Leisure

The best local preserves, wildlife sanctuaries and Audubon centers

Walk on the wild side at local nature preserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and Audubon centers.

caddo lake
Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake

The only natural lake in Texas, Caddo Lake is a designated world heritage site, 25,400 acres of wetland on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Caddo Lake is famous for its unique cypress swamps, blanketed in Spanish moss, as well as the phenomenal fishing available.

Uncertain, Texas

Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary

The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is 289-acre sanctuary with programs for people of all ages. At The Heard Museum, visitors can partake in hiking, canoeing and even a ropes course.

1 Nature Pl., McKinney

Shangrillama

While the idea of walking with llamas may sound peculiar, studies have actually shown that exercising with animals can lower stress levels. At Shangrillama, guests can rent a llama to walk with for two hours. Each llama is trained and ready for a serene walk through the countryside of Royse City, Texas.

Trinity River Audubon Center

Located just ten miles south of downtown Dallas, Trinity River Audubon Center allows for a great escape from the city. Spend a whole day exploring the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest and learn about the flora and fauna that make up this beautiful, hidden region.

6500 Great Trinity Forest Way, Dallas

Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch

Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch allows visitors to experience wildlife as these beautiful creatures explore the 126 acre park. Horses, alpacas, goats and many other animals are available for guests to pet and interact with.

11670 Massey Rd., Pilot Point

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

You can feast your eyes on various rare species when you check out Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge is home to a diverse bunch of migratory birds, different species of fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Refuge Rd., Sherman

Read more: The wilds of Caddo Lake

Fossil Rim

For years, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center has dedicated itself to preserving various endangered species. Visitors may take a self-guided tour and behold over 1000 animals from 50 different species. The animals themselves are not caged and are free to roam about the park.

2299 Co Rd. 2008, Glen Rose

InSync Exotics

Since 2000, InSync Exotics has saved hundreds of bobcats, panthers and other felines from abuse, illegal ownership and captive breeding. They have made it their mission to educate people on the importance of protecting endangered species.

3430 Skyview Dr., Wylie

Tiger Creek

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary is home to beautiful rescued tigers, lions, leopards and more. The 173-acre animal sanctuary cares for over forty rescued big cats and other endangered species. Plus, they offer special sensory tours for children with special needs.

17552 FM14, Tyler

Dogwood Canyon

This centralized nature park allows visitors to take in multiple components of east, west and central Texas’ ecosystems. Whether you’re riding horseback, bird watching or hiking, Dogwood Canyon has everything you need to become one with the earth.

1206 FM 1382, Cedar Hill

LLELA Nature Preserve

Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area is committed to helping restore the bond between people and nature. The park provides education on various biomes and regions, including prairies, forests and wetlands.

201 E. Jones St., Lewisville

Bob Jones Nature Center

The Bob Jones Nature Center is more than an education center. It’s also a woodland and prairie reserve on 758 acres with more than 20 sprawling miles of hiking trails, including the Walnut Grove National Recreation Trail.

355 Bob Jones Rd., Southlake

The Preserve at Maxwell Creek

Maxwell Creek Trails was created to be a branch of a larger greenbelt, extending north to Park and south to Wylie and Sachse, eventually linking to a Collin County trail system. The grounds, along the Maxwell Creek floodway, offer concrete hike and bike trails, off-road secondary dirt trails and granite nature trails.

670 N. Murphy Rd., Murphy

Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve

The Connemara Conservancy land trust was created over 30 years ago to safeguard a 72-acre pocket of farmland on the Plano and Allen border from urban sprawl. Today, Connemara Meadow is still a serene oasis in the city, events like concerts and sometimes large-scale sculpture shows.

Alma Dr. and S. Bethany Dr., Allen

Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center

Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center is a gateway to more than 2,900 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, upland prairie and diverse aquatic habitats. Located within Lake Lewisville’s upper floodplain and managed by the City of Denton, it provides residents and visitors with unmatched ecological, educational and recreational opportunities.

3310 Collins Rd., Denton

Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve is Plano’s largest park at 80 acres. It has woodsy trails along Rowlett Creek and ziplining and a ropes course through the treetops. Oak Point Park is also the site of a major expansion that will offer trails and a playground that will be fun for kids and adults.

5901 Los Rios Blvd., Plano

Parkhill Prairie

A 436-acre preserve in Blue Ridge with an abundant 52 acres of the Blackland tall-grass prairie that has largely unchanged by the urban growth of the last 100 years.  Covered pavilions with cook pits and restroom facilities are available, and wildflowers that aren’t seen elsewhere.

Co Rd. 668, Blue Ridge

Bird Watching

Here are the migratory birds coming through town this summer.

LITTLE BLUE HERON

Little Blue Herons need a variety of freshwater and marine habitats for both nesting and foraging.

PAINTED BUNTING

Painted Buntings, multi-colored finches, breed during the Dallas summer, so are abundant, particularly in Cedar Hill State Park.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD

The most adorable of birds, ruby-throated hummingbirds are sure to flock to North Texas flowers and feeders in late summer.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER

These tiny, yet vibrant songbirds appear in late spring and early summer. Fort Worth’s Lotus Marsh Boardwalk at the Fort Worth Nature Center may have them.

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER

Spot a Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers all over North Texas by the hint of pink under the wings, and significant, long tail streamers.

ORCHARD ORIOLES

Orchard Orioles gather in flocks, preferring open areas, like prairies and suburbs, with scattered groves of trees to dense trees.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES

Sadly, Loggerhead Shrikes are vanishing in number. They are predatory songbirds open who hunt insects, smaller birds and rodents in open terrain.

NORTHERN BOBWHITE

The only native quail in the East, Northern Bobwhite are easier to hear than see, and prefer meadows, pastures and grassy fields.

Originally published as part of the June 2019 Great Outdoors Guide

Alexandra Cronin and Alex Gonzalez

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