Our Trip To A Hidden Gem In Texas – Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Searching on the internet for a hidden gem to visit near Dallas in Texas can be like a complicated jigsaw puzzle.
The end pieces are your idea of what you are looking for but the entire picture has to be unraveled by adding the right pieces to it. Trying one page on the internet after the other, reading one review after another up to the point when you are about to give up.
We were staying for five nights in a hotel in Garland near Dallas, Texas. The prices of accommodation were very good in the Dallas area and this is also the reason why we chose Dallas as our temporary home on our nomadic journey. However, for us the nature and landscape around Dallas was just missing something special. Something that was similar to the raw beauty we had seen in the Grand Canyon or at Monument Valley.
When we were about to give up on our jigsaw puzzle, Paul suddenly found the missing piece to it. The piece brought us to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The car ride from Garland, TX to the Refuge took us a bit more than an hour.
As soon as we had parked at the visitor center, a man who was on his way home approached us. He was wondering how we found it and then he welcomed us to the friendliest place in the nation. In fact, we have never felt as welcomed at any nature reserve or park, as we have felt there. He walked with us into the visitor center.
One of the ladies inside handed him a map and he showed us where we were. We were at Lake Texoma which is located between Texas and Oklahoma. A small portion on the Texan side of Lake Texoma is the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is approximately 12,000 acres big of which 8,000 acres are uplands, 2,600 acres are wetlands and 400 acres are croplands. We explained that we were looking to take photos of the wildlife and he said that we should have come a week ago when they had some birds passing through. We just missed it.
However, then he showed us a leaflet of the Haller’s Haven Nature Trail and he said that we should be able to find some birds on this trail. The Refuge itself is open throughout the year from sunrise to sunset (note that the visitor centre has separate opening and closing hours). The visitor centre was very well laid out. You can also borrow binoculars for the day. Although you have to return them before the visitor centre closes. Aside of leaflets and nature information, the centre also had very clean restrooms and a gift shop where Paul bought us a mascot. The mascot is a little squirrel which I (Kristin) named Markus. He had to have this name because I am currently writing a fantasy book where one of the characters is a squirrel named Markus.
The Refuge didn’t charge any entrance fees but visitors can donate money at the visitor centre if they wish to. A short car ride took us to the Goode Day Use Area where the Haller’s Haven Nature Trail started from. We saw several free parking and picnic spots at the Goode Day Use Area and so we sat down at one of picnic spots to have a late lunch prior to our walk.
When we sat down, the air slowly started to feel like a sauna. We heard some birds tweeting away through the greenery. Understandably, our lunch didn’t take us very long. We could not wait to see the wetlands and to try out our new camera. It is a camera you can place on your head or onto something else to shoot a video. Paul put our new camera on his head and off we went on our way.
We felt very fortunate to have this nature reserve all for ourselves. The Refuge provides a habitat for many types of birds, amphibian and reptiles, fish, mammals and other endangered species.
With all these animals having their home at the Refuge, we were eagerly hoping to see our first animal. We turned around a corner and saw the picnic pond and inside the pond there was our first animal sitting on a tree inside the pond. It was the bird called Snowy Egret. The picnic pond was so peaceful, little did I (Kristin) know what it had in store for me on our way back…
After the picnic pond, we turned left and soon saw the steel bridge just before the Dead Woman’s Pond. The steel bridge fitted perfectly into the Refuge. When you are on the bridge, try to remain silent for a while. Soon you will see all kinds of things going on.
Paul saw a turtle on the right underneath the bridge just before the waterfall and later on we saw very big fish swimming down the waterfall and then kind of jumped back up the waterfall.
It seemed very peculiar to see them jumping up the waterfall. After we passed the bridge, we saw on our right the Dead Woman’s Pond and on our left was Lake Texoma. On our walk various birds were flying across us. We had to be careful not to step into several mountains of ants. We walked a bit further just before the 2.7miles round-trip started. As our skin began to feel sticky from the sauna and we did not see any other wildlife up there, we did not take the 2.7miles round-trip. We turned around and spent a little longer at the bridge, the Lake and the Dead Woman’s Pond. We took a few shots of some animals and then headed back to the Goode Day Use Area. Just before the Picnic Pond, we met a turtle (same as cover picture) along the way. Turtles are kind of nomads like us because they carry their home with them.
As always, I (Kristin) was a bit behind because I just had to take another picture. Paul had already passed the picnic pond and was way ahead while I was following behind. I walked along the path, dreaming away for my next shot when I suddenly saw something swimming through the pond. It lifted itself up and “Ahhhhhhh” I shouted and ran as fast as possible. The last time I ran so fast was when I was a little girl when I had said something naughty to an older girl and she was chasing me.
A western cottonmouth (also called water moccasin) snake had smiled right at me. The western cottonmouth is a very dangerous snake. Luckily a few days earlier we met a former marine at the Spring Creek Forest Park Preserve in Garland. We saw the same snake swimming up the creek and he told that they are very vicious. You can tell if a snake means business when it has 2/3rds of its body out of the water.
Big turtles actually like to eat snakes so when you see big turtles then it is a bit safer. Paul was just laughing away. It reminded him when he was with his brother at the Joshua Tree National Park and his brother was chased by a diamond back snake.
After this little shock, we were certainly ready for our air-conditioned car. Besides the Haller’s Haven Nature Trail, you can do three other hiking trails. You can even go on a boat or use a bike in some areas.
From the Haller’s Haven Nature Trail we drove down the road and took the wildlife drive. We stopped at several points including a very good photo viewing blind.
On the drive we saw big fields with nodding donkeys in them which are used to extract oil from the lands at the Refuge.
We also passed by Snowy Egrets, Male and Female Mallards, Turkey Vultures, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers.
The Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers were very hard to photograph. They flew so fast, it was unbelievable. Luckily I got a good shot of one of them. While I was trying to catch a shot of the Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, another car was waiting for me to take the picture. The car actually stopped right where I was standing. Inside the car was a couple.
“These birds are my mum’s favourite birds” said the man in the car. He paused a moment and corrected himself “They were my mum’s favourite birds.”
Address of the visitor centre: Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092, USA