Early January at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge


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Over the weekend we wanted to get out and do something away, something that didn’t involve working on our house. I mentioned to Chris I had wanted to visit Balcones Canyonlands NWR after having seen it on the map over the last few years. It was northwest of town and not on our typical route when we visit Austin, so exploring this part of town was a nice diversion from our usual routine.

We opted for the Doeskin Ranch area of the refuge as it has the most hiking trails. I’m a little disappointed there aren’tmore trails than the five-ish miles, but I bet there is opportunity for cross country explorations. Our route ended up taking up the biggest loop we could make, hooking up the Rimrock, Shin Oak, Indiangrass, and Creek trails to create a long hike for the late morning/early afternoon. As we set off on the trail a couple of other groups were starting out as well, but luckily we all took different routes. There’s a good set of switchbacks to climb the first hill, getting to the top of the mountain. Once up top we wandered around the flat area before descending the backside of the mountain and off into grasslands, dipping down along a creek, and then back to the top of the mountain once again.

At the top we traipsed across and once again descended back down the other side. While out there we were passed by four trail runners, once as they passed by and then on their return. The refuge wasn’t as busy as other area parks, but I was happy to see the area being used. It was rather windy and a bit chilly when we started out so wildlife was pretty much scarce, though we did see a meadowlark and a some other brown jobber.

After our hike we drove slowly down the winding Cow Creek road, which is adjacent to…Cow Creek. The creek drains into Lake Travis/the Colorado River. Our intention was to find a couple of tiny tracts of refuge land that intersected the creek further south in order to get out and explore the creek bed and possibly take photos. Unfortunately it was difficult to distinguish where those parcels were actually located and with Texas private property being the dominant feature around here, lots of No Tresspassing signs were visible as well as fences and single strand chains across the creek to prevent people from going down the creek. It is really unfortunate that some of the beautiful creeks aren’t accessible to the public. Of course, I’d probably feel differently if I owned the creek, but here on the other side, I wish there were more public lands.

I’d love to revisit the park sometime when the golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos are around.

Have you been to BCNWR?

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2 thoughts on “Early January at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Keely says:

    Very nice. We enjoyed the drive along Cow Creek Rd and had the same issue you did. We spent some time exploring that area last summer, and I want to go back and check out the trails more sometime. Like you, I want to do it when it is the right time for the birds to be about.

  2. Moosie says:

    Looks like a nice weekend!

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