View up the creek with fall colors on the bald cypress treesA diverse array of plants and animals flourish at Honey Creek State Natural Area.

Whether you’re watching deer feed in the uplands, peering at fish hiding under lily pads in the creek, or listening to the distinctive call of the canyon wren, you’ll quickly realize that Honey Creek is a special place.

Hill Country habitats

Ashe juniper, live oak, agarita and Texas persimmon dominate the dry, rocky hills. A few grasses, such as little muhly and curly mesquite, somehow find just enough soil in the cracks to persist.

You’ll see different plants as you descend into the canyon of the creek. Cedar elms and older junipers increase, and Spanish oak, pecan, walnut and Mexican buckeye appear.

Bright green ferns on the forest floorFinally, the terrain levels out again in the narrow floodplain of the creek. Here, the dominant trees are sycamore and bald cypress, trees that only live near water. Texas palmetto, columbine and maidenhair fern grow along the rock banks, spatterdock floats on the surface, and many plants thrive in the clear blue-green water.

Trial by fire

Burned landscapeHistorical records and biological data tell us that before Europeans arrived, natural and human-caused fires burned across this landscape regularly. This means that native plants and animals adapted to fire over thousands of years.

Fire suppresses woody plants (oak saplings and small Ashe juniper trees) and promotes grass growth by returning nutrients to the soil. Shortly after a burn, grasses begin to sprout. This new grass attracts animals to feed.

Small green plant against burned and rocky landscapeWe conduct prescribed fires every few years here to restore the health of the land. As the juniper and baccharis (also called Roosevelt willow or poverty weed) are burned off the upland flats, native grasses like Indiangrass, little bluestem and switchgrass are taking over.

As you leave the Rust House and walk through the gate into Honey Creek State Natural Area, notice the difference in the plant life on each side of the road. The right-hand side is part of the park’s prescribed fire program; the left is not.

Animal refuge

Armadillo standing on hind legsDue to the variety of habitats, many types of animals make their homes here.

Look for all the typical Hill Country species, from wild turkeys to fence lizards, armadillos to leopard frogs, and many types of fish.

Several animal species with limited ranges also live here. Some of the more unusual or rare species include Cagle's map turtle, Guadalupe bass (the Texas state fish), four-lined skink, green kingfisher, Texas salamander and the Honey Creek Cave salamander. In addition, Honey Creek is one of the nesting sites of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.