As we have seen, Cordillera Ranch residents are blessed with parks in their own backyard. Ready for more? Check out more natural beauties just a few miles away.
By Julie Catalano
Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area
143 Mark Twain Drive, Boerne, 830.537.3470.
Photography courtesy of Kendall County Parks & Recreation Department.
Talk about your hidden gems. “I often tell visitors that we’re trying to do more reaching out to the community,” says Daniel Vetter, Kendall County Parks Director. “You know, let people know how beautiful and fun this is, and they can see their county tax dollars at work.” Their visitors’ usual response? “Oh no, don’t tell anybody about this place!”
No wonder. At a manageable size of 117 acres, visiting Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area is like having your own six unique wildlife habitats: riparian, oak savanna, disturbed woodland/blowdown, open juniper-oak woodland, closed canopy juniper-oak woodland and old field.
Vetter describes the three miles of trails as “all terrain. It might be rocky in one area, or caliche, grass or even asphalt.” The main road runs all the way down to the Guadalupe River, especially handy for paddlers and fishers to unload their gear or just bring chairs to sit by the river.
Three observation blinds (including one large ADA accessible) offer excellent opportunities to observe and photograph birds, butterflies and more. Visitors might glimpse feral hogs, turkey, axis and white-tailed deer, snakes, and once in a while, says Vetter, “a huge red stag. They’re so big they look almost like elk.”
As a natural area, Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area is “relatively untouched,” says Vetter, and ideal for exploring. For example, a cave and two sinkholes discovered during a 2010 archeological study are not marked. “As soon as you set foot on a trail, it won’t be long before you are completely lost in nature.”
NEED TO KNOW: Pet friendly, and all dogs must be on leash. Portable restrooms, both regular and ADA. No drinking water, so bring plenty for you and your dog. Picnic areas with tables and benches. No camping or hunting. Swimming is discouraged. Open daily from dawn until dusk. Free admission.
Cibolo Preserve and Cibolo Nature Center & Farm
140 City Park Road, Boerne, 830.249.4616.
The “Farm” in the title of this popular Boerne destination refers to what was once the 10,000-acre Herff Ranch established in 1852, of which 62 acres were acquired by the Cibolo Nature Center in 2007, making it the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Since then, the site has evolved into an important historical, cultural and ecological Hill Country resource. The homestead has been restored to National Register of Historic Places standards and is permanently protected through a voluntary conservation easement.
Soon, the Herff Farm will be home to the Cibolo Nature School and Learning Village at Herff Farm (slated to open in Fall 2020), with a campaign underway to build a model Nature Preschool to serve area children. Plans include four classroom cottages, expanded outdoor gathering and learning spaces, administrative offices and teacher workrooms, plus a restored historic barn and community amphitheater.
The Cibolo Nature Center itself has a 30-year history of welcoming countless nature lovers in its mission of “promoting conservation of natural resources through education and stewardship.” Each year, thousands of visitors stroll the beautiful grounds, enjoying picnicking, horseback riding, birding and miles of trails. There’s a wetland ecosystem, exact replicas of dinosaur tracks, and the scenic Cibolo Creek that meanders throughout.
The Cibolo Preserve is an adjacent 644-acre area used as a living outdoor laboratory for researchers from UTSA, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, San Antonio Water System, Texas Parks and Wildlife and others. “Types of research have included studies on caves and karsts, archeology, water quality and various bird studies,” says Cordillera Ranch resident J.W. Pieper, a participant in the current great blue heron rookery project as a volunteer who observes nest-building, mating, and hatching. “We report on them twice a week until they fledge.”
NEED TO KNOW: The Cibolo Nature Center includes a Visitor Center and Gift Shop, and is open daily, 8:00am to dusk. Free admission. Pet and horse friendly. The Herff Farm at 33 Herff Road is open 9:00am to 1:00pm every Saturday; the last Farmer’s Market for 2018 will be held on November 17 and resumes again in March 2019. The Cibolo Preserve is open only to researchers. For more information, cibolo.org.
Guadalupe River State Park and Honey Creek State Natural Area
3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, 830.438.2656.
Photography courtesy of GRSP and HCSNA.
Many Texans know the Guadalupe River only for tubing, but there’s so much more to this legendary part of the Texas Hill Country that has been a state park since 1983. While there’s plenty of action close to the river, with swimming, fishing, canoeing and, of course, tubing, venturing away from the river leads visitors to more peaceful areas for 13 miles of hike and bike trails, horseback riding, picnicking and birdwatching.
“There’s a wonderful Discovery Center in the day use section of the park,” says Pieper, who also serves as a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Guadalupe River State Park (GRSP) and Honey Creek State Natural Area (HCSNA). “It’s filled with interactive objects including a collection of pelts, fossils, feathers and tracks.”
Camping is available at 85 water and electric campsites or nine walk-in tent sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling 512.389.8900.
Honey Creek State Natural Area, adds Pieper, is a true Texas treasure that’s part of Guadalupe River State Park but still a secret to many. “It’s a place of pure nature that can be seen only by guided tour on Saturday mornings.” Tours leave from the historic Rust House every Saturday at 9:00am and are free with GRSP admission. “It’s a wonderful two-mile hike that takes you down by Honey Creek, a 1.5-mile long creek that flows out of the mouth of a cave and into the Guadalupe River.” No reservations are necessary, but special group tours can be arranged. “The Cordillera Nature Club has gone on this hike a couple times,” says Pieper, who led the special tours of Honey Creek State Natural Area for 18 years.
NEED TO KNOW: Guadalupe River State Park is open daily, 8:00am to10:00pm. Entrance fees to GRSP are $7/adults; children 12 and under free. Honey Creek State Natural Area is open to the public only on Saturday with free guided tour included in GSRP admission. For more information, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/guadalupe-river and honeycreekfriends.org.