From Samuell-Grand Park to The Dallas Arboretum, Dallas has always done a wonderful job of making sure there is at
least one place in the city where you can drink in the beauty of elaborate and exotic gardens.
But what if that’s not what you need? What if right now, this very moment, you have a tremendous yen to be in the
wild, out with the bugs and the birds?
Unfortunately, we’ve never kept the same sharp eye or protective arm out for places of natural undeveloped beauty.
You could even make the mistake of thinking Dallas doesn’t have them.
But we do. Here, in our midst, sometimes a stone’s throw from where we work or live, are beautiful lost pockets of
True, you may have to lift your eyes above some scattered trash in a few of them. But if you go, you will almost
always find the scars a tiny price to pay for the unexpected rush of joy and discovery.
The best news is that you can grab some sun block or a rain poncho as the case may be, don your walking shoes, load
up the dog, drive for 10 minutes or an hour and find yourself transported, in a place where die only sound is the
wind through leaves, where rabbits bound across trails and fish jump nearby.
Here is a truly striking expanse of terrain, totally hidden from view in the folds of the city, like a secret portal
into the dimension of time itself. To get there, drive south on the Hawn Freeway (Highway 175), get off at the Loop
12/Buckner exit and turn immediately right, or west, on Loop 12. Pass Oklaunion on your left, then take the very
next left on Longbranch.
You will drive through some tough-looking apartment neighborhoods; the street changes its name to Riverwood. Keep
going You will find yourself on a funny little stretch of road that looks more like an area of modest farms than a
city neighborhood; keep going until the street dead-ends; urn right on a dirt lane and go 100 yards or so to the
Now walk to your right on a path. If you have a small child or a frisky pet along, get a good grip because in a few
short yards you will be standing at the top of McCommas Bluff. It’s a sheer drop from your toes down 50 feet or more
to the Trinity River. In wet weather the river is fast, broad, muddy and very unforgiving.
In the 1890s a steamboat brought people here from downtown Dallas. Some distance through the woods you can still
find the ruins of) a dance pavilion. There was a dam here, a pond and picnic grounds.
Now it is wild again, a federal preserve. Walk farther down the path where you can see the pri\ate farm land
abutting the park. Can these be dairy cattle, loping over to the fence? Is this really Dallas?
This is another wonderful surprise for most Dallasites, even those who have been in did city all their lives.
Go south on 1-45 as if you were headed to Houston; take the Loop 12 exit and go left, or east; take an immediate
right on old Central Expressway (Route 310); then just before you get to the OxyChem plant, turn left, or east, on a
street called River Oaks.
At the street’s dead end is a small federal park called the Joppa Preserve. Go right to the far end of the parking
lot; walk across a meadow to your right and find a pretty, nicely tended path at the water’s edge. The sandy trail
is cut by horses’ hooves but is still very walkable.
Now, even though you are surrounded on every side by the city, you are alone on a beautiful path around a gleaming
little lake softened on all its edges by cattails and reeds. Far out on the lake the egrets make white reefs where
they perch in gangs on the sandbars. The only sound is a wild mother duck calling to her young.
This is Dallas, Texas. No kidding.
You wake up on a Saturday morning. The sun is bright. The wind is hurling crumpled newspaper pages down your street
and you think, “I am going to die if I can’t walk somewhere with the spray of surf blowing at my feet.”
Get on 1-30; go east to Belt Line Road; get off and go south on Belt Line less than a mile; mm left, or east, on
Barnes Bridge Road. Now you will drive through semi-pretty, somewhat undeveloped Sunnyvale, where, even though you
think you’re out in the boondocks, you want to take the 30 miles per hour speed limit very seriously.
Now you see the large Lake Hubbard Power Plant on your left, and you wonder what we must have been thinking, sending
you to a Soviet moonscape like this. But there at the road’s dead end is a little park. To your right is a meadow.
And across the meadow is a path at the edge of Lake Ray Hubbard where under just the right conditions waves crash
against the shore, the horizon is bright with sail and your dog can bark at me water until he passes out.
Rowlett Creek Preserve
Lake Ray Hubbard is that vast man-made body of water east of the city that you see when you’re on an airplane-the
sight that shocks first-time visitors from New York who were expecting camels and sandstorms. Too bad it has to have
a man’s first name (they would never do that to a river), but the lake does provide a variety of hiking and
One Hubbard Lake area that can be wonderful when the fishermen aren’t loading it up with litter is the Woodland
Basin Nature Area. But even when the area nearest the parking lot is not up to snuff, we know a little trick we will
share with you.
First, be sure to put your gum boots in the car and be prepared for sucking mud (heaven for small boys and dogs).
Now, head for Woodland Basin. From Dallas, drive east on 1-30, men north on 635. Turn right, or east, on Centerville
Road and go about four miles to Miller Road; angle right again on Miller and drive a couple miles to the entrance of
the Woodland Basin Nature Area on your right.
The trick: Instead of going into the nature area itself, walk back down Miller Road west 50 yards to a line of
transmission towers. The sign says me area is posted against vehicles but says nothing about pedestrians. Hike up
along the trail of towers for a mile or so through muddy but undisturbed, lovely, haunting marshes. You’ll
eventually come out in another wonderful and little-known jewel of a place-Rowlett Creek Preserve.
If you’re not into sucking mud, just drive straight to Rowlett Creek Preserve: Take Centerville Road north from
Miller Road, cross Commerce Street and Spur 66, then look for a dirt entrance just across from where Castle
dead-ends into Centerville. Rowlett Creek Preserve is a soft, reedy, bird-singing island, lost from the sea of the
city around it.
THE AUDUBON TRAILS
at White Rock
It was Saturday afternoon. You felt a burst of love for Nature. But you didn’t have time. So you did the next best
thing- went to a trendy outdoor store and blew two bills on a set of binoculars. Now it’s Sunday morning. There they
are, the binoculars, sitting on top of your bureau, staring at you like a federal indictment. You have four and a
half hours before you have to get on that airplane and go to a three-day sales conference to be screamed at by an
adrenaloid motivational guru. Should you spend the remainder of your weekend perched in your bathroom window looking
Come on! Get in that car! Go to the bottom of White Rock Lake where Gaston Avenue meets East Grand and Garland Road.
From Garland Road turn toward the lake onto Winsted, and then turn right into the parking lot. Walk to your left.
Here is a sheltered maze of paths where once there were fisheries and streams. Now, thanks to a cooperative effort
of the city of Dallas and the Audubon Society, this place hap become a protected haven for red-bellied woodpeckers,
nesting hawks, belted kingfishers and myriad other species.
The fisheries themselves are now turtle ponds. How long has it been since you saw 17 turtles slide off a single log
at your approach? (Try to approach more quietly next time.)
If you think you’d like a guided tour, call Tom Norwood at his store, the Wild Bird Center, in the southeast
quadrant of Casa Linda Shopping Center (Garland Road at Buckner) at 319-2473. His tours are free and depart from his
store every Saturday morning at 8.
IB Houston Nature Trails
What about running, hiding and playing games on paths that wander deep in the woods? What about coming up suddenly
on a broad sliding expanse of river? How about some good old-fashioned snakes? (Hey, just a few.)
Take the ’ Carpenter Freeway (114) to Texas Stadium. Take the stadium exit, but stay on the service road. Go under
Walton Walker (Loop 12). The first road is Tom Braniff Drive.. To the left it goes to the University of Dallas, but
to the right, where you \ rant to go, the same road is called Wildwood. Go less than a mile on Wildwood, and turn
right into a small parking lot.
Here is a square mile of nature owned by the city of Dallas and scribbled all over with winding paths you can really
explore. Those expensive binoculars will work here, too, by the way.
ALL RIGHT, NOW, LET’S SAY THAT YOU want to enjoy nature, but you also want to take your family or lover or friend or
colleague along, and you don’t want any surprises or di; appointments. You don’t want to stumble on any trash dumps
at all and you don’t v, ant to meet anyone who lives in one. So \ ’hat about some places where you can enjoy nature,
have a picnic amid beauty and reel pretty much 100 percent safe and organized? As follows:
HEARD NATURAL SCIENCE MUSEUM
and Wildlife Sanctuary
Whatever image you may have of the land north of the city-wind-swept, treeless, naked and sere-you will lose it
forever when you visit this place. Five miles of trails wind through meadows, along creek beds and around the crowns
of green hills. It’s a walking lesson in the way the land would be if the land could.
The museum’s not bad, either.
Drive north on Central Expressway (75) to McKinney. Take Texas Highway 5 east and then south to FM 1378, then go
east for a mile to the entrance.
Especially for people who live anywhere near the sanctuary-and even for those who have to drive a bit-this place is
a delightful respite from its urban and suburban surroundings.
Now you want to really get away. Dutiful guides that we are, we are going to take you to the limits of our range-
between an hour and an hour and a half out, depending on how lost you get.
Drive north on Central Expressway (75) through McKinney; turn right, or east, on 380 to Farmersville; turn left, or
north, on 78 to Blue Ridge; turn right, or east, on FM 981 to County Road 669; turn right on 669; turn left at
County Road 668; look for a sign at the entrance of the Parkhill Prairie Preserve (on the north side of the road).
Walk out into the middle of this lush, unspoiled, tallgrass prairie and think about it: Obviously, when the covered
wagons rolled into North Texas, the pioneers didn’t see Lemmon Avenue. They would have gone home, right? They saw
this! This is exactly what they saw.
Walk the trails, go to me overlook at the south edge of this 58-acre preserve, see what the pioneers saw and finally
understand. This is why they stayed.
And they didn’t even have a pair of $200 binoculars.
THE FORT WORTH
You know the old saw about Dallas being where the East peters out and Fort Worth where the West begins? You know why
it’s such an old saw? It’s sort of true.
If you want to stand on the hills where it starts and see what die beginning of the West looks like, get in that
car, drive from Dallas on Highway 183 as if you were going to the south entrance of D/FW Airport; pass the airport;
cross 35W where it comes up from downtown Fort Worth; get off at Highway 199W (Lake Worth) and go right, or
northwest, on 199. Watch for a dangerous intersection at a blinker light a few miles after you cross me lake. There
will be signs here to the Fort Worth Nature Center, which is on your right.
There are wonderful hiking trails here. Don’t miss the boardwalk out over the marshes at the end of Lake Worth. But
most important, get up on top of a hill and look west. See if it doesn’t make you feel like taming a new territory
or, at the very least, playing a new golf course.
The Dallas Nature Center is last on this list because it is the best, and it would have been unfair to put it
higher. There would have been no reason to read on.
Nestled into the ridges, cuts and spines on die escarpment that runs through Cedar Hill and Duncanville, the Dallas
Nature Center is a place of real beauty, where you can actually get lost.
Take 67 down to I-20, then go west toward Fort Worth; cross Spur 408; get off at the Mountain Creek Parkway exit and
come south a few miles. Watch for the signs. The entrance is on your right.
In this part of the world, nature centers sometimes have a bad name. Often the mental association is with blazing
sun and a man in knee socks in the middle of a flyblown garden, giving a 45-minute lecture on pupae.
Not here. Go to the trail heads and hike. It’s up. It’s down. It’s steep. It’s rolling. It’s green. It’s rocky. It’s
There are garden patches here. There are some very informative lectures. But you don’t have to do any of that. Just
park your car, get out and walk.
When you’re way up on top of that ridge, staring down through the cedars to the creek glittering below, and
somewhere down below your feet you hear that tiny explosion that just could be.. .might be.. .might possibly be a
painted bunting, you will realize something:
You forgot the binoculars. (Way to go.)