Wildlife Watching and Nature Trails
There are four trails on the refuge with varying degrees of difficulty.
Cottonwood Canyon Birding Trail: (1 mile)
This trail follows within the steep canyon walls through a river habitat of tall trees. Here, visitors can catch a glimpse of neotropical migratory and resident bird birds resting and feeding, including the golden-rumped warbler and red-tailed hawks.
Cottonwood Hiking Trail: (1.25 miles)
Along the old shore line of Buffalo Lake there are cottonwood and elm trees that provide valuable habitat to a diversity of wildlife. Visitors might catch a glimpse of a North American porcupine up in the tree or a bobcat lazily resting in the shade. This is an ADA accessible trail.
Grassland Loop: (2 miles)
This winding trail leads visitors through mixed grass prairie and eventually connects to the Cottonwood Hiking Trail. This trail offers a walk through a sea of grass and a close look at some grassland bird species like the grasshopper sparrow and meadowlark.
Prairie Dog Trail: (.25 miles)
Walk along the edge of a black-tailed prairie dog town through the High Plains Natural Area National Natural Landmark. From here you can watch the social prairie dogs busily moving about and listen for the distinct barking sound that helped earn them the name ‘dog.’ This trail is ADA accessible.
Auto Tour Loop
The 11 mile auto tour loop is an excellent way to enjoy watching wildlife in the variety of habitats. By driving slowly and watching carefully you may see the brightly colored neotropcial migratory birds feeding in the trees. Look for hawks soaring overhead and white-tailed deer browsing on tender grasses. Be sure to stop at the waterfowl blind near the end of the Auto Tour Road. It is on the edge of the moist soil unit and is a great place to see bald eagles in the winter along with many species of waterfowl. During the spring this blind is ideal for watching shorebirds probing the mud for food.
Please remember the refuge is home to the wildlife you came to see. Yield to snakes, turtles, lizards, and tarantulas on the roads and obey the speed limits. Please avoid disturbing them while you are visiting their home.
Tierra Blanca Prairie Dog Observation Blind:
Is located on FM 168 south of FM 1714 and is a great place to watch black-tailed prairie dogs and burrowing owls in the spring and summer. This is also a good spot for ferruginous hawks and golden eagles in the winter.
Red Pole Cove Observation Blind:
This blind is tucked back in a thicket near a water drip on the site of a historic spring that no longer flows. Access to the blind starts at the back of Campsite One and is set within key riparian habitat. It offers excellent views of neotropical migrants during the spring migration.
The scenic overlook gives a bird’s eye view of the whole refuge and surrounding country side. It also gives the visitor nearly the same eye-level view as seen by red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures riding the winds.
Camping and Picnicking
Camping and picnicking are permitted in the designated area. The site is primitive with tables available on a first-come, first-served basis. Restroom facilities are provided and there is one ADA accessible site. Camping by individuals under 18 years of age is prohibited unless accompanied by legal adult guardian. There is a seven day limit on camping.
The refuge provides environmental education opportunities throughout the Texas Panhandle both on and off site. Please contact the refuge (link) for more information regarding environmental education opportunities.
The refuge offers excellent opportunities to capture images of wildlife and scenery. Wildlife-related photography is permitted in areas open to the public, including the auto tour route, the scenic overlook and observation blind, and designated hiking trails.