Little Park on the Prairie

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Fort Worth NCR Grass_8111 aDeep in the heart of Texas’s largest metroplex is the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. Its 3,621 acres include a number of different habitats, from lake and river to marsh, woodland to prairie.

The Visitor Center offers exhibits and educational programs, and there are miles of trails to explore.

All this in a city-owned and operated nature center that has been a National Natural Landmark since 1980.

Fort Worth NCR Landscape_7982 a Fort Worth NCR Sign_7991aBison have their own range to roam here, and prairie dogs have a town. Other critters that call the Nature Center home include armadillos, raccoons, bobcats, deer, opossum, beaver, lizards, snakes – and alligators!

I didn’t see an alligator, and I don’t know whether I am sad or glad about that. All I saw of the bison were the calling cards they left behind. No bobcats, or lizards.

And not one dang armadillo!

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Fort Worth NCR Bird_8087 a I did get to see ducks, cormorants and herons on Lake Worth. Great Blue Heron, at left.

Fort Worth NCR Landscape_8108 a This is the West Fork of the Trinity River, which flows into Lake Worth. A kayaker paddled slowly past. Surely he had the best views of the day. There was a small mob of cardinals moving through the trees at the river’s edge. It was the most cardinals I’ve ever seen in one place before.

Fort Worth NCR Cowboy_8182 aWhat a REAL cowboy in Texas does is drive to a place of natural beauty on a blue-sky day. Then proceed to dry-wash and wax his car in the parking lot. In his Stetson.

Fort Worth NCR Landscape_8251 acs My favorite landscape here at the Nature Center was the prairie. To my Eastern eyes, it’s exotic. Full of grasses, odd plants, and small twisted trees.Fort Worth NCR Landscape_8270 aFort Worth NCR Plant_8535 acs Fort Worth NCR Grass_8513 a

Fort Worth NCR Cactus_8036 acs Cactus.

Of course.

Fort Worth NCR Rock & Dirt_8254 acsThe red dirt was pockmarked with the footprints of strange creatures. At first I thought these might be the tracks of a feral pig, which are abundant in Texas. Upon reading a little about it, I learn that the dewclaws of the pig, which are the small impressions in the lower right of the track, are usually spaced wider than the main hoof.

This track likely belonged to the more familiar animal below.

Fort Worth NCR Deer_8557 acsA lone deer grazes contentedly as the sun sank low in the sky. She seems unaware of the highways and overpasses, gas stations and strip malls of the city so close. For her, and other inhabitants of the Fort Worth Nature Center, life is good here on the wild edge.