Six of the Truly "Natural" Spots in San Antonio

Although the Riverwalk is serene and natural in appearance, the landscape there has been mostly imported and very tropical in appearance.  San Antonio has six truly natural areas that began as either ranches or privately owned land but have now become preserves for all kinds of nature, both plant and animal.  Although I haven’t been to them all, the ones I’ve seen are pristine and teaming with native flora and fauna, butterflies are abundant and varieties birds grace every tree limb.  Native wildlife, (some cute and cuddly, some not so cuddly)  also make these parks there home. 
The six Natural Areas all have a different flavor but their mission unites them:  to

“1) Preserve and manage San Antonio’s Natural Areas to protect natural ecosystems,
 2) Promote inclusive and transformative relationships between people and natural systems.”

Courtesy of Medina River Natural Area Website
Here’s a list of the parks with a link to each of their websites:
Although all the Parks are wonderful and each deserves a visit, since the Medina River Natural Area is on our turf, (the far south side of San Antonio,) that will be the focus of today’s post. 
The Medina River runs through this 500-acre Natural Area constructed on the site of the old proposed Applewhite Reservoir.
The main entry, park headquarters and the large covered pavilion are located on the north shore. There are also 6 miles of trails, restroom facilities, and native plant displays.  At the entrance there is a cement parking lot.  From Hidden Valley you can access the park in less than 10 minutes by taking Fischer Road, at the head of our entrance road, for about 3 miles to hwy 16.  Take 16 going south (right) for a couple miles and just before the Medina River bridge, turn left into Medina River Natural Area. (15890 Hwy 16 South, San Antonio, 78264.)
Historically, the El Camino Real wagon trail, used by many early settlers in South Texas, goes through the Medina River Natural area.  
The Medina River Natural Area is home to many plants, mammals, snakes, birds, fish and insects.  Hiking, fishing, pets on a leash, bikes and Geocaching are allowed.  The Medina River Natural Area is a paradise for birders.  You can download a list of birds sited at the natural area as well as one comprised of all Bexar (pronounced bear) County birds.  An extensive butterfly list  (7 pages!) is also available and a plant key for those botanically minded folks. 

Courtesy of Medina River Natural Area Website
The hike and bike trails are of varying degrees of difficulty and accessibility. They follow along the river and climb to the upland areas above the north shore. The trails are all concrete paths making for wonderful biking paths and fairly easy hiking paths.
Trail maps are available on site but you can view and print one out here also.  The Park is open from 7:30am to sunset daily except Christmas and New Years Day. 
Another nice opportunity is found in this invitation on their website:
Viva Voluntarios!
Help Beautify Your
      Natural Area!
8 am - noon each day, January through October
Join us on the last Saturday morning of each month. We will plant native plants and remove non-native plants, pick up trash, remove weeds and spread mulch .We will meet near the kiosk by the Parking Lot.
Please bring gloves and a water bottle! Call (210) 207-3111 for Details & to Sign Up!

A great event is planned for this Saturday, November 13, 2010:
Owl Prowl  
Medina River Natural Area
15890 Hwy 16 South
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 13, 2010 - 6 pm to 8 pm

Owl Prowl
Medina River Natural Area, 15890 Hwy 16 South - Richard Heilbrun, TPWD Wildlife Biologist for an evening about owls, take a walk to the interpretive area where live barred owls will be called in with owl calls as they stake out their territory. This program is very popular and limited to 50 people, so call 210-624-2575 today to RSVP.
Call (210) 207-3111 for reservations and information. Walk-ins will be accepted on a limited basis. Suggested donation: $3.00 per individual/ $5.00 per family
Note:  If you're at Hidden Valley RV Park we'll be glad to carpool with you to the Natural Area

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