Friday, November 21, 2014

Goat Island Preserve Hiking Dallas County's New Nature Trail

The mighty Lock and Dam #2 on the Trinity River in Dallas County's Goat Island Preserve

The usually placid and calm river grumbles and roars here in protest. A place whose concrete buttresses stand as a monument to a grand idea and best laid intentions of past generations run afoul. An aspirational dream of transforming the Trinity River from a naturally coursed stream into a boondoggle of an idea that never got off the ground. The river, the longest wholly inside the State of Texas had other plans. No public place on the river can serve as a more telling landscape to witness this than at Lock and Dam #2 at Goat Island Preserve.

Location:
2800 Post Oak Road Trailhead at 2800 Post Oak Road Wilmer, Texas
From Dallas take I-45 south to the Fulghum Road exit, head east where it eventually turns into Post Oak. Trailhead is easy to spot at one of the 90 degree bends in the road. New trailhead parking lot and sign note the entrance. One or two parking spots exist at the Beltline Road bridge but might interfere with ongoing construction activities if you park for extended periods.

Contact:
http://www.dorba.org/trail.php?t=41 
goatisland@dorba.org
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Goat-Island-Preserve/523646911091310

Goat Island Trails:
Goat Island Preserve features two cutoff meanders that create islands in the river channel when the water is high. On the west bank of the river a large 1910-1920 era levee exists that runs from Post Oak to Beltline Road. As of this writing in November 2014, logging work is ongoing along the levee to clear trees. Borrow pits rest on either side and a lower dirt road trail runs between the levee and the river. Towering oaks and pecans are prominent here among succession forest. Lock and Dam #2 sits on the Trinity River just upstream of the Beltline Road bridge.

Trail Map
Blue and Red marked lines are old ranch roads. The smaller yellow lines are trails currently built or are under construction.
The locals call it Goat Island. Outsiders don't even know it exists. One man (you can help too) looks to change that obscurity into a well trodden path for hikers and mountain bikers at one of the best wilderness areas in Dallas County. He is Goat Island's Trail Steward and volunteer Joe Johnson.
Trail builder and trail steward Joe Johnson explaining to Master Naturalist Bill Holston how he worked some overlook sites into his trail designs at Goat Island
Joe is nearly a one man show with the miles of smiles he is building on the west bank of the Trinity River. With the blessings of Dallas County Open Space Program and the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association DORBA his mileage constructed increases monthly.  It is from Beltline Road that his trails start a series of ever meandering loops and views of the Trinity River.









Joe Johnson's carefully planned loops work across old roadbeds that run parallel to the Trinity River. His trail loops radiate out from those established old farm roads built many decades ago when this was a working farm.

The double tracked trail into the preserve on either end follows the old farm road that had pig pens and barns on the north side of the preserve during the Little Oaks Farm era. Some faint traces of the old farm can still be seen if you look closely through the brush.











Old fence lines, some old gates and detritus from the old ranch are still visible. The old road to the north end sits on the Trinity Terrace sands, a slightly elevated piece of topography above the waxy clay of the river bottoms to the east.

This has always been a bottomland prone to immense flooding and the ruining of a cotton crop overnight. The wide swath of land here that Goat Island Preserve sits on is a collection of old farms that once fronted the river at the turn of the last century.

Clint Murchison Sr amassed a large holding of real estate down here in the many thousands of acres during the Great Depression from those old farms. The land holdings went by the name Bluebird Farm, the old signs in some of the pastures still note the name on ornate steel archways. Bluebird Farm was a land holding company that had roots in Dallas and back home to the Murchisons in Athens, Texas.

Little Oaks Farm and the namesake of Goat Island
Murchison Sr owned the land here for decades using it has a cotton farm, cattle grazing operation and hunting lease. Murchison later sold a portion of the Bluebird Farm, 500 acres, land now called Goat Island Preserve to one of his own employees, Zedrick Moore.


Zedrick Moore tending to his exotic sheep
Zedrick and Betty Moore's Little Oaks Farm was most likely the namesake for Goat Island. They bought the land here from the Murchisons shortly after their wedding. The husband Zedrick was an employee of Clint Murchison Sr. Their old ranch house still stands today, built by them in the early 1950s. It is directly across from the entrance to Goat Island Preserve and is surrounded on three sides by graveled mining pits.

 It is from the north end of Goat Island Preserve that the old farm once stood. The northern end of the Trinity River Levee Improvement District #2 starts here too. Built and improved upon many times over the decades from 1917-1950. It's a simple piece of earthworks with dirt piled up from narrow trenched borrow pits on either side of the levee. Never designed to protect the farm fields from larger floods, the levees here were designed to protect property from seasonal and annual flood events.


A young stand of Ash trees at Goat Island Preserve
Until recently, trees and vegetation were allowed to grow on the levees. Unclear as to whether or not the levees are still a functional facility for higher flooding events on the west side of the Trinity. I would believe they only offer marginal protection since they have not seen earthmoving improvements in so long.

The higher levee road(in red on the map) follows the top of an old levee road which runs the length of the preserve south to Beltline Road. The lower road which runs between borrow pits for the levee and the Trinity River is slightly to the east and meets the upper levee road at Beltline. A high water table in the area ensures that even during the driest of weather that the low road stays wet and muddy in spots.

Goat Island From Beltline Road
The pre-dawn light over the Beltline Road Bridge at the Trinity River

Beltline Road Bridge
This visit to Goat Island highlights Joe Johnson's work and he suggested starting at Beltline Road since the balance of trails constructed are on the south end of the preserve. From there he hiked us up through the loops of trails towards Lock and Dam #2 and then beyond to the islands where he has done some great work.



One of the lower trail loops that has views of the Trinity


Best trail building practices call for following the natural terrain as practicable and staying a healthy distance from drop offs, streams or eroded areas. The Goat Island trails follow that edict. Lots of great flowing through the terrain with brief glimpses of the river.







The trails cross all kinds of wooded terrain that up until several months ago I would classify as a 9 out of 10 on a bushwhacking scale of difficulty to navigate. Heavy woods and underbrush coupled with head high greenbriar tangles.

The new trails make this largely a walk in the park, one that cub scouts could walk with parents.

An astute eye will notice some areas are recently forested over the last few decades with pioneer species of ash. As one walks further north you begin to encounter large galleries of cedar elm.

This is excellent mountain biking and hiking terrain. The trail alignment is such that one can really get in some quality miles here.






The cedar elm areas are truly spectacular in the autumn months as seen at right. The Virginia Wild Rye has turned a chesnut brown and gone to seed. The cedar elms have a hue of yellow to them.


These loops provide great insight into succession forest in the Dallas County Trinity River bottom. Very simple to understand how long it takes for the ecosystem here to repopulate after clearing.

The trails all eventually loop back to their original starting place or chain together towards Lock and Dam #2. The sound of the place draws you in towards it with each footstep.














Lock and Dam #2
Joe Johnson at Lock and Dam #2 Dallas County Texas Goat Island Preserve Fall 2014
Trinity River Lock and Dam # 2 sits just upstream of Beltline Road. There are three locks on the Trinity River in Dallas County, #1 at McCommas Bluff, #2 at Parson's Slough/Goat Island and #4 near the mouth of Ten Mile Creek/ Riverbend Preserve. All were built between 1910 and 1916.

The locks and dams in Dallas County never saw much river traffic. The idea to harness the power of the Trinity into a navigable water way was abandoned shortly after World War I in 1922.

Leaps in technology with long haul trucks and improvements in road and rail capacity sidelined the effort to move commerce via the river. Ideas at rebirthing the locks and dams on the Trinity came in the 1930s, 50s, 60s and 70s. These ideas were fanciful pursuits for the most part, grand visions with no science to support the effort.

Today we are left with the concrete foundations of the locks, twisted metal and fallen flood gates. Lock and Dam #2 is the most photogenic of the locks in Dallas County. The water literally roars here with long vista like approaches on either end. The other locks are constrained to some extent in the river channel and don't have wide eroded pools on the downstream side.

Each Boule Gate that was used in the lock was 24 feet high, 30 feet long and weighed 60,000 pounds. One gate formed half of a door, 1 door on the upstream end and 1 door on the downstream end completed the lock which was designed to raise and lower boat traffic.

Parson's Slough
The construction of Lock and Dam # 2 required the closing of a subchannel of the Trinity called Parson's Slough.

Sam Street's 1900 Map of Dallas County featuring Bois 'd Arc Island right of center
The idea was to  cutoff a 14 mile stretch of the traditional stream bed for a more westerly course putting all water in one channel of the Trinity. The old riverbed became known as Parson's Slough and the 22,000 acre area surrounded by the new and old river became Bois d' Arc Island.

Parson's name still lives on Bois d' Arc Island where Parson Slough Ranch commands a large acreage
 In 1911, the slough was permanently cutoff from the Trinity River near Goat Island Preserve. The same construction company that built Lock and Dam Number 2, built a concrete dam at the head of Parson's Slough where it meets the Trinity. Twenty feet high and two hundred feet wide, the goal was to permanently send the river down the new channel rather than risk a flood putting the river meander back in the old. Now buried under dozens of feet of silt, it cannot be seen from the west bank.

It sits near the outflow channel near the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. Buried. Only during times of the very highest water flows would the dam become a spillway.  Combined with some levee projects in the 1920s, this left Parson's Slough high and dry from the Trinity. The flood prone area now known as Bois d' Arc Island now serves as some of the very richest farmland in Dallas County. Much of which is owned by Trinity Industries for future gravel mining.





A Visit To The Biggest Black Willow You Ever Saw
Probable State Champion Black Willow at Goat Island
The new Goat Island trail system goes a number of places that really are in the boondocks of riverbottom. As the trail meanders up to the historic junction of where Parson's Slough and the Trinity once met, sits a meandering oxbow of sorts that hold what is most likely the Texas champion Black Willow.

Joe Johnson and the base of the old willow
The current state champion Black Willow is at White Rock Lake Park and was lost in an October 2014 thunderstorm event that not only knocked down the 175 year old tree but left most of Dallas without power for days. Familiar with that tree that was lost, this Goat Island tree is much, much larger. It resides near the old cutoff, just right across the river from were Parson's Slough and the Trinity once forked.

Dallas County and North Texas really lacks giant trees. The visit here is worth it just to see this huge willow.

The old broken limbs of the tree that lay strewn about are larger than the main trunks of most mature willows. They are so large that the old knots collect water a gallon or more at a time like punch bowls.

I imagine at some point in the near future it can be officially measured to crown it the largest Black Willow in the State of Texas.
Multi trunked ash tree
 Moving north, the trees start to get older and the understory starts to reflect a mature hardwood forest. Beauty berry and rough leafed dogwood command the understory with larger species of oak and pecan beginning to show themselves in the distance.
Feral hog track in the mud at Goat Island

Despite an exceptionally dry 2014 in North Texas, the lower road is still wet. The near permanent seeps here signify a shallow water table.

The DORBA mountain bike trail has been flagged through this area with work arounds for the muddiest of spots. Still in a flagged stage to a large degree, work is moving forward when conditions allow. The roads and dirt are rideable now, the pig paths and meandering coyote trails are too. Just don't expect a butter smooth and groomed ride.

The Trinity River has not experienced an overbanking flood event that would push water into this area since March 2012, almost two years ago. When that occurs, not only do the lower sections have standing water for long periods of time but the higher sections do as well.

Some areas that can become completely surrounded by water even during modest water levels in the river are the cutoff oxbow islands that give the preserve it's name.

Trails on the islands
Crossing the first oxbow using a concrete access road for a sanitary sewer line
Access to the islands can be made fairly easily using a pipeline right of way that runs roughly west to east across the levees and then transits the Trinity River to the wastewater treatment plant on the east bank of the Trinity. Some areas that can become completely surrounded by water even during modest water levels in the river are the cutoff oxbow islands that give the preserve it's name.

The point of reference to finding this spot is to locate the large lifting station structure on the west bank levee of the Trinity River and then follow the right of way.

Unless you want to swim or get hip deep in mud, the sewer line crossing at the westernmost oxbow is the only place to cross. Resembling a hill country low water crossing, the elevation is scarcely high enough to prevent wet feet in the driest of weather. This area will rapidly flood as it serves as a path of least resistance for the Trinity River.
Big gigantic trees as far as the eye can see


It is here, beyond the reaches of where many would ever go, that the new trails provide access to places that were previously very hard to navigate. On the islands here one sees the richest collections of biodiverse plant species in the preserve. Towering oaks, elms, pecans and understory constituting many species.

The second island is just east of the first and is separated by a deep meander that lacks a concrete crossing. This is a very scenic spot, with large Bur Oak trees lining the meander on both sides. Many are quite large.

The river's shores around the islands here are dirt and steep, some twenty feet surmounted by cottonwood, willow and driftwood rafts. The hard limestone and sand beaches of the river sit on the opposing bank.




Sabal Minor palm trees growing on Goat Island
The new trail also passes within about twenty feet of Sabal minor dwarf palmetto palms which are the native palm species to Dallas County. As I explore more and more remote places along the Trinity I encounter these plants in the oddest of places.
On Goat Island's new trail
The trail out here on the island has the rolling topography of dips and twists that will please both hikers and cyclists. It needs more foot traffic to bed the trail down and some work to get it up to speed for mountain biking. The remote location of this place keeps traffic down which be nice but also detrimental to getting a trail bed established.

In winter the hike in is easy and a mountain bike would make quick work of the terrain with ease once the trail is bedded down. The larger Red Oaks, Pecans and Walnuts give way to more Ash and Bur Oak here as the terrain gets lower and more prone to sustained flooding events. The random white trunk or two of sycamores are down here as well.

Like most areas on the Trinity River, one does not encounter heavy briar thickets and privet until the last 30 yards around the riverbank. The waist high thickets are ones most generally avoid.

Huge trees with an open view hundreds of yards long
Egress out of the area is simple using the lower or upper roads with many interconnecting animal trails between the two. Rumor has it at some point in the near future, the plan is to create a soft surface greenbelt trail along the levees that joins Goat Island Preserve and Riverbend Preserve to the south. Since this is unincorporated Dallas County and without a civic push it might be awhile before that becomes a reality.

If you live in Southern Dallas County or suburbs, Joe Johnson could use some buddies to get the trail in tip top shape. Use the links at the top of the post to contact him. This place has wonderful possibilities and limitless trail riding if some more traffic and elbow grease could get down there. It would make a great Eagle Scout, corporate giving day or church group project.

Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 Solar Eclipse Over Texas

Partial Solar Eclipse 2014 With Migrating Mallard Ducks Moving Across The Texas Evening Sky October 23, 2014
On Oct. 23, 2014 the solar system's geometry aligned very briefly over North America to give much of the United States a brief look at a somewhat rare event, a partial solar eclipse. Autumn and the fresh push of a cold front off the Central Plains brought forth migrating ducks adding to the spectacle over Texas.

Partial Solar Eclipse taken about thirty minutes before the eclipse reached maximum coverage at 5:50pm Central Time October 23, 2014

On average two to five solar eclipses occur each year. The October 23, 2014  solar eclipse is what is called a partial eclipse. It is the second and last solar eclipse we will see in 2014. A partial eclipse means that the moon will take only a small bite out of the sun as opposed to consuming it completely.
Mallard male drake and female Mallard hen on final approach as they begin their flare out for landing

A Red Winged Blackbird flies into the eclipse









The angle of the Moon's trajectory is close but not quite perfect to that of our Sun. Instead of passing directly in front of the Sun, cutting straight across it, the Moon passes the Sun at an angle off-center, so it only partially blocks our star. That’s why this is a partial eclipse, and not a total one. 









In an easier to view lunar eclipse, the Earth gets between the Sun and Moon, and casts its shadow on the Moon. The event happens on the Moon, so everyone on Earth facing the Moon sees it at pretty much the same time.  But a solar eclipse is the Moon casting its shadow on Earth. The Moon is moving, orbiting us, and the Earth is rotating as well, so what you see and when you see it depends on where you are.




























Each time a solar eclipse occurs, only a small part of the world gets to see it. This is because a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, casting its shadow across the Earth as it does so. But the shadow is relatively small, meaning only some of us get the chance to see this phenomenon each time it happens. 
















Partial Solar Eclipse at maximum coverage over Dallas, Texas October 23, 2014

Here’s how this works. The Moon orbits the Earth once per month, and the Earth orbits the Sun once a year. The Moon’s orbit is tilted to Earth’s orbit by about 5°, so as it goes around the Earth it passes through the Earth’s orbital plane every two weeks or so. If the Moon’s orbit weren’t tilted, we’d get a solar eclipse every month when the Moon passed between the Earth and Sun. Since it is tilted, though, sometimes it’s “above” the Sun at new Moon, and sometimes “below.” We only get eclipses rarely because the Moon has to be crossing the plane of Earth’s orbit at the same time as it’s new Moon, so that it gets exactly between us and the Sun.

The next time a solar eclipse will be visible from across the US will be the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Migrating Monarchs At Big Spring

The migration of the tired and wary, those seeking refuge from the hostile world around them has always been a signature hallmark of the clear and clean waters of Big Spring. Man and beast alike. A shelter from the storms brewing in the outside world.
Big Spring in Pleasant Grove
The Native Americans drank from the cold water here leaving their stone tools and weapons behind as evidence. The original European stock pioneers from the earliest dawning days of the Republic of Texas called it home. On this particular evening in October 2014 the guests are the migrating Monarchs of North America. A sight fewer and fewer see in Texas as the Monarch population dwindles and their habitat disappears.

The nearby Monarch habitat once covered with Milkweed, destroyed Texas prairie and Post Oak Savannah of the Texas Horse Park for surface mining operations to extract soil for the latest golf course project by the City of Dallas
The everflowing Big Spring in October 2014 in Pleasant Grove, Texas. Part of the Historic Republic of Texas Beeman Land Grant, home of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan and later the Edward Case Pemberton Farm
As the sun sets in the cooling autumn air of the Great Trinity Forest, migrating Monarch butterflies begin to seek out a suitable roost for the night. Their instinctive migration route, ingrained by tens of thousands of generations of previous monarchs lands them in the sheltering arms of Big Spring and the bows of the Historic Bur Oak and nearby nut bearing pecans and walnuts.

Roosting Monarch butterflies on the bowed limbs of a Big Spring pecan tree, directly over the water and head of the spring flows in Pleasant Grove, Texas
Monarchs and other butterfly species only travel during the day and need to find a roost at night. Monarchs gather close together during the cool autumn evenings for safety in numbers. These roost sites are important to the monarch migration. Many of these locations despite the fact that the butterflies have never seen the site are used year after year. Often densely spaced oaks and cedar trees are chosen for roosting. These trees have thick canopies that moderate the temperature and humidity at the roost site. As dawn breaks the next day, monarchs bask in the sunlight to warm themselves before taking flight.

In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the Monarch butterflies of North America. They travel much farther than all other tropical butterflies, up to four thousand miles. They are the only butterfly species to make such a long, two way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees.


Overflight of Wood Ducks, another migratory species at Big Spring October 2014. Wood Ducks love the old sloughs, oxbows and beaver impounded wetlands in this area. Sadly, their habitat is shrinking by the day here in Pleasant Grove
The annual Monarch migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children's grandchildren that return south the following fall. The Monarchs are the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do regularly, but no individual makes the entire round trip, because the migration period spans the life of three to four generations of the butterfly.
As the sun disappears below the horizon, more Monarchs come to roost at Big Spring for the night
The Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. It is easily recognizable by its bright orange-red wings, with black veins and white spots along the edges. The Monarch butterfly is famous for its southward migration from Canada to Mexico and the northward return back through the Great Plains to Canada in summer. Every fall, millions of these butterflies fly west to their wintering grounds in California and Mexico, covering the trees there with their bright shimmering wings.

Their brilliant coloration is mostly for protection from predators like bats who might not see the bright orange and black coloration, the tell tale of the bad-tasting and poisonous Monarch. From the trees beyond the night crew of animals start up their evening calls. Ready to hunt under a rising crescent moon.


Nectar and Food Corridors
Nectar corridors are a series of habitat patches containing plants that flower at the appropriate times during the spring and fall migrations. These patches provide stopping-off points for the migrating butterflies to refuel and continue their journey. Having these islands of nectar sources is particularly important within large areas of urban and agricultural development. The discontinuous patches of nectar sources are “corridors” that monarchs will follow, like stepping-stones across a stream to complete their migration.

The Monarchs seen here are consuming nectar from a blooming shrub in the outfall area of Big Spring where water courses down in a gentle meander towards Bryan's Slough. It is believed that the Monarchs might be following what biologists call a "nectar corridor" for food. Unknown how the butterflies can find these spots year after year since dozens of generations of butterflies lived, bred and died in the year previous to their last visit.
 

Monarchs and Milkweed

Many butterflies have a single plant required as a food source for their larval form called a host plant. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly. Without milkweed, the larva would not be able to develop into a butterfly.

Bumblebee on a Milkweed plant at Big Spring, late Spring 2014
The larvae and the butterflies retain poisonous glycosides from their larval host plant, the milkweed, so they become distasteful to potential predators. These milkweed butterflies (Monarch, Queen, Soldier) eat only milkweeds as larvae. This highly effective defense strategy shields them against almost all predators that soon learn to avoid these species after attempting to eat them.

Milkweed contains a a variety of chemical compounds that make monarch caterpillars poisonous to potential predators. Milkweeds contain a cardiac poison that is poisonous to most vertebrates but does not damage the monarch caterpillar. Some milkweed species have higher levels of these toxins than others.

North Texans can attract Monarchs to their backyards by planting milkweed as a host for Monarch eggs and larvae. Easy to grow here in Dallas and available as seed or plantings at local native plant sale events.

The Marathon Generation, the special migrators of the Monarch species
As fall approaches non-reproductive monarchs are born. These are the butterflies that will migrate south. They will not reproduce until the following spring in 2015. These late summer monarchs will travel hundreds and even thousands of miles to their winter grounds in Mexico and California. 

They store fat in their abdomens that will help them make the long trip south and will help them survive the winter. During their five months in Mexico from November to May, monarchs remain mostly inactive. They will remain perfectly still hour-after-hour and day-after-day. They live off of the stored fat they gained during their fall migration.

Various food sources
The plant they are feeding from in the photo above is known as Roosevelt Willow or Roosevelt Weed Baccharis neglecta . It's a tall shrub with many willow-like branches covered with very dark green, linear leaves. After warm rains in late summer it produces a profusion of creamy white flower clusters which are followed by silvery plumed seeds that cover the plant with a white cloud. It grows from North Carolina to Arizona, and throughout Texas. Roosevelt Willow/Weed is one of the first plants to invade abandoned fields, roadsides and disturbed habitats. It is extremely drought tolerant, accepting wet or dry sites, and can grow in soils high in salt. The historical references of its common names purportedly come from the fact that after the great Dust Bowl, it was planted as a fast and easy way to revegetate the severely damaged soil.

Monarch Migration South Through Texas

The Monarch migration usually starts around October each year, but can start earlier if the weather turns cold sooner. They travel between 1,500 and 3,800 miles or more from Canada to central Mexican forests where the climate is warm. If the monarch lives in the Eastern states, usually east of the Rocky Mountains, it will migrate to Mexico and hibernate in Oyamel fir trees. If the monarch butterfly lives west of the Rocky Mountains, it will hibernate in and around Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees.

Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each and every year when they migrate, which seems odd because they aren’t the same butterflies that were there last year.  How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of research. Some believe the flight pattern is inherited. Other researches indicate the butterflies navigate using a combination of the position of the sun in the sky and the earth's magnetic field for orientation.


The Monarch butterflies migrating through Texas all seem to focus and funnel into a 50 mile gap between Del Rio and Eagle Pass along the US-Mexico Border. Here they have a clear route through mountain passes to the Mexican Interior and highlands.

When they first arrive at their winter locations in November monarchs gather into clusters in the trees. These butterflies congregate into colonies, clustering onto pine and evergreen trees. In many cases, they are so thick that the trees turn orange in color and branches sag from the weight. It’s a remarkable sight that attracts scores of tourists. 

By December and January, when the weather is at its coldest, the monarchs will be tightly packed into dense clusters of hundreds or even thousands of butterflies. By mid-February these clusters of butterflies begin to break up and the monarchs will begin to gather nectar. In the spring they will reproduce and their offspring will make the return trip to the north.

Saving The Future Of Texas Monarchs
Master Naturalist Richard Grayson at Big Spring

The race is on to save what native Texas plant species can be salvaged from current surface mining activities at the Texas Horse Park. The local chapter of North Texas Master Naturalists has been flagging and removing scores of milkweed plants from this area with the hopes of transplanting them at Big Spring in the Fall of 2015. A great article by Roy Appleton of the Dallas Morning News can be found here http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140930-naturalists-dig-in-to-save-vegetation-in-the-great-trinity-forest.ece that chronicles the events to salvage what can be saved from that area.