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Big Bend Chapter

Program: Field Trip – Independence Creek Preserve

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[from Michael Eason]

Program: Field Trip – Independence Creek Preserve (Texas Nature Conservancy Property)
Date: Sunday August 14th, 2022
Time: Depart from ALP at 8am-ish to 5pm-ish from the UC (University Center) Parking lot on Sul Ross Campus (corner of E Ave B and Harrison ST)

Howdy Big Benders!

Our next, and final program for the season will be to Independence Creek Preserve (Texas Nature Conservancy Property). We really do not have a limit on the number of folks that can attend this trip, but we will need to carpool. Given attendance over the past few programs, we estimated upwards to 40 folks might attend. And Just FYI, we’re up to 120 members in our chapter!

It is about 2.5hrs from Alpine to ICP, which is located in Terrell CO. The route will take us through Sanderson (we will stop to fill up with gas/restrooms break in Sanderson), then to Dryden, we will then head north towards Sheffield and then onto ICP. The preserve is about 20k acres, but we will mostly be around the compound, where all the pools are and the spring which feeds the pools (which pumps out 3-5k gallons per minute). If they have had rain, we may do a bit of botanizing along the lower hills adjacent to the pools.

The pools and the adjacent Independence Creek Proper, which we will visit, holds much of the diversity, with plenty of birds (bring binocs), aquatic life, including some of those plants Casey Willams noted. I would estimate we will spend about 2-3 hours onsite, including lunch break.

And speaking of lunch, please bring your own, or if you are with a group, organize it amongst yourselves. I would advise each vehicle to have their own ice chest with drinks as well.

While I will be in West Texas over this weekend, because of my work schedule, I may not attend this trip, and thus may not have my cooler/s with me. This is not firm yet, but at this point I cannot commit to the ICP trip.

Of course bring comfortable shoes, we will not be doing any extensive hiking, but walking around the pools, and along the gravel within the creek. There is a chance you’ll get wet, whether on purpose or not, so plan accordingly. Water shoes such as sandals work just fine for me. Hats, sunscreen, and other appropriate wear is recommended. Check the weather the day prior, as I have been caught in a rainstorm in the past while working at ICP.

Some folks have gone for a quick dip in the pools in the past, if you wish, there will be an opportunity to go for a swim/wade.

We will return the same route, and again about a 2.5 hour trip via Dryden.

For those worried about walking/hiking too much – the area is very much developed, especially the pool area, concrete/flagstone walkways, plenty of shade provided by pecans and other trees, and generally a very relaxing area just to hang out/have a picnic for an hour or two, don’t feel you’ll need to walk extensively, as I am sure with a large group of folks, we’ll probably break up into at least two smaller groups. I highly recommend this trip, even if it’s just for the scenery.

Please RSVP to big-bend-chapter@npsot.org so we have an idea how many people will be joining this trip, and begin to organize drivers.

Michael Eason

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason