Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge – Alamo, TX
I’m not going to lie and tell you that I went into the idea of visiting Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge with nothing but a love of hiking because that is extremely false! After my first visit, and a few subsequent visits to similar places, I am finding myself truly enjoying hiking but at the time we went to Santa Ana in Alamo, TX there was only one reason I wanted to go…
…the canopy walk. On our first visit we visited the visitor’s center just like you should and showed our pass that got us in for free and looked around the gift shop a bit. The very helpful staff routed us a way to go on the map and we set out to get to it. The very second you start on your walk it’s flat out gorgeous. Off to the side is a little pond and apparently a little blue snake lives over there and sometimes makes appearances for visitors. Bird feeders and fruit dot the area encouraging birds to come into the shade and have a bite while birders can watch from benches nearby.
First thing, the scenery of this place is just gorgeous but it is insanely hot during the warmer months (we went in May). It’s hot and sticky and mosquitoes will eat you ALIVE. We used bug spray, albeit not as well as we should have, on our first visit. And on the evening of that first visit I tried desperately not to scratch all of the bites I had incurred including 34 on my right thigh alone. Yes. THIRTY FOUR!
On our second visit we did much better bringing Deep Woods Off and making sure we applied it heavily.
Now though this is a place to preserve wildlife we really only ever saw a ton of bunnies, like this guy here, just as many grackles and a handful of chachalacas on both visits. Neither were afraid of us so we were able to get fairly close up pictures so we got our fill of bunny pics! Though we went at two different times (middle of the day and later in the evening when suggested by staff for better birding) we only managed the same creatures.
Few of the paths are paved and that makes for a very fun, “look, we’re explorers!” kind of a vibe to the place. Some are actually a bit overgrown which is probably why Rob had to schedule a visit with the doctor after he had so many chigger bites the day after our initial visit.
Apparently this is way the land was just as it was found way back in the day before the development of the area into subdivisions and superstores. The historical marker at this place reads:
The 15-square-mile Santa Ana land grant was awarded by Mexico to Benigno Leal in 1834. Leal established his Rancho de Adentro (inside ranch) headquarters and cemetery at this site. Leal’s original grant was eventually combined with adjacent lands to form the “Alamo Tract” which between 1910 and 1930 was converted to farmland by the Louisiana and Rio Grande Canal Company. The tract’s southern section nevertheless retained its natural riverine forest environment and was acquired by the U. S. government in 1943 to create the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
The signs around the paths are highly confusing. Or perhaps Rob and I are just idiots. On our first visit we only made it to the canopy walk, as you might remember from previously stated in this post, was the sole reason for visiting, after SEVERAL hours of wandering around lost on the paths. Our second visit we went straight to it by following the road that is blocked off from traffic (the route to the old nature center). So if that is what you’re looking for, just hit that road straight off of the side of the parking lot (just be sure to go inside and pay your entry fee, first!)
The canopy itself is pretty awesome. It swings with the motion of your walking and also with the wind as it blows. It’s definitely sturdy but a bit freaky for anybody a bit afraid of heights as I am.
It’s very high off of the ground but it isn’t quite as isolated and serene as we had thought it would be from the pics on the brochures we had seen.
Immediately next to the canopy is a taller observation tower and both are in direct view of a road (the one I mentioned we walked to get there more quickly the second time). See the canopy just behind Rob at the bottom of this pic?
Though very, very cool we felt a bit robbed by the camera angles that made this place seem isolated, deep in the heart of the park.
Would we go again? Absolutely and we are very excited about bringing our family on future visits.
We’d suggest you dress comfortably and bring plenty of water and bug spray. You’re gonna need it! If you’re looking for exotic birds, I’d highly suggest looking into other options, but if you want to hike some interesting trails and see some pretty magical looking areas draped in Spanish Moss, I’d highly encourage a visit!