Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Santa Ana Loop

Santa Ana Loop map

Santa Ana loopSanta Ana NWRBoys and Girls Club of AlamoEdinburg Scenic Wetland TrailsUSFWS Monte Cristo TractQuinta MazatlanMcAllen Convention CenterMcAllen Nature CenterMcAllen Sewage PondsHidalgo Pumphouse Discovery and Heritage Center

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More information:

  • Alamo Chamber of Commerce
    Phone: (956) 787-2117
    Email: alamocc@hiline.net
    Web: www.hiline.net/~alamocc/
  • Edinburg Chamber of Commerce
    Phone: (800) 800-7214, (956) 383-4974
    Email: info@edinburg.com
    Web: www.edinburg.com
  • Hidalgo Chamber of Commerce
    Phone: (956) 843-2734, (800) 580-2215
    Email: yesac956@aol.com
    Web: www.hidalgotexas.com

059.gif LTC 059 Santa Ana NWR

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Go west on US 281 from its intersection with FM 88 to the entrance to the Santa Ana NWR. The Visitors Center is now open seven days a week, all year round, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (excluding major holidays). Beginning the day after Thanksgiving through May, a wildlife tram operates seven days a week, and the wildlife drive is closed to vehicular traffic. When the tram is not operating, the wildlife drive is open two days a week (days subject to change). For a schedule and additional information contact the Refuge at (956) 787-3079.

Check the butterfly gardens planted in front of the Center. In late September or October as many as 75 species of butterflies have been seen during a single visit to these gardens. Many of these butterflies are only found in South Texas.

At the Visitors Center, check the sightings list, ask for a map of the trail system and information on owl prowls, canoe trips and other activities that can produce unusual species like the Elf Owl. Then check the water drip and feeders along the entrance to the all-weather trails. During the morning, the replenished feeders are magnets for White-tipped Dove, Plain Chachalaca, Olive Sparrow, and Green Jay. Look for Green Kingfisher from the bridge on the irrigation canal. Walk the trail to Willow Lake to look for waterfowl (particularly Least Grebe), “Texas” Red-shouldered Hawks perched in the trees, and a variety of shorebirds in the shallows. Tropical Parulas nest in the Refuge (infrequently) where they weave their nests in the strands of Spanish Moss. Watch for the long pendulous nests of the Altamira Oriole. Clay-colored Robin has been found along this trail in the past. Unless the Refuge is extremely dry, during winter and migration you should see all three kingfishers on this walk. Many unusual Valley hawks such as Gray Hawk, Hook-billed Kite, and Common Black-Hawk (very rare) have been seen soaring over the woods. This Spanish Moss-lined trail often attracts tropical butterflies such as Julia, Zebra, and Mexican Bluewing. The large iridescent green dragonfly that seems to follow your every step is the Great Pondhawk.

Check the old headquarters site for Buff-bellied, Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, and (wintering) Rufous hummingbirds. The ancient Texas Ebony here attracts numbers of migrant landbirds, be sure to listen for the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet’s bee, bee, bee. Most winters, Tropical Parula is found in this area, and Rose-throated Becards have nested here in years past. The Pintail Lake trail leads to the largest lake in the Refuge, and (depending on season and water levels) is an excellent spot to find a variety of waterfowl, large wading birds and shorebirds.

You may also return to the Visitors Center via a trail that borders the eastern edge of Willow Lake. Look for Texas Indigo Snake, Texas Spiny Lizard, and Rose-bellied Lizard along this trail, check the cattails for Common Yellowthroat and Marsh Wren. Sora is often seen sneaking through the cattails, so take your time and walk quietly as you traverse this area.There are a number of trails that include access to the Rio Grande. An early morning walk into the depths of the Refuge is always rewarding.

During migration (fall, more than spring), stand on the levee that borders the north edge of the Refuge and watch the skies for flights of raptors. Hundreds of thousands of hawks (including but not limited to Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Mississippi Kite, and accipiters) pass over this area as they venture to and from the tropics. A massing of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks settling into Santa Ana NWR to roost for the evening is a sight no one should miss.

060.gif LTC 060 Boys and Girls Club of Alamo

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Continue west on US 281 to FM 907, and then go north on FM 907 approximately 7 miles to Duranta Ave. Go west on Duranta Ave. to the Boys and Girls Club of Alamo. This facility is bordered by a remnant tract of brush, and is worth checking for Valley specialties and vagrants.

061.gif LTC 061 Edinburg Scenic Wetland Trails

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

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

Return to FM 907, and go north on FM 907 to US 83. Go west on US 83 to US 281, and then travel north on US 281 to TX 107 (the University exit). Go east on TX 107 to Doolittle Rd., and then travel south on Doolittle Rd. to the Edinburg Municipal Park. The entrance to the nature trail, which is being developed as a unit of the WBC, is located at the rear (western border) of the Park.

Edinburg has transformed this wastewater outflow into a remarkable wetland complex. The water is so clear as to allow one to see Diamond-backed Watersnakes slithering through the vegetation that covers the bottom of the ponds. Both Green and Ringed kingfishers may be found here, as well as an impressive variety of waterfowl. Black-necked Stilts and Least Bitterns nest here in summer. Dragonflies are diverse most of the year.

062.gif LTC 062 USFWS Monte Cristo Tract

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

From the intersection of TX 107 and US 281, continue north on US 281 to FM 1925. Go west on FM 1925 approximately 7 miles to Wallace Rd. Head north on Wallace Rd. 3.5 miles to the USFWS Monte Cristo Tract. Look for the public information point along Wallace Rd. You can walk along a canal and road to access the property that extends west of Wallace Rd. In wet years, there are a number of ponds that hold waterfowl. There are few enhancements, but this site is comprised of an impressive thicket of native vegetation and is worth a look. Remember, native South Texas thicket is also prime habitat for Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, so always be alert (here and all along the GTCBT).

063.gif LTC 063 Quinta Mazatlan

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site access restricted. Call ahead. World Birding Center site.

Return south on US 281 to US 83, and go west to McAllen and TX 336 (10th Street). Go south about 1 mile on TX 336 to Sunset. Turn east (left) on Sunset and continue to its end at Quinta Mazatlan. This historic mansion with extensively landscaped grounds is owned by the City of McAllen and is being developed as a unit of the WBC. The aged oaks on the property are especially attractive to migrant land birds, and the grounds host a wide variety of Valley birds such as Plain Chachalaca, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, and Green Jay. To make arrangements to bird the grounds call (956) 682-1517.

064.gif LTC 064 McAllen Convention Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 336 (10th Street) and turn right. Drive north several blocks on TX 336, crossing its intersection with US 83, and continue north about one block to the McAllen Convention Center on your left. A butterfly garden is proposed for this site; however, at this time the location is best known for the Mexican Ground Squirrels and Long-billed Curlews that frequent the mowed front lawn.

Before traveling west on BUS 83, you may want to continue north on TX 336 (10th Street) to its intersection with Violet Ave. Near dusk, Red-crowned Parrots and dozens to over 100 Green Parakeets roost in this area.

065.gif LTC 065 McAllen Nature Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

From the McAllen Convention Center, go north to BUS 83, then west on BUS 83 approximately 2 miles to the McAllen Nature Center. This small park contains an amazing variety of native plants, and an extensive all-weather trail system. Many of the Valley specialties may be found at this location, as well as species such as Cactus Wren and Curve-billed Thrasher. Of course, the plantings attract a variety of butterflies.

066.gif LTC 066 McAllen Sewage Ponds

Suggested Seasons to visit: Wet seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return east on BUS 83 to Spur 115, and then go south on Spur 115 to Idela Dr. Go west on Idela approximately 1.5 miles to the McAllen Sewage Ponds. Look for the sign that welcomes birders. Drive on the levee to your south; be cautious in this area after a heavy rain. The water levels in these ponds vary dramatically, so the opportunity to bird will depend upon how much water is available. When the ponds contain water, a variety of water birds and shorebirds may be seen. In the spring, these shallow ponds are one of the area’s best spots to see migrant ducks, terns, and shorebirds. Both Snowy Plovers and Least Terns have nested along the edge of the ponds.

067.gif LTC 067 The Hidalgo Pumphouse Discovery and Heritage Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

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

Continue south on Spur 115 about 4 miles to US 281. Go east on US 281 to 3rd Street; go south one block on 3rd Street to Texana, and travel one block west on Texana to 2nd Street. Go south on 2nd Street to the Hidalgo Pumphouse Discovery and Heritage Center entrance. This facility is being incorporated into the WBC, and represents an interesting merger of natural and social history. The USFWS owns a tract of land south of the Center adjacent to the Rio Grande, this area may be birded from the walkway that borders the Pumphouse. Being situated higher than the bordering woodlands, a birder is offered the opportunity to see the canopy as migrants sweep along the River. Future plans include the development of a more extensive trail system that will access the USFWS property. Return to Spur 115 and continue north about 3 miles to FM 1016.


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