South Llano River State Park is a haven for birders. You’ll rarely run across anyone walking along its trails without a pair of binoculars around their necks.
Because of its varied terrain – from river frontage to bottomland forest and Hill Country uplands – the park draws an unusual assortment of resident and migrant birds:
Green Kingfishers and Black Phoebes can be seen
foraging along the clear river. Ringed Kingfishers, though
uncommon, can also be viewed by canoeing or kayaking
mainly downstream from the park. Black-capped Vireos are
represented by about 35 calling males and are usually found
just inside the mouths of the canyons or in some of the higher
elevations of the Walter Buck WMA. Hike the Fawn Trail in
spring/early summer for this species…
A large flock of wild Rio Grande Turkeys roosts in the park and often wanders the pecan bottomlands in the early morning and evening.
A brief evening visit to one of the park’s blinds and nearby woodlands in April yielded a pair of Spotted Towhees, a group of Inca Doves, several Black-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, a Western Scrub Jay, a Painted Bunting, Black-crested Titmouse and an Audobon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler.
About 18 miles of trails wind through the park’s diverse landscape, including:
- Buck Lake Trail (1.4 miles) A short loop to an oxbow lake formed from the Llano River.
- River Trail (2.3 miles) The trail parallels the South Llano River for a stretch before veering into the surrounding bottomland forest. The lazy river, rocky bluffs and outcrops and reedy vegetation make for serene views, particularly early and late in the day.
- Overlook Trail (1.3 miles) Just off the Fawn Trail, a steep hike up the hill for a panoramic view of the forested valley below.
- Fawn Trail (3 miles) The trail wanders through the bottomlands, turns into a grass-and-gravel country road and then climbs briefly and steeply to a plateau above the Hill Country. From there, it’s a leisurely walk back with verdant views of the forested valley below.
- Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail (4 miles) More of a backcountry trail, it offers a greater diversity of birds and other wildlife. But don’t get too excited by the name of the trail. According to the park’s birding checklist, the Golden-cheeked Warbler rarely nests in the park and is an infrequent visitor.