Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Texas

(512) 339-9432

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge offers some of the best birdwatching and habitat left in Texas for two endangered songbirds: the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler. Less than an hour from Austin, visitors can step off the streets into the wilds of the Texas Hill Country.

When Spanish explorers first saw the terraced hills northwest of what is now Austin, Texas, they named the land Balcones. These limestone hills and spring fed canyons make up most of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. The primary purpose of the refuge is to conserve the nesting habitat of the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. The vegetation found in this area, known as the Texas Hill Country, includes various oaks, elm, and Ashe juniper trees (commonly called cedar). The Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo depend on different successional stages of this vegetation. Both of these birds nest in central Texas, the warbler exclusively.

Map of Balcones Canyonlands NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 30.684721, -98.349609

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Activities

  • Bird Watching

    Many of the most common and colorful birds of Central Texas do not belong to the state alone. They may spend the spring and summer months nesting in this region, but they leave to spend the winter in Mexico, Central and South America. Species of birds that exhibit this dual residency are called neotropical migrants. The yearly migrations of many of these birds, often covering thousands of miles over ocean and other inhospitable terrain, rank among the most incredible wildlife journeys known.

    Neotropical migrants appear to be among the bird species most threatened by human caused changes in the environment. Many of these species are unable to adapt to the clearing of forests and brushlands for residential and commercial developments, grazing for livestock, and farm crops. A number of the migrants are vulnerable to nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird, a species of blackbird, which is attracted to domestic livestock and grain.

  • Hiking

    There are several miles of scenic trails to be enjoyed be visitors.

  • Hunting

    Please contact the main number for more information.

  • Wildlife Watching

    he Edwards Plateau of central and West-Central Texas is an elevated expanse of land over 35,000 square miles in area. It is bordered on the south and east by the Balcones Escarpment, also known as Balcones Canyonlands or as the Texas Hill Country. This deeply dissected region of the Plateau contains many steep-banked streams and canyons.

    Beneath the surface of the Plateau lies the karst habitat, an underground honeycomb of caves, sinkholes and springs. Various spiders, beetles, and other creatures inhabit this below-ground world and are unique to this area of Texas. Even deeper below the surface lies the Edwards Aquifer, which stores billions of gallons of water that supply drinking water for the almost one million people in San Antonio area. The aquifer is also the source of many Central Texas springs and the many beautiful Hill Country rivers, which eventually flow into the marshes, estuaries, and bays along the Texas coast. Protection of the springs is vital to the plants and animals that depend on the purity of the water.

    The vegetation found in the Hill Country includes various oaks, elms, and Ashe juniper trees (called cedar in Texas). The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo depend of different successional stages of this vegetation. Both of these birds nest in the Edwards Plateau, the Warbler exclusively.

Directions

Driving

Coming from Austin: If you take 183A Toll Road, exit onto 1431 in Cedar Park and go west.

Headquarters is located on FM 1431. If you are coming from the Austin area go west through Lago Vista. The office is five miles from the Lago Vista High School. If you are coming from the west, the office is one mile east of the intersection with Cow Creek Road/CR328. If you don't want to get on the 183A Toll Road and you're going north on U.S. 183 from Austin, get off at the Lakeline Mall Drive exit. Continue north on U.S. 183.

Warbler Vista and Sunset Deck: This area is located on FM 1431. If you are coming from the Austin area, go west through Lago Vista. After crossing the cattle guard, you'll go .2 miles and turn right into Warbler Vista/Sunset Deck. If you are coming from the west, Warbler Vista is 3.5 miles east of Headquarters. Turn left into the entrance.

Doeskin Ranch: Doeskin Ranch is on RR 1174. If you are coming from the south, Doeskin Ranch is about 1.5 miles north of the intersection of RR 1174 and Cow Creek/County Road 328. Cow Creek Road is a slower and scenic drive, but if there has been recent and significant rainfall, the several creek crossings may be under water. If you are coming from the north, Doeskin Ranch is 2.3 south of the intersection of RR 1174 and RR 1869. Doeskin Ranch is on the east side of the road.

Shinoak Observation Deck: This facility is on RR 1869. If you are coming from the west, the Shin Oak Observation Deck is 1.3 miles east of the intersection with RR 1174 and RR 1869. If you are coming from Liberty Hill, the deck is located about 8.5 miles to the east on RR 1869. The deck is on the south side of the road.

NOTE: Both Doeskin Ranch and the Shin Oak Observation Deck are about a 50 minute drive from the north end of Austin.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(512) 339-9432

Links