Monday, March 26, 2012

Texas Wildflowers and Texas Wildpeople On The Trinity River

Texas Bluebonnets on the cliffs overlooking the Trinity River at McCommas Bluff
The Comanche Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Texas fields are covered
With a blanket of deep blue.
But for a little Indian girl,
This would not be true.

Texas land was buried and dry.
Rains just would not come.
Indians danced and prayed for rain,
And beat upon their drums.

The Chief made a proclamation.
He appealed to one and all.
A prized possession must be sacrificed
Before the rains would fall.

The Indian camp was silent,
While each person searched his heart.
But when it came to sacrifice,
With possessions they would not part.

Suddenly a little girl stepped forth,
Holding her blue-clad doll.
She placed it in the roaring fire
and raindrops began to fall.

The rain brought forth the grass,
Among its blades, flowers of blue.
To be a sign for all the time
Of a love so pure and true.

That old Comanche parable rings as true today as it did dozens of generations ago when the Comanche told it around their campfire. Drought and flood, famine and feast is natural to Texas. With higher than average winter rains the bounty of wildflowers this year along the Trinity River in the Great Trinity Forest is the best I have ever seen. Despite the forecasts of a drier and colder winter the DFW area saw one that was warm and wet. Thus set the stage for an early spring. The heavy rains and regular flooding of the lower areas in the Great Trinity Forest have re-directed much of my mountain biking into the upland areas that are not prone to prolonged flooding. I've never messed around with the macro settings on my camera since I usually only stop to photograph things with four legs. The muddy conditions gave me a chance to stop and smell the roses for once. The photos in this post were taken over the weekend of March 24th-25th and highlight the Lower White Rock Creek Trail, McCommas Bluff Preserve and the Texas Buckeye Trail.

McCommas Bluff Preserve
Location and information McCommas Bluff Preserve Trails

McCommas Bluff has seen its share of hardship the past year with the city demolishing some of the historic trademark cliffs. Upstream some of it still stands untouched as the river begins a gentle bend to the west towards the Audubon Center.

Among the terraces of McCommas Bluff on the old Trinity City ghost town site, a meadow of poppies grow

Grey Hairstreak Strymon melinus on Texas Bluebonnet Flower McCommas Bluff Preserve

Sometimes I pat myself on the back thinking about how cool it is to be the only person seeing this stuff and realizing how lucky I am to experience things no one else will. I was having one of those pat myself on the back moments when in the far distance down river I heard boat motors. Up the river come two guys at thirty miles an hour on jet skis! Man. Talk about raising awesome bar to a new level. Below is video I shot of them headed up river. Only in Texas!

Donned in wetsuits and goggles, they were taking advantage of the Trinity River in flood stage. That evening, the river was still in flood, about 12 feet higher than normal. This allowed them to navigate over the McCommas Bluff Lock and Dam #1 without issue. During normal water levels, this would not be navigable to small boats or even canoes.

That is some real out of the box brainstorming to pull off something that awesome. A place to launch or recover watercraft is miles away in any direction. Very difficult conditions if something goes wrong. Logs the size of couches, whole tree trunks and even floating ant balls went cruising by in the current. The amount of skill it takes to ride up the river, the Trinity River, takes a lot of nerve. It's interesting that I keep on running across people like this down there. I know people, friends of mine, who go to the Amazon to find adventure like that. It's in their own backyard. This place is a ten minute drive for a million people.

Chapel at McCommas Bluff

Piedmont Ridge Trail
Location and information Piedmont Ridge Trail

The Piedmont Ridge Trail sits on a high chalk escarpment overlooking White Rock Creek between Grover Keeton Golf Course and Bruton Road. The trail climbs up some switchbacks to the top of the ridge. This trail is usually combined with the Scyene and Devon Anderson Trails since they all link together. I believe this flowering shrub which is blooming everywhere along the trail is Texas Torchwood. I could be wrong.

Piedmont Ridge Overlook with view of Downtown Dallas

Comanche Nation Sacred Storytelling Place

Anchoring the south end of the Devon Anderson Trail is the Comanche Storytelling Place. Shaped like an amphitheater, the natural limestone rock bowl was recognized by the Comanche Nation in 1997 as a sacred spot to their people.

Within 100 feet or so west of the Storytelling Place is the Storytelling Place Red Oak. Listed in the DFW Tree Registry as holding not just historic status but also one of age. It grows on near bare limestone and while only 25 feet tall has a massive trunk base. Estimated at hundreds of years old, it is probably one of the oldest trees in Dallas. Nice to see these bare soil trees to pull through last years drought.

Storytelling Place Red Oak

Pink Bluebonnets At Scyene Overlook

Pink Bluebonnets at Scyene Overlook

Like the Comanche, Texans have their own legend about a bluebonnet, the Pink Bluebonnet. Only place I have ever seen these growing in a native environment is at Scyene Overlook.

Texas A&M's website has the legend of the blood spilled of the Alamo Defenders upon white bluebonnets that now give them their unique pink color Legend of the Texas Pink Bluebonnet

These pink bluebonnets are located in very poor soil downslope of the Scyene Overlook, on the south and southwest facing slopes.

Flowering Texas Buckeye Trees
Location and Information Texas Buckeye Trail William Blair Park

Tiger Swallowtail at Texas Buckeye Grove in Great Trinity Forest March 25, 2012
Rounding out a look at the early flowering plants of the Great Trinity Forest is a very wet, very muddy jaunt down the Texas Buckeye Trail to the Buckeye Grove. I second guessed myself a couple times as I waded through a mile of shin deep water and mosquitoes to the grove. I was rewarded with what you see in the photos. A large Tiger Swallowtail feeding on the sole remaining Buckeye Tree flower.

Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)


  1. As always I am jelous

  2. I'm not sure everyone reading this blog understands what is really going on here. It's awesome that the the "awesome bar" was raised with the jetskier guys video. Problem is that the author of this website is the real awesome person. We have known him as a familiar face around White Rock Lake riding. He offered to take us down on the river one Saturday. He will never mention it but there is so much goodwill he does down there that he will never admit to. On our trip we rode past Rochester Park and were hailed down by some guy in a Crown Vic on 22s. He had been given a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 and TE Lawrence's Lawrence of Arabia. So, there among 100 cars blaring loud music, a guy who was probably a kingpin drug dealer was giving a white guy a book report. My wife and I were just totally blown away by that. The rest of the day was like that.

  3. Thanks for the tips on the wildflower spots. We went to McCommas Preserve last night. On the way home our car smelled like bluebonnet! We liked the big cactus too.

  4. what Todd said! Ben, urban explorer. Champion hiking buddy. Well done sir. I fear that torchwood is Queen Anne's lace, which is pretty, but an invasive. Great photos.

  5. Thank you for information on the location of the flowers. We do not own a car at the moment and rely on DART buses to get around town. This was a close spot to a DART bus route and we were able to get our family Easter photos. DART buses won't stop on the freeway where everybody else stops for photos. Thanks to you we found a better place.

    We heard owls hooting when we were there. My kids, 2,3 and 4 all really enjoyed that.

    Thank you,

    George and Belinda Price

  6. The pink flowers you refer to as 'pink bluebonnets' are Oxytropis lambertii (common name Locoweed) at Scyene Overlook. They were also plentiful growing on the limestone slope at Devon-Anderson below the large Quercus sinuata breviloba before DART came through and ruined all the native plants in that particular the area. The tall white flowering clumped plant at Gateway Bluff (sic. Piedmont Trail Ridge) is Ceanothus americanus (common names: New Jersey Tea or Redroot). Can't quite make out the other white flowering plant but maybe Barbara's Buttons. The Texas Buckeye Trail has been hiked for 30 years and we just had the yearly hikes 16-18 March. The Lupinus texensis you show as so wonderful at McCommas Bluff were seeded by our bi-annual Trinity River Action Coalition (TRAC) gatherings at McCommas Bluff that ended in 2002. Yea, you know some of the forest but there are a few of us that have been documenting the plants, natural occurrences there for over 20 years.

  7. Some stunning images. Thanks so much for sharing. White Rock Lake in Dallas also has a spectacular display of bluebonnets this year. You can view some awesome images here:

  8. I'm writing a paper about the Trinity River and it's history of sewage and waste disposal and treatment and thought you might have some suggestions on where to look for information. Email me back at please. Thank you and I appreciate all your blog posts and pictures. Keep up the good work!

  9. My boyfriend and I usually stick to the trails around Bart Simpson Lake and occasionally hike the Scyene Overlook and Piedmont Ridge Trails, but had a new adventure last week inspired by your blog.

    A few years ago I visited McCommas Bluffs on a Dallas Historical Society bus tour. After seeing your post, we decided to visit the Bluffs again (this time with more time to roam around).

    We poked around, watched the still-swollen Trinity rush by (I waded in it for the first time, hooray for galoshes!), enjoyed the bluebonnets and found a snakeskin. We came upon the old Trinity City chapel and the Dock Keeper’s House and then explored the Lincoln cemetery on the other side of the road.

    We meandered around the cemetery for a while (a friend, Minus Won, a Dallas artist is buried there) and looked for the grave of Dallas Bluesman, Whistlin’ Pete Moore.

    I’ve enjoyed the blog for a while, but this was the first time I’ve been inspired to get out and follow in your footsteps on a new trail. Thanks so much for filling the information gap that exists where The Great Trinity Forest is concerned. From the practical info to the historical tidbits to the fantastic pictures, it’s wonderfully put together and clearly a labor of love.

    Every time we’re out and about we marvel at the fact that the forestis such a wonderful place that’s unknown to most and underappreciated by those who do know of it. I hope your blog inspires some people to get out and do some discovering on their own. Thanks for the good work you're doing.

    -Cari Weinberg