Friday, May 27, 2011

Lower White Rock Creek Valley Trails

White Rock Creek runs south from Dallas' best-known land form, White Rock Lake. But for all the popularity of the old city reservoir, the creek that first had the name remains scarcely recognized. Once the water of the creek leaves the White Rock Lake Spillway in dramatic fashion it begins a slow and methodical march towards the Trinity River.

Texas Horned Lizard in Dallas at Devon Anderson Park

Piedmont Ridge Trail Lower White Rock Creek

Lower White Rock Creek, on its way to the vast hardwood bottoms of the Great Trinity Forest, runs nearly unknown through some of the city's best natural areas and most historic neighborhoods. This is the land that the Caddo and Comanche consider sacred ground. This is the land that sustained the first pioneers that settled Dallas. This is the land where Sam Houston and his men camped on the way to work a peace treaty. You do not have to look in a book or read accounts of the sites to imagine what it must have been like. Using these trails you can stand on the ancient sacred ground of the Comanche, wander across the old pioneer Beeman and Bryan homesteads, stand at the spring where President Sam Houston camped. All of it is still there, untouched. Dallas over the last century and a half grew up around it, oddly leaving it in it's original condition.

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea (Asteraceae) in Lower White Rock Creek meadow

Video overview of trails:

The Lower White Rock Creek Trails are comprised of an ever expanding 4 mile soft surface trail network spanning three different City of Dallas Parks. JJ Beeman/Scyene Overlook on Scyene Road, Grover Keeton Park which includes Piedmont Ridge Trail and Devon Anderson Park south of Bruton Road. The JJ Beeman Trail starts near the corner of Lawnview and Scyene near the DART Lawnview Station and continues east to the Scyene Overlook. From there the trail roughly follows an Austin Chalk Escarpment high above the White Rock Creek Valley. One can see the VA Hospital in South Dallas, Duncanville, Hutchins as well as Downtown Dallas. The trail continues through Grover Keeton Park, up Piedmont Ridge, across Bruton and into Devon Anderson Park. 

Scyene Overlook with view of Great Trinity Forest

JJ Beeman Trail Scyene Overlook Trail Junction

Piedmont Ridge Trailhead Grover Keeton Park

Access to the trails are easiest from the Grover Keeton Parking Lot on Jim Miller Road; Devon Anderson Park on Umphress Road or via DART on the Green Line to Lawnview. Scyene Overlook is also just a quick 15 minute or less ride from White Rock Lake.


North Trailhead for Scyene Overlook:
2800 Renda Street Dallas

Grover Keeton and Gateway Park:
2300 Jim Miller Road

Devon Anderson Park:
1700 Eastcliff

White Rock Creek Trails Map --green dot notes Lawnview DART Rail Station on  Scyene. Yellow dots mark formal trailheads for Scyene Overlook, Piedmont Ridge Trail and Devon Anderson.

Some sections of the trails feature steep switchbacks, loose rocks and off camber surfaces. Caution should be taken when hiking or mountain biking these areas. Technical climbs and descents along with some steep dropoffs warrant diligence if you are riding a mountain bike. Some sections will require dismounts by even experienced riders.  

Devon Anderson Park sign noting distances to Comanche Storytelling Place .2 mile and one of the overlooks .4 mile.

Piedmont Ridge Overlook

Comanche Storytelling Place Devon Anderson Park Dallas, Texas

The Comanche Story Telling Place at Devon Anderson Park has been identified by the Comanche Nation as a sacred holy ground and has been identified as a candidate for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The natural limestone shaped amphitheatre was believed to have been used by Native Americans in the area prior to European settlement. Gateway Park was also the site of an Indian Marker tree, over 300 years old that served as a guide to Native Americans in the area. This tree was lost in 1998 during a thunderstorm.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Howling Coyotes of the Trinity River

Video above features coyotes howling(turn up volume) at McCommas Bluff Preserve on the Trinity River May 7, 2011 at 6pm in Dallas. The coyotes were on the opposite bank of the river and just inside the treeline.Although coyotes are considered a nocturnal animal it is interesting to see and hear them during daylight hours. In this rather wild part of Dallas County, many animals considered nocturnal can be seen during the day. This is because of the remote environs in which they live. They rarely if ever see a human and as a result do not fear human interaction. McCommas Bluff served as a great backdrop to hear the coyotes since the 40 foot high walls of the bluffs magnified their howls, crys and bays.

McCommas Bluff Preserve Riverwood Road Dallas, Texas

Coyote or hybrid wild Coydog at Rochester Park Fall 2009

Howling is the main way for coyotes to communicate with others. While some people find it unnerving, this howl serves many purposes, none of which are malicious:
  1. Coyotes are telling non-family members to stay out of their territory.
  2. Family members howl as a means to locate each other within their territory.
  3. Pups practice howling and can be very vocal in late summer as they attempt to mimic their parents.
  4. When there is a potential threat towards the pups, the older coyotes will scatter throughout the area and howl in order to distract the threat away from the den site. 

Mark Twain

The coyote is a long, slim, slick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of foresakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye and a long sharp face, with a slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry, he is always poor, out of luck and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spiritless and cowardly that even when his exposed teeth are pretending a threat the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely - so scrawny, ribby, coarse haired and pitiful".- Mark Twain

The coyote appears often in the tales and traditions of American Indian Tribes—usually as a very savvy and clever beast. Modern coyotes have displayed their cleverness by adapting to the changing American landscape. These members of the dog family once lived primarily in open prairies and deserts, but now roam the continent's forests and mountains. They have even colonized cities like Dallas, and are now found over most of North America. Coyote populations are likely at an all-time high.

Coyotes are typically most active at night and increased sightings can be correlated with the January thru February breeding season and during the fall months when pups leave the family unit to establish new ranges.  Coyotes are most often heard howling or yelping during these times of increased activity.  Coyotes mainly range along creeks, rivers and in wooded areas and are continuously relocating. 
These adaptable animals will eat almost anything. They hunt rabbits, rodents, fish, frogs, and even deer. They also happily dine on insects, snakes, fruit, grass, and carrion. Because they sometimes kill lambs, calves, or other livestock, as well as pets, many ranchers and farmers regard them as destructive pests.

Coyotes are formidable in the field where they enjoy keen vision and a strong sense of smell. They can run up to 40 miles an hour. In the fall and winter, they form packs for more effective hunting.

Coyotes form strong family groups. In spring, females den and give birth to litters of three to twelve pups. Both parents feed and protect their young and their territory. The pups are able to hunt on their own by the following fall.

Coyotes are smaller than wolves and are sometimes called prairie wolves or brush wolves. They communicate with a distinctive call, which at night often develops into a raucous canine chorus.

Coyote behavior varies depending upon its environment. In the wild where they are actively hunted and trapped, coyotes are generally elusive. Near cities or in areas where hunting and trapping is not allowed, coyotes may be aggressive. In urban settings, they can lose their fear of people and may even threaten domestic pets. Although attacks on humans are extremely rare, there have been cases where coyotes have bitten people. As a result, people must be aware of their presence and take precautions to avoid conflict with them inside the Dallas city limits.