Most of the park lies in the Eastern Cross Timbers, a narrow strip of hardwood forest stretching south into prairie ecosystems, with the Blackland Prairie to the east, and the Grand Prairie to the west. The park has land in all three ecoregions.
Geologically, this region is part of the Woodbine formation. This Upper Cretaceous deposit formed about 65 million years ago of mostly sandstone, with some local layers of shale and clay.
With land in three ecoregions, you will see different plants depending on where you are in the park. One trail might showcase prairie grasses, while another will lead you through woodlands or along wetlands.
Eastern Cross Timbers
Most of the park lies in the Eastern Cross Timbers ecoregion, with dense groves of post oak, blackjack oak, cedar elm and winged elm. Grasses such as big and little bluestem, switchgrass and lovegrass grow in delicate prairie glades throughout the timbered areas. These “pocket prairies” are a signature of the Eastern Cross Timbers, and a testament to its close relationship with the bordering prairies.
A different mix of trees grows in the floodplains: Elms, pecans, oaks and cottonwoods. Willows and sycamores grow along streams. Various fruit-bearing plants grow underneath these trees. With so many wild nuts and fruits, this area has provided food for animals and people for thousands of years.
Blackland and Grand Prairies
The mostly clay soils of the prairies support tall to mid-size grasses such as little and big bluestem.
Groups of oak trees grow on higher ground, while moisture loving plants thrive along stream banks.
Wildflowers bloom profusely on the prairies: prairie verbena, black-eyed Susan, antelope horns, spotted beabalm, meadow pink, and many more.
Find more information on the plants of Ray Roberts Lake State Park:
- To look up an unknown plant, try Wildflower Center Native Plant Database
- Plants of Texas Rangelands: Cross Timbers and Prairies
- Texas Eco-Regions
Many animals roam the Eastern Cross Timbers, especially in the floodplain with its plentiful food sources.
A partial list of the animals that live in or visit the park includes:
- Mammals: Deer, raccoon, opossum, rabbit, squirrels (eastern gray and fox), bats (Mexican free-tail and brown), beaver, plains pocket gopher, nine-banded armadillo, mink, striped skunk, gray fox, coyote, bobcat.
- Fish: Sunfish, white bass, largemouth bass, spotted gar, catfish.
- Birds: Greater roadrunner, wild turkey, painted bunting, scissor-tailed flycatcher, great blue heron, American white pelican, eastern screech owl, great horned owl, and hawks, woodpeckers and ducks. Occasionally, bald eagles will winter on the lake. Within the park, 229 bird species have been recorded.
- More: Butterflies, dragonflies, insects, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, rodents.
Wetlands: Look for wetland areas in the park. These provide homes for many animals such as turtles and frogs. Migratory birds also rely on the wetlands for food, shelter and nesting areas. Larger animals such as raccoons mine the mud for food.
Find more information on the animals of Ray Roberts Lake State Park: