Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Arroyo Colorado Loop

Arroyo Colorado Loop map

Arroyo Colorado Loop mapPort of HarlingenRio HondoMont Meta CemetaryLas Palomas WMA - Arroyo Colorado UnitAdolph Thomae Jr. County ParkRio Grande Valley Shooting CenterLaguna Atascosa NWR

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More information:

  • Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce,
    Phone: (800) 531-7346, (956) 423-9121
    Email: hcoc@harlingen.com
    Web: www.harlingen.com

018.gif LTC 018 Port of Harlingen

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

From the intersection of US 77 and Loop 499, continue south on Loop 499 to FM 106. Go east on FM 106 to the Port of Harlingen where the Arroyo Queen is docked (Dock #2). The Arroyo Queen conducts regular interpretive nature cruises down the Arroyo Colorado. This is an excellent way to see many of the waterbirds (including Ringed and Green kingfishers) that inhabit the Valley. The frequency of trips varies by the season. The Arroyo Queen may be contacted at (956) 423-3064. While around the Port of Harlingen, look for Chihuahuan Ravens flying over the facilities.

019.gif LTC 019 Rio Hondo

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons, particularly late Spring and Summer

Site open for day use only. World Birding Center site.

Return to FM 106, and continue east to Rio Hondo and the Arroyo Colorado. Rio Hondo is being developed as a World Birding Center (WBC) satellite. Once across the Arroyo Colorado bridge, park at the picnic area adjacent to City Hall (on the north side of FM 106). Green Kingfishers have nested under this bridge, and the picnic grounds offer an excellent opportunity to see all three species of kingfishers that frequent North America. While in Rio Hondo, return to FM 106 and go to S. Arroyo Dr. Go south on S. Arroyo Dr. to the Rio Hondo Cemetery entrance. The native trees (Texas Ebony, in particular) at this cemetery attract a number of Valley specialties such as Green Jay and Great Kiskadee.

020.gif LTC 020 Mont Meta Cemetary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 106, and then continue east to TX 345. Go south on TX 345 to the Mont Meta Cemetery. The Texas Ebony is a Tamaulipan specialty, this cemetery contains some of the largest ebony trees left in the Valley. Please be respectful of those whose final resting place this cemetery represents. A quiet walk along the roads that weave through these magnificent trees will not only restore the soul but often produces an impressive selection of Valley birds.

021.gif LTC 021 Las Palomas WMA - Arroyo Colorado Unit

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. World Birding Center site.

Return to FM 106, then continue east on FM 106 to FM 2925. Travel north on FM 2925 to the Las Palomas WMA Arroyo Colorado Unit. Access to this site (which is hunted) is at present restricted; arrangements may be made to visit through TPWD at (956) 447-2704. Rio Hondo is working with TPWD to offer access to the Arroyo Colorado Unit on a controlled basis as part of the WBC complex. This unit is one of the most diverse in the Valley, and its addition to publicly accessible sites will be a significant gift to wildlife viewers in South Texas.

022.gif LTC 022 Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open daily. Fee charged.

Continue east on FM 2925 to FM 1847. During migration or winter, watch the telephone poles that line the road along the Arroyo Colorado for perched Osprey or Harris’s Hawk. Continue east on FM 2925 to the end of the road at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park. Common Pauraque, Altamira Oriole, and Long-billed Thrasher are among the specialties that may be found in the park. Camping, restroom, picnic, and boating facilities are available at the site. The entry fee is a daily permit that includes Isla Blanca Park (LTC 038) and all other Cameron County parks.

023.gif LTC 023 Cactus Creek Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site access restricted.

Return on FM 2925 to TX 1847, then go south on FM 1847 to FM 106. Go east on FM 106 2.2 miles.

In 1995, Cactus Creek Ranch was started with only a few blades of grass and a few local cacti. Located on 400 acres, it has been developed into prime South Texas native habitat, with a commitment to habitat restoration and conservation.

The Nature Conservancy in 96-97 planted 20,000 native plants. We are now a haven for many birds, animals, and insects both indigenous and migratory.

Cactus Creek Ranch, in cooperation with the South Texas Private Lands Initiative, is a Habitat Restoration Site. The Ranch is a joint project of the Nature Conservatory and Texas Parks and Wildlife, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and private donors. As a dedicated Partner in Wildlife, CCR's habitat restoration has been undertaken through the direction of Wetland Habitat Alliance of Texas and the Nature Conservancy of Texas.

Every effort has been made to protect and preserve endangered wildlife species and to create an environment that focuses on the best that Texas has to offer. Our alliances with local, state, and federal organizations demonstrate the strength of ecology and economy by working together.

Cactus Creek Ranch, Mary Jo Bogatto
P.O. Box 465
Rio Hondo, TX 78583
(817) 201-9697

024.gif LTC 024 Laguna Atascosa NWR

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Continue east on FM 106 to Buena Vista Rd., and then travel north on Buena Vista Rd. to its end at the Laguna Atascosa NWR Visitors Center. Before you reach the Visitors Center, however, you will pass the Whitetail Trail, a 5-mile walking loop that is best birded in the early morning. Scrub birds such as Greater Roadrunner and Bewick’s Wren are easily seen (and heard) in this area. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes favor this habitat as well, so be cautious.

Although the trails are open year round, the Visitors Center is open seasonally (October through April), and then on a limited basis through the summer months. Check at the entrance for the exact dates and times the Center will be open, or call the Refuge at (956) 748-3607.

Laguna Atascosa NWR comprises nearly 50,000 acres of coastal Tamaulipan brush, grasslands, lomas, and tidal flats. There are plans to considerably expand the Refuge. Walk the short trails around the Visitors Center which have been enhanced with plantings and watering sites. During migration, warblers, Painted Buntings, Summer Tanagers, orioles, and other colorful species come to the birdbath near the Visitors Center. Common Valley species such as White-tipped Dove, Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Olive Sparrow, and Long-billed Thrasher are often seen during an early morning or late evening walk. Yellow-green Vireos have nested in this general area. The Mesquite Trail (a 1.5 mile loop that begins at the west end of the parking lot) is a worthwhile stroll during early mornings and evenings; watch for Nine-banded Armadillo and Long-tailed Weasel.

From the Visitors Center, continue to the 15-mile Bayside Drive that accesses the broad range of habitats within the Refuge. Walking trails like the Paisano Trail cross through typical Tamaulipan brush hosting Verdin and Painted Bunting. The Redhead Ridge Overlook is worth the short hike to the top of the hill. A spotting scope is useful to pick through the myriad of wintering ducks. Most of the world’s Redheads winter on the Laguna Madre, and at times tens of thousands can be seen from this location.

Be sure to watch for Aplomado Falcon. These endangered raptors, once common in the Valley, are being reintroduced to the Refuge. They are often seen along the Bayside Drive.

Returning to the Visitors Center, continue to the Lakeside Drive (which begins just past the Visitors Center to your left). This drive crosses an old resaca where many species of waterfowl may be seen in the winter. The road leads to the Osprey Overlook on the Laguna Madre. The fields surrounding this area host large numbers of Sandhill Cranes and geese in the winter. Always check any large blackbird in the Refuge, it may be a Groove-billed Ani (particularly in summer). Departing the Refuge, be sure to look for Sandhill Cranes (in winter), and grassland shorebirds such as American Golden-Plover and Upland Sandpiper (spring) in the agricultural fields that border the Refuge. Return to Harlingen, to the intersection of Loop 499 (Ed Carey Blvd.) and FM 106.


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