Yearning for a Spring Wildflower Drive? Hop in!

Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush ©Eric Pohl

After February’s grueling, frigid winter storm, will there be any Texas wildflowers to drive around and marvel at this year?


Our friends at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin assure us that our beloved bluebonnets will be on display this season, as well as many other favorites.


“Our Texas bluebonnets and many other native wildflowers are adapted to cold temperatures,” says Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the center.” “The 6 to 8 inches of snow the area received acted as a blanket to protect them against the many days of freezing temperatures.”


The bluebonnets were ahead of schedule before the freeze, and the cold probably reset them to bloom more in line with their regular schedule in early March, she says. Central Texas’ bluebonnet season typically peaks in early to mid-April.


Some evergreen plants, however, such as the early blooming Carolina jessamine vine suffered ice-burned foliage and may not have much of a presence this season, said DeLong-Amaya. Many first-to-flower trees were hardest hit, losing their buds due to multiple days of ice, such as redbuds, Texas mountain laurel and native plums. Some warmer microclimates throughout urban areas may have fared better.

Bluebonnets ©Al Braden


Whew, there will be wildflowers! 

Now, where can we go drive around and look at them on a gorgeous spring day? 


The Wildflower Center has a great collection at their “Honey, Stop the Car” webpage.


We took the plunge, too, and featured drives around the state in our April issue. Photo Editor Sonja Sommerfeld corralled some of your favorite photographers for their views on some great routes and the blooms you’ll spy on them.  

(Remember, if you stop for a photo, watch out for snakes.)

Bluebonnets ©RobGreebon/ImagesFromTexas

Blackland Prairie

Wild petunia, golden puccoon, rose vervain, bluebonnets

Where to go: Meadow View Nature Area near Ennis; U.S. 287; Texas Highway 31 near Corsicana; Ennis Bluebonnet Trail (April 1-30). More here.


Dogwoods ©Sean Fitzgerald

East Texas

Dogwoods, redbuds and yellow jessamine

Where to go: Loops near Palestine, Rusk, Nacogdoches. LOOP ONE: From Palestine, east on U.S. 84 to Rusk. Then south on U.S. 69 to Alto. Skirt border of Davy Crockett National Forest on Texas 21 to Crockett. Head back to Palestine on U.S. 287. LOOP TWO: Take Texas 21 west from Nacogdoches to Weches. Then FM 227 south to Ratcliff. Finish by taking Texas 7 back to Nacogdoches.


Spiderwort ©Sean Fitzgerald

Far East Texas

Spiderwort, phlox, milkweed

Where to go: From Marshall, go north along Texas 43 toward Karnack. Take a detour to visit Karnack, Uncertain and Caddo Lake State Park, then head back to Texas 43 north to Atlanta. Take U.S. 59 to Linden; Texas 155 to Avinger; Texas 49 to Jefferson, then U.S. 59 back to Marshall.


Woolly paper flower ©Kathy Adams Clark


Paperflower, blackfoot daisy, lemon horsemint

Where to go: Highways and roads between Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro Canyon state parks. More here. 


West Texas bluebonnets ©Sonja Sommerfeld/TPWD

West Texas

Big Bend bluebonnets, sand bells, yellow desert marigolds, scarlet bouvardia, silverleaf nightshade

Where to go: FM 170 from Presidio to Big Bend Ranch State Park to Terlingua and Texas 118 north to Alpine.


Bluebonnets ©Al Braden
Hill Country
Winecups, bluebonnets, evening primrose, scarlet sage, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis and firewheel

Where to go: From Mason take Texas 29 to FM 2768 to Castell, then FM 152 to Llano and Texas 16 south toward Fredericksburg (Wildseed Farms and Luckenbach). On the way to Fredericksburg, take FM 965 to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area or FM 1323 to the Willow City Loop. Take U.S. 87 back to Mason. More here


Highland Lakes


Where to go: Take U.S. 281 south from Marble Falls to FM 962 to Cypress Mill, then FM 301 to U.S. 281. From Marble Falls, take FM 1431 to Kingsland, then FM 2342 to Inks Lake State Park to Texas 29 and east to Burnet.

Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush ©Al Braden

Washington County

Bluebell, winecup, Indian blanket

Where to go: Along Texas 103, FM 390, FM 50; Burton to Brenham to Chappell Hill (the Bluebonnet Festival of Texas is in April in Chappell Hill). More here.


South Hill Country 

Rock daisies, prairie verbena, Texas skeleton plant, winecups, blue sage

Where to go: From Bandera, take FM 470 to Utopia, then FM 187 through Vanderpool to Texas 39 to Hunt. Bandera Loop: Head northwest from Bandera on Texas 16. In Medina go west on FM 337 to Vanderpool and Leakey. In Leakey turn south on U.S. 83 to Garner State Park. Go east on FM 1050 to Utopia. Then take FM 187 to FM 470 back to Bandera.


If you want more content like this, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.


Favorite Park Already Filled for Spring Break? Think Outside the Box!

All photos @Heather Kuhlken/Families in Nature

Getting outside to feel the warmth of the sun and hear the birds sing has never been more alluring. Texans have mostly stayed at home for a year now and still shudder at the memory of the recent, seemingly endless winter storm that paralyzed us.


Spring Break — staggered mostly over the month of March — usually draws large crowds of young people to the most popular state/national parks, beaches and wild areas. Of course, that kind of scene isn’t what everyone is seeking for their nature getaway.


If your favorite Texas State Park is already booked up…. What now?


So. Many. Options. Get creative!


Parks are everywhere! Private, school, city, county, national — parks are run by all sorts of entities. Pocket parks can be found in many neighborhoods; you don’t even have to drive to enjoy nature. Dreaming bigger? Plan a national park getaway by playing with their Park Finder.


Find a lesser-known Texas State Park — truly the state’s hidden treasures. Several parks throughout the state have day-use and overnight reservations available for the upcoming spring and summer season, including Goose IslandSan AngeloLake Somerville and Sea Rim state parks.

Make new friends


You can join an outdoor group to enhance your opportunities and experiences outdoors, whether it’s a fly-fishing club, a mountain biking group or helpful organizations like Texas Children in Nature and Families in Nature. They can connect you to adventures and activities that satisfy your outdoor yearnings and expand your horizons and skills. 


Sarah Coles of Texas Children in Nature offers three great Spring Break ideas.

  • Take a family nature walk around your neighborhood. Check our Texas Children in Nature's Facebook and Instagram each day for a new thing to observe on your walk. Share photos from your walk on social media with #texaschildreninnature
  • Participate with the Texas Nature Challenge. Challenges range across the state and feature both challenges at parks and nature centers, but also lots of challenges you can do at home. Find challenges near you.
  • Check out a new wild place near you at Nature Rocks Texas


Heather Kuhlken of Families shares their planned Nature Spring Break events.


Choose your own adventure


Families in Nature put together this amazing list of ideas you can do on your own, with friends or family. You can put together an outdoor adventure that sparks your creativity, teaches you a new skill or makes you feel good about giving back.


  1. Creek and lake clean ups. Very few volunteer groups have been able to pick up trash along our waterways during the past year, so our creeks, parks and rivers are in need of cleaning. Take a bag out on your next socially distant park visit with friends or paddling adventure to pick up the trash you encounter. 
  2. Go for a hike on the greenbelts, city or state parks and explore a place you’ve never been before.
  3. Go camping. If you can't get a reservation over spring break at a state park, you can also check our LCRA and County parks for reservations. 
  4. Create art in a park. Take your watercolor or drawing pencils, paper and a clipboard or sketchbook out to your nearest nature space and draw spring. Notice the colors you see — the bright greens of new leaves emerging after the freeze. Or take your camera and photograph spring plants and wildlife. 
  5. Visit a swimming hole before it is warm enough to swim. Wade in the cold water. (Krause Springs, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Pace Bend, Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, Jessica Hollis park, etc...)
  6. Rent a canoe or kayak to paddle with your family. Or learn to stand-up paddleboard.
  7. Sleep outside at home. Set up a tent in your backyard to enjoy the perfect camping temperatures of spring in Texas
  8. Set up a backyard habitat. Create spaces for wildlife or birds to find shelter, get water, get food and raise young. This could include planting wildlife-friendly plants that attract hummingbirds and insects to replace any of the plants in your yard that froze in February’s snowstorm. 
  9. Plant a tree or two. Many trees in Texas froze or were badly damaged by our February snow. Plant a new tree to replace one that was frozen. You may even be able to do this in your local park. 
  10. Have a socially distanced picnic. Take your meal out to your front yard or meet up in a park with your friends or family.
  11. Build bird feeders out of your recycled stuff. Hang them in your yard to watch/photograph spring birds.
  12. Create an outdoor study space so that you can resume your zoom classes outdoors. Set up a table and chair outside next to an extension cord to power your laptop. Decorate the area with potted plants to make it feel like you are working in a cafe or a park. 
  13. Climb a tree. Hang out for a while and enjoy the new perspective. Say hello to your inner 8-year-old again. 
  14. Set up buddy hammocks in a park in a spot with three trees near each other. Invite a friend to set up a hammock next to yours. You can hang out together outside while still remaining socially distant. (Please, always use tree-friendly straps to attach your hammock to the tree.)
  15. Build elaborate rock cairns with your friends. (Outdoors is the safest place to gather with your friends, so make some temporary art together.) For inspiration, watch Andy Goldsworthy’s "Rivers and Tides" before you go outside. 
  16. Build or purchase a fire pit for your backyard or use one in a state park campsite. Learn to build a fire and cook a meal over the fire you build. (Be sure to put the fire out so that coals are cool to the touch before you leave the area.)
  17. Learn to build a shelter out of natural materials and then spend the night in your shelter. (Helpful tools: Learn a basic lashing knot and use sticks from introduced species such as ligustrum and bamboo to build your shelter.)
  18. Have a star party with your friends. Download a star-finding app on your phone to identify what you see in the sky at night or locate the space station when it passes overhead. It is easy to hang out with friends or family and stay socially distant by putting blankets on the ground and laying 6 feet apart to look up at the sky. 
  19. See critically endangered whooping cranes by boat in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport. 
  20. Watch some real “wild’ life at Brazos Bend State Park to see huge numbers of birds and the alligators waking up for spring. 
  21. Learn to fish. Hooked for life! 
  22. Try out shinrin yoku (forest bathing) by slowly walking through a park or preserve and noticing the sounds, smells, colors, textures and details surrounding you. Breathe deeply. (You can do this often to give your brain and body a break and counteract the hours and hours of Zoom time.)

If you want more content like this, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.



Restoring East Texas’ Wild Turkeys

On a recent February day after the winter storm, large cardboard boxes were popped open by giggling children who squealed as turkeys emerged and flapped their way to freedom, while biologists and parents smiled and watched with their own sense of delight. 

 Working with the National Wild Turkey Federation and private landowners, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is restocking wild turkeys in areas of the state where they’ve declined as part of an Eastern Wild Turkey Restoration Program. Eastern wild turkeys arrived at the Cooper Wildlife Management Area in February after long flights from Maine and North Carolina. The turkeys get general health check-ups and a drink of electrolytes to help them recover from their trip, then they were released at their new East Texas home. 

Eastern wild turkeys

  • TPWD staff wrapped up an eastern wild turkey Super Stocking effort in Titus County this winter. This restocking effort was initiated in 2020. In total, TPWD staff released 83 eastern wild turkeys originating from Maine, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia.
  • TPWD is still releasing eastern wild turkeys at our Franklin County release site. To date, TPWD staff has released 48 eastern wild turkeys from Maine, Missouri and North Carolina toward our 80-bird goal. This restocking effort should wrap up this winter; if not, trapping and restocking will resume in 2022.  

Rio Grande wild turkeys

  • Over the past few years, TPWD has been experimenting with Rio Grande wild turkey restockings along the Trinity River watershed. The Trinity River marks the historic interchange between Rio Grades and Easterns. 
  • This winter, TPWD staff released 198 Rio Grande wild turkeys at 4 sites in Kaufman, Navarro and Freestone counties along the Trinity River.     
  • Since 2016, TPWD staff have released 671 Rio Grande wild turkeys at seven sites within the Trinity River watershed, south of D/FW to just east of the Richland Chambers Reservoir. 

If you want more content like this, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.