September 2010: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Austwell, Texas

Aransas is a stronghold for North America’s tallest birds with the continent’s largest flock of wintering whooping cranes but the 115,000-acre complex is a good example of refuge as park. Bicycling is encouraged here, fishing is allowed and there is even a picnic area with tables and barbecue grills. 

Your dog can stretch her legs on several short trails, across varied terrains and ecosystems. The Heron Flats Trail meanders from freshwater sloughs to marshy salt flats; while your dog is sniffing relentlessly you can take advantage of observation platforms equipped with telescopes to peek in on wading birds and pelicans. The Dagger Point Trail ascends one of the few hills at Aransas on a sandy trail through an oak/redbay forest and looks out over San Antonio Bay. It also touches on the shoreline where your dog can get a refreshing dip. The Big Tree Trail is a wide, easy trot for your dog under some of the refuge’s largest live oak trees before popping out in a salt marsh that is a prime location for observing whooping cranes from late October to mid-April.

Take Hwy. 35 to Tivoli. Continue past Tivoli for approx. 1 mile to the FM 239 exit (on your left). Follow FM 239 to Austwell. When you enter Austwell, FM 239 turns into FM 774 at the curve. Continue on FM 774. Follow 774 & take a right at the stop sign. Go down the end of the street. Take a right again. This takes you out of town for about ½ mile to the FM 2040 turn. Go left on FM 2040 for about 6 miles to the Refuge gate.