.
Gently rolling fields of wildflowers and native grasses bordered by mature stands of mixed oaks and elms greet visitors. A closer look at the forest reveals resurrection fern, Spanish moss, ball moss and even long hair-like lichens draped from the branches of cedar elms. Roadrunners can often be seen along the forest and field edges while driving through the park. While meandering into the shaded forest, look for Armadillo diggings and Raccoon tracks along the trail. Visitors can also see Gray Fox, Bobcat and White-tailed Deer here. During the late spring and early summer watch for families of Carolina Wrens, Chickadees, and White-eyed Vireos foraging together with their hungry fledglings. While walking along the trail, listen for the call of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. In the understory, visitors can watch Green Anoles and Daddy Longlegs perch on the American beautyberry and crawl along the bramble of greenbriar vines.
Up to 20 species of waterfowl, in large numbers, spend their winter here at Lake Somerville, often accompanied by Bald Eagles and Ospreys. Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Mallard, and Northern Pintail are commonly seen. Great and Snowy egrets, Green and Little Blue Herons and the occasional Wood Stork also feed in the shallows of the lake edge. Whatever the time of year, Birch Creek Unit is sure to reward the visitor with quality, close-up encounters with the natural world.
Phone: (979) 535-7763, Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway
Cooper Farm Natural Science Laboratory
From La Grange, go north on Hwy 77 for 2.6 miles to FM 2145. Go right (east) on FM 2145 for 10.2 miles into Waldeck. Go left (north) on FM 1291 and turn right on CR 112/ Waldeck Road go east on Waldeck Road for 2.6 miles to find Cooper Farm on the left/north.
Not far off the 'beaten path,' Cooper Farm provides visitors with a living exhibit of numerous successful wildlife management enhancement techniques, all easily observed at close range along the well maintained 1.5-mile interpretive trail.
Cooper Farm is open to the public weekdays from 7:30am to 4:30pm. A call to the Manager prior to a drop in visit, however, is encouraged to confirm that a Cooper Farm representative will be there and the gate will be open on the day of your visit. In addition, reservations can be made for special events, groups, and requested topic discussions by calling the phone number below.
Visitors can enjoy close observation of the extensive Texas Wildscape Demonstration Site, the busy Purple Martin gourd housing complex, the Chimney Swift Tower, and the portable Brown-headed Cowbird control structure. Along the trail, a wide variety of well established native plant communities and wildlife enhancement features attract a healthy wildlife population.
Also along the trail, look for bluebird nest boxes, Painted Buntings singing from the tops of Post Oak trees, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers picking insects from the air, and Red-tailed Hawks hunting the grasslands. Numerous butterflies and dragonflies skip across blooming wildflowers, including coneflower, lantana, passionvine, prairie larkspur and meadowpink.
Follow the trail through several wooded areas of post oak and eastern redcedar. Barred Owls, Tufted Titmice, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Northern Cardinals can be seen and heard calling from the dense understory. Recent documented sightings of Northern Flicker, as well as Pileated, Golden-fronted, Red-bellied, Ladder-backed and Downy Woodpeckers attest to the health and viability of these woodlands.
Two ponds, one a fishing pond and the second a wildlife viewing area, host bat boxes, Wood Duck nesting boxes, waterlilies in bloom, and cattail stands. A variety of wetland plants embrace the ponds and the constructed connecting wetland. Look for Raccoon, Fox, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey and Coyote tracks as well as Green and Great Blue Herons and Cattle and Great Egrets.
In the winter months, look for Ring-necked Duck, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, and American Goldfinch.
Phone: (800) 776-5272 ext. 8140, www.lcra.org/community/cooper.html
Monument Hill-Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites
From the Business 71 and Hwy 77 intersection in LaGrange, travel 3.0 miles south on US Hwy 77 to Spur 92. Turn right (west) on Spur 92 for 0.25 miles to the park entrance on the right (north).
Located high above the Colorado River, the park includes 36 acres of unique natural habitats offering spectacular views of the meandering Colorado River, associated bottomlands and the City of La Grange. Facilities at the park include a nature and historical trail, picnicking, and a small playground for the kids.
A monument and tomb serve as remembrance of the Texans who perished during the Battle of Salado Creek with Mexican forces and the ill-fated Meir Expedition during the mid 1800's. The historic Kreische Brewery, the first commercial brewery in Texas and homestead are also located at the facility.
The uncommon habitat present represents the northern edge of the Oakville Escarpment, marking the boundary between the upland post oak woodlands and the grasslands of the Fayette Prairie. As such, the habitat is comprised of a blend of eastern species within the post oak woodlands/prairies and western species deposited from the Colorado River from the Hill Country. Vegetation series include little bluestem-indiangrass and post oak-blackjack oak. While visiting, expect to see White-tailed Deer, Gray Fox, Northern Cardinals, White-eyed Vireo, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Texas Alligator Lizard. Migratory species include Pileated Woodpeckers, hawks, Bald Eagles, wintering waterfowl, bluebirds, Turkey Vultures, caracaras, kites and American Goldfinches. The nature trail provides a shaded opportunity to view the songbirds and wildlife.
The edge of the park includes a 200-foot sandstone bluff that opens to spectacular views of the Colorado River. Two scenic overlooks offer impressive views of the brewery remnants and vistas of the City of LaGrange and Colorado River.
Phone: (979) 968-5658, Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery SHS