The 349-acre Chihuahua Woods Preserve is a relic of what the Rio Grande Valley once was: a unique ecosystem with an expansive variety of trees, shrubs and thickets. Today, less than 5 percent of that original Tamaulipan thornscrub habitat remains in its native condition. The preserve is home to many species native to the Valley, and its plant life provides a range of seasonal foods and cover for wildlife. A remarkable cacti population also survives on the property, and in recent years, the rare and native hook-billed kite has been documented nesting on the preserve.
Chihuahua Woods was placed on the market in 1986. Local citizens, concerned about the fate of the land and inspired by a desire to preserve the Valley's natural heritage, founded the Valley Land Fund in 1988. Citing its high ecological value, the group began an ambitious fundraising campaign aimed at purchasing the land. The Valley Land Fund ultimately raised enough money to acquire about half the property, then enlisted the help of The Nature Conservancy to ensure preservation of the entire site. In 1991, the Conservancy purchased Chihuahua Woods.
The preserve is open to the public during daylight hours and a network of trails, maintained by local volunteers, are available for bird watching. For more information, contact the Conservancy’s Coastal Field Office via phone at (361) 882-3584.
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There is walk-in access during daylight hours. Any other access must be requested from The Nature Conservancy's Tamaulipan Thornscrub Project Director by calling (956) 580-4241. Please note that the preserve is not suitable for children; no restroom facilities are available, paths are not regularly maintained, and thorns, cacti and poisonous snakes and insects are common.
The site supports more than 100 documented plant species, including the endangered Runyon's huaco. The preserve contains the five types of trees designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as the most valuable for providing food, cover and nesting sites: Texas ebony, huisache, brasil, granjeno and anaqua.
One of the most unique botanical features of the preserve is a spectacular cactus community unequaled in the lower Rio Grande Valley. On a space the size of an average back yard, a dozen different cacti species grow so thick that the ground appears covered with a carpet of cactus.
The most obvious animal residents are the 30-plus species of birds. The olive sparrow, gray hawk, great kiskadee, green jay, groove-billed ani, golden-fronted woodpecker and blue-gray gnatcatcher are just some of those you might see.
The preserve provides sufficient habitat to support a number of rare species, such as the threatened Texas tortoise. One of the more noteworthy reported animal sightings was of a jaguarundi, an endangered native wildcat. The endangered ocelot is believed to roam the property, based on tracks discovered around the preserve.
Please carefully review the following visitation guidelines:
If you are not a resident of South Texas, some hazards may be unfamiliar to you. Be aware that Africanized bees may be present. Do not disturb any bee colonies you may find. Watch out for rattlesnakes. Rabies is prevalent in South Texas; do not approach or handle any animal. Do not handle any dead animal; rabies can be contracted from dead animals, too.
Parties visiting the preserve are limited to six adults; for larger groups, permission must be obtained from the South Texas Land Steward. Dogs and other pets are not permitted. Do not collect, remove, injure, damage or destroy any artifact or mineral or any animal or plant, living or dead. No hunting, trapping, fishing or discharging of firearms is allowed. No camping is allowed. Absolutely no fires are allowed, and smoking is not permitted in the preserve. Do not litter. No permanent photography blinds may be constructed. Portable blinds are allowed, but should be removed when you leave. Do not scatter feed or seed of any kind. Do not use taped calls to attract wildlife. Keep your vehicle locked at all times, and do not leave equipment or valuables in plain sight in your vehicle. Do not leave equipment unattended anywhere on the preserve. Leave the preserve before darkness falls. As with all natural areas along the U.S./Mexico border, the preserve has at times been a site of criminal activity, and poachers and trespassers could be present on the property. Do not confront any trespassers. If you notice any suspicious activity or feel threatened in any way, leave the preserve at once. Please respect the rights of adjacent landowners. Do not trespass. Do not block any neighboring driveways. Please do not use any entrance other than the one designated.
Take U.S. 83 Expressway west of Mission to Goodwin Road/FM 492 exit (at H.E.B. Food Store)
Turn left (south) onto FM 492 and go about 1 mile to Business 83 (at blinking light)
Turn right (west) onto Business 83 and go about 0.8 miles toward where the road curves northwestward
At the curve, go straight onto blacktop road parallel to the railroad track for about 0.1 miles
Preserve entrance is on the left, where the blacktop road crosses the railroad track.