Sunday, May 9, 2010

Balcones Canyonlands

Recently I visited Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge to try to catch a glimpse of a bird called Painted Bunting. The refuge is only an hour northwest of Austin.

After confirming my site at the Sunset Point RV Park in Marble Falls I headed out FM 1431 to find the refuge. My maps weren't the best and the mangers of the park knew nothing about the refuge so the afternoon turned into a great adventure involving about 40 miles and a couple wrong turns. Eventually I found the headquarters and got to visit with an employee just before the work day ended. Turns out the refuge is 20,000 acres of patchwork land that hopes to one day fill in the empty spaces to be 40,000 acres. The logo is a flying duck and it was beautifully part of the gate that closed while I was still inside!

Back to the park I felt right at home camped along the shores of LBJ Lake with Wurtz Dam in the distance. This section appeared to be earth fill while there are several gates at the far end that may be the spillway. No access across the dam and I didn't drive around to the other side to check it out this trip.

A natural area past the rv sites is actually a big pink granite rock. That was a very fun surprise! A dam and granite too!

Along the way were several vernal pools (like on top of Enchanted Rock?) that were outlined with a bright green plant around the edges.

It was easy to see why the area is called Sunset Point. There was an amazing sunset each night I was there.

The next morning I headed out to a different section of this refuge, Doeskin Ranch. It was shaping up to be a hot day and I wanted to get out on the trail early but two bus loads of elementary school kids beat me there!

There were artifacts left over from ranching days and many new (to me) wildflowers, but not so many birds, and no Painted Bunting. It was hot and windy, probably not the best conditions.

Loved this cool flower....

So parts of the trail were wooded.

Some were marshy and so overgrown that I was keeping a keen eye out for Coral Snakes.

And then there was a long stretch of completely exposed trail where I got really too hot!

This area seems to have been cleared for cattle grazing at one time. The trail was marked by really big 'ducks'!

Looking out across the Canyonlands. It's rough country.

Next year I will visit earlier in the spring. In April they had guided walked that would be a fun way to learn more about the flora and fauna.

Everywhere there are new (to me) wildflowers. This lavender one I haven't seen anywhere else.

Way back in the late 1800s people used cedar (Ashe juniper) for everything. The men who cut the cedar were called 'choppers'. This H-brace was part of a fence that separated a meadow from the creek. While I don't know how old they really are, it was very far sighted of the ranchers to separate the cows from the creek.

According to an interpretive sign this structure (also cedar) might have been a corn crib. Now I'm betting it's home to a granddaddy rattlesnake!

And this beautiful old live oak has probably seen many, many Painted Buntings. Maybe next spring I will too!


  1. Diana,
    Too bad you weren't at Balcones in April. I lead the bird tours there during April, and had painted buntings at the feeders outside my rig.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  2. Judy, I'm putting Balcones on my list for next April!


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