Eco Tripping Around North TX
People seeking immersive eco-adventures don’t necessarily need to travel around the globe for a unique experience. Plenty of chances for ecological getaways can be found locally throughout North Texas. Below are some options within a short drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth area where one can experience nature and wildlife while supporting sustainability and conservation efforts.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
2299 County Road 2008, Glen Rose • FossilRim.org
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center offers the opportunity to go on a safari right in North Texas. The nonprofit conservation center on 1,800 acres of diverse terrain focuses on animals in peril. Guided and self-guided tours are available; visitors can drive in their own vehicles through Fossil Rim’s 7.2-mile Godsin Scenic Wildlife Drive and see 50 different indigenous and exotic species such as cheetah, giraffes, zebras, southern black and southern white rhinos, the scimitar-horned oryx, Texas tortoise and white-tailed deer.
“It truly feels like being in wild,” says Warren Lewis, chief marketing officer. Entry times are staggered so there is a limited number of cars going through per hour. Visitors can hand-feed giraffes and explore the Children’s Animal Center, the Nature Store gift center and the Overlook Café.
For a true safari experience, visitors can rent onsite cabins or a room in the lodge (for reservations, call 254-898-4268). Lewis says most people spend the night and then in the morning depart on a guided tour. Lodge options include four suites, including the spacious Peregrine Room on the top floor, along with a library, a pool table, a bar and a common space on the second floor with a balcony that overlooks the property.
“People can see these animals in their near-natural environment, in natural, open spaces,” Lewis notes. “It’s important because it allows them to retain their social behavior and their social order, so that when we have an opportunity to reintroduce an animal back into the wild, these animals understand the herd structure.”
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center was part of a group of organizations that reintroduced the scimitar-horned oryx antelope back to Chad, in Africa. The animal is supremely adapted to desert life, but was driven to extinction by over-hunting and scarce resources.
“If you visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, you are actually contributing to the success of our programs that allow us to reintroduce animals back into the wild,” Lewis advises. Visitors can also stop at nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park and the Paluxy River to round out their day in Glen Rose.
High Hope Ranch
3353 County Road 2009, Glen Rose • HighHope.eco
Also in Glen Rose is High Hope Ranch, an eco-retreat located on the northmost confluence of the Great Plains and Texas Hill Country. Dedicated to wildlife habitat protection through biodynamic principles, guests can come for day hikes, guided activities, camp on the property or rent a vacation home or a guest room in the lodge.
Each vacation home offers serene views of the forested hillsides and cliffsides. The Mwalimu—“teacher” in Swahili—home includes a pool, a fireplace, a library and a greenhouse. For those that truly want to lose themselves in nature, the Mata’Zamo is the most remote of the vacation homes and features a loft patio with cliffside views. Kasa Casa features an infrared sauna, hot tub, fireplace and a yoga studio. The Habari can accommodate up to 10 people and has a waterfront view.
All homes have access to the 20 miles of High Hope Ranch’s hiking trails, where guests can explore wooded areas, pastures and overhang caves. High Hope’s biodynamic farm celebrates the natural rhythms of the seasons and planets while using Earth-friendly farming techniques. Guests can watch livestock such as goats and cattle in their natural pasture environments. Produce grown at the Spiral Garden supplies the permanent residents.
In addition, the stone circle and a labyrinth offer places for meditation and mindfulness. High Hope Ranch conducts retreats and summits covering topics such as environmental sustainability, biodynamic agriculture, health and wellness, spirituality, personal development, outdoor skills, philosophy and writing.
Guests can become Community Supported Nature members to support High Hope’s conservation efforts such as golden-cheek warbler habitat protection, youth biodynamic farming programs and nature education. Members receive access to exclusive member events, retreats, communal camping and more.
Caddo Lake State Park
245 Park Road 2, Karnack • tpwd.Texas.gov/state-parks/caddo-lake
Caddo Lake State Park is a popular east Texas destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It encompasses more than 8,000 acres and features its namesake, Caddo Lake, one of the few natural lakes in the state. Guests can fish, go kayaking or canoeing, hike, camp or rent a cabin.
Caddo Lake harbors approximately 70 species of fish. The lake also lends to unique kayaking and canoeing experiences through a bald cypress swamp habitat. As visitors paddle through, they hear gurgling water, singing birds and croaking frogs. The network of trails includes Carter’s Chute Paddling Trail, Cathedral Paddling Trail, Hell’s Half Acre Paddling Trail, Old Folks Playground Paddling Trail and Turtle Shell Paddling Trail.
Hiking trails among bald cypress and oak trees range from easy to moderate. Most are less than one mile and can be completed in one hour or less. Campsites range from sites with water only to full hookup sites. There are also 18 sites with electricity. Cabins are available with options for sleeping two, four or six people. Most cabins have bathrooms, showers and basic kitchen amenities.
The Junior Ranger youth explorer program helps kids learn about nature and educates them about becoming good stewards of the land. The park is also a Texas Aquatic Science Certified Field Site, which promotes hands-on learning through six field-based activities for school groups.
Caddo Lake State Park opened July 4, 1934. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program that employed young men during the Great Depression, built the trails, firebreaks and converted 15 U.S. Army barracks and a mess hall into the log cabins that still stand today.