Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Los Ranchos de Tejas Loop

Los Ranchos de Tejas Loop map

Los Ranchos de Tejas Loop mapOlmos CreekSarita/ The Kenedy RanchTxDOT Sarita Rest AreaTxDOT Brooks County Rest AreaLa Sal del Rey TractBrushline Road/ Tres Corales RanchUSFWS La Sal Vieja - Teniente TractDelta Lake County ParkUSFWS La Sal Vieja - East Lake TractThe Inn at El CaneloKing Ranch Norias Unit

map legend

More information:

  • Raymondville/Willacy County Area Chamber of Commerce
    Phone: (956) 689-3171
    Email: chamber@vsta.com
    Web: www.mccharen.com/birding, http://mccharen.com/raymondville

001.gif LTC 001 Olmos Creek

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons; especially Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

From the final site on the Central Texas Coast section (CTC 095) of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail (GTCBT), the intersection of TX 285 and US 77, continue south on US 77 to Olmos Creek. Olmos Creek marks the beginning of the Kenedy County sandsheet and the immense expanse of coastal grasslands and isolated oak mottes of the Texas coastal ranch country. South of Olmos Creek, birds considered specialties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (Valley) such as Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and Crested Caracara become common— in fact, more common than along the Rio Grande itself.

002.gif LTC 002 Sarita/The Kenedy Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on US 77 from Olmos Creek to Sarita, the seat of Kenedy County, one of Texas’ least populated counties (pop. 400). Enter Sarita on La Parra Ave., and continue west two blocks to Mallory St. Go north on Mallory St. to Cueller Ave. and the seasonal wetlands. Return to La Parra and continue to the courthouse. Check for Cave Swallows, scan the neighborhood feeders for Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, and watch for Hooded Orioles that nest in the thick fronds fringing the palm trees. Continue west on La Parra (check the seasonal wetlands just west of the baseball field), cross the railroad tracks, and continue to its end at Garcia Rd. (0.2 mile). To reach the marsh, turn left on Garcia Rd., continuing about 0.2 mile. Construction of an elevated boardwalk, a blind, and a picnic area is planned for this site. Least Grebes breed in the marsh and a variety of brush-country birds are present year round. During summer, Painted Buntings sing nearby and the marsh may be covered with Yellow Lotus blossoms.

The Kenedy Ranch has arranged with Sanborn’s Tours (877-253-6339 or http://kenedy-ranch.org) to conduct scheduled trips on a pre-arranged, groups-only basis. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Audubon’s Oriole, Northern Beardless- Tyrannulet, Tropical Parula, and Botteri’s Sparrow are among the Valley specialties that proliferate on the Ranch. No trip to the Valley should be scheduled without a stay at one of the great Texas ranches that offer access to birders: the King (CTC 087), the Kenedy, and El Canelo (LTC 010).

003.gif LTC 003 TxDOT Sarita Rest Area

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Leaving Sarita, continue about 6 miles south on US 77 to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Sarita Rest Area. Although difficult to find, Tropical Parula nests here (listen for its song). Buff-bellied Hummingbirds are often found in the Texas Wild Olive (Anacahuita) in the right-of-way on the west side of US 77. Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, and Lesser Goldfinch are relatively common. Brown-crested Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Hooded Oriole (nesting in the palms) are present in late spring through fall. A quick stop here before crossing the ranch country is always time well spent.

004.gif LTC 004 TxDOT Brooks County (Falfurrias) Rest Area

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

There are two major highways that reach the Valley: US 77 and US 281. The GTCBT takes advantage of both. Before rushing south on US 77, return to the intersection of TX 285 and US 77 in Riviera (CTC 095), travel west on TX 285 (Hawk Alley) toward Falfurrias. In Falfurrias, go south on US 281 to the TxDOT Brooks County Rest Area, popularly known as the Falfurrias rest stop. This facility includes a nature trail that meanders through a stand of oaks and has a pond (with running water). In the evening, this small pond attracts an amazing variety of birds that come in to bathe and drink. Summer Tanager, Tufted Titmouse (black-crested form), Lesser Goldfinch and Painted Bunting are just a few of the species that are attracted by the water drip and pond. Hooded Orioles nest in the palms. During summer and fall, butterflies and dragonflies may be abundant here.

005.gif LTC 005 USFWS La Sal del Rey Tract

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on US 281 to the intersection of TX 186. Go east on TX 186 to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) La Sal del Rey tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (LRGVNWR). In winter, be sure to watch for flocks of Lark Buntings along the shoulders of TX 186. None of the LRGVNWR tracts have facilities (water, restrooms). Information about specific tracts is available at the Santa Ana NWR headquarters (LTC 059). Additionally, a public information map of this tract is posted 2.3 miles west of Brushline Rd. on TX 186 near the GTCBT site sign. A bird species list covering all the tracts, restoration of native habitat and other enhancements are planned.

La Sal del Rey (the salt of the King) is named after its principal geological feature: a 530-acre salt lake. Salt has been mined at the lake since aboriginal people occupied the land. The salt trade represented one of the first commercial enterprises by the Spaniards in this part of what was once Mexico.

Entry points (trailheads) may be accessed off of TX 186, Chapa Rd., Brushline Rd., and an unnamed dirt road that T’s into Brushline Rd. The trailheads allow access to an extensive network of trails east of Brushline Rd. A map indicating access points may be obtained from the Santa Ana NWR headquarters at (956) 787-3079.

Please note: On all USFWS Tracts, do not block gates.

Try to arrive at La Sal del Rey before dawn during the winter. Park at the public information spot on TX 186 where you’ll be rewarded by the early morning exodus of roosting Sandhill Cranes (4,000–10,000), Snow Geese (few hundred– 10,000), and as many as 3,000 Long-billed Curlews (they leave while it is still dark). At dusk, park at the northernmost entry site on Brushline Rd. and hike to the lake where you’ll be able to see the curlews, cranes and geese return, silhouetted against the sunset over the lake. This is also a good place to find wintering Say’s Phoebes. During the summer, Snowy Plovers and other shorebirds nest along the lake’s edge, and hundreds of Wilson’s Phalaropes are often spotted during migration. White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara and other Valley specialties can be seen year-round.

006.gif LTC 006 Brushline Road/Tres Corales Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Brushline Rd., bordering USFWS tracts and Tres Corales Ranch, offers excellent birding opportunities. In prickly-pear cactus bordering the road, look (and listen) for Cactus Wren, and watch for Curve-billed Thrashers perched on the barbed-wire fences. Return to TX 186 and go east approximately 2 miles to the Tres Corales Pond, an extensive freshwater lake where migratory waterfowl and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks abound. Portions of these properties are private, so restrict birding to the shoulder of TX 186 (the pond is easily viewed through a spotting scope).

007.gif LTC 007 USFWS La Sal Vieja - Teniente Tract

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 186, and continue east on TX 186 to FM 493. Immediately east of FM 493, TX 186 intersects three dirt roads heading north. The public information map for La Sal Vieja-Teniente Tract is located at the north end of the western-most of these three roads (watch for the GTCBT sign). All three roads connect at their northern ends, creating a loop for the western side of La Sal Vieja.

Park along these dirt roads (remember, don’t block any gates). The eastern-most of the roads from FM 493 has five trailheads and crosses a drainage area of La Sal Vieja. From this location, American White Pelicans (mostly winter and in migrations) and Wood Storks (fall) may be visible on the lake. The smaller pond at the north end of the center road is a good spot for Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and migrating Wilson’s Phalaropes. The open grassland and fields are being re-vegetated, offering excellent habitat for sparrows and hawks.

008.gif LTC 008 Delta Lake County Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to the intersection of TX 186 and FM 493. Go east on TX 186 to FM 88 (immediately east of the third road that accesses the Teniente Tract). Go south on FM 88 approximately 5 miles to Delta Lake County Park. This county park is a multi-use facility, with picnic tables, restrooms and other amenities. The lake often hosts numbers of Ospreys, Ringed Kingfishers occur periodically. The wetlands bordering the lake are worth searching for rails and other waterbirds. Migrants often flock around the picnic areas in the stands of oaks and ash during spring and fall. Tens of thousands of Tree Swallows have been seen at Delta Lake during spring and fall migration, gorging on midges as they swarm over the marshes.

009.gif LTC 009 USFWS La Sal Vieja - East Lake Tract

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 186 and continue east to FM 1761. Go north on FM 1761 approximately 2.5 miles, FM 1761 will curve dramatically back to the east. Continue north instead, and travel on a dirt (caliche) road, crossing a bridge, until you reach the first road that veers to the west. Go west on this unmarked road to its end and the trailhead entrance to the East Lake Tract. Please park along this road, be careful not to block any gates.

Sandhill Cranes roost here, but not in the spectacular numbers found at La Sal del Rey. Bobcats, White-tailed Deer and Javelina are frequently seen. Valley specialties including White-tipped Dove, Harris’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, and White-tailed Hawk frequent this region. Follow the right fork of the trail, then take the first left for lake access (and a wetland area before the lake). Follow this left fork, and bear right at the intersection to see nesting birds on the peninsulas built into the lake. During nesting season these areas are restricted, please respect these closures.

010.gif LTC 010 The Inn at El Canelo

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Fee charged.

Return to TX 186 and continue east to Raymondville and US 77. Go north on US 77 approximately 10 miles to The Inn at El Canelo on the west side of US 77. Arrangements (with precise directions) must be made in advance for access to this private ranch and lodge. Several of the sites on the GTCBT are privately owned, so please respect the wishes of the owners and arrange for access well in advance. El Canelo Ranch is famous among birders for the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls that reside in the yard around the Inn. Few places in the Valley offer a more comfortable (or assured) accommodation for seeing this rare tropical owl. Cave Swallows nest on the ranch and White-tailed Hawks are frequently seen in this brush country.

The Inn at El Canelo
Monica and Ray Burdette
P.O. Box 487
Raymondville, Texas 78580
Phone: (956) 689-5042
Email: elcanel@granderiver.net
Web: www.elcaneloranch.com

011.gif LTC 011 King Ranch Norias Unit

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Fee charged.

Continue north on US 77 approximately 10 miles to the private King Ranch Norias Unit. The King Ranch (CTC 087) offers an impressive variety of nature tours, including the Norias Unit with the opportunity to see most of the more tropical species such as Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Tropical Parula, and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Contact the King Ranch at (361) 592-8055, krvisitormgmt@interconnect.net, or visit www.king-ranch.com/kingranch/visit.htm. Return to the intersection of US 77 and TX 186 in Raymondville.


Back to Top
Back to Top