One of the most beautiful and pristine old-growth forests in the state, the 1,400-acre Lennox Woods Preserve is a vital refuge for several rare plant and animal species, all of which rely on the waters of Pecan Bayou, the largest undammed watershed in northeast Texas and what many consider the focus of the return of the black bear. The old-growth timber and cathedral-like canopy of these woods thought to be typical of the undisturbed floodplains throughout the state prior to the arrival of settlers.
Most of the woodlands in the area were sold for logging purposes, but these woods have been protected for four generations by the Lennox family, who originally acquired the property in 1863. The first parcel—170 acres—was donated in 1987 by Martha, David and Bagby Lennox. Another 206 acres were donated by Martha Lennox and the Lennox Foundation in 1990, after her brothers passed away; the preserve was dedicated in May of that same year.
Teams of zoologists and botanists have conducted intensive, seasonal inventories of the preserve's plant, bird, fish, mammal, reptile and amphibian populations to assess the area’s biological diversity and gauge the area’s ecological health. Presently, the preserve’s plant and animal communities appear to face few threats as long as the watershed remains undisturbed and neighboring woodlands are not logged further.
Lennox Woods contains one of the few remaining examples of fully mature, virgin timber found in the state, some greater than three feet in circumference. The Texas Forest Service aged one post oak on the preserve at over 300 years old and a loblolly pine at nearly 150 years old. The upland forest is a mixed evergreen-deciduous forest dominated by shortleaf pine, white oak, loblolly pine, southern red oak, red maple and various hickories. Common components of the understory and shrub layers are dogwood, American beautyberry, mulberry and farkleberry. The ground layer has clumps of perennial grasses and sedges.
The bottomland hardwood forest is dominated by water oaks, willow oaks, bur oaks, overcup oaks, sweetgum and some hickory species. The understory has small trees such as musclewood, winged elm and bluebeech. Various sedges are abundant throughout the ground. In the occasionally flooded portions of the bottomland hardwood forest is one of the few extant populations of the globally threatened Arkansas meadow rue. The hooked buttercup and Wildenovi's sedge, two species that are rare in Texas, are also found here.
Lennox Woods Preserve is located along State Highway 37 in Red River County, about 10 miles north of Clarksville. More than 350 acres are open to the public, including the Martha Lennox Memorial Nature Trail, a 1.5-mile interpretive nature trail that features a variety of important trees and shrubs.
One of the preserve’s most enjoyable features is a looping trail that allows hikers to admire the various natural communities that make Lennox Woods so special. In late 1999 and early 2000, two severe ice storms felled trees at Lennox Woods, severely damaging the trail.
A gift from the Lennox Foundation allowed staff and volunteers to rebuild the trail. Following a formal dedication ceremony in March co-hosted by the Conservancy, Clarksville Mayor Ann Rushing and the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce, the newly rebuilt Martha Lennox Memorial Nature Trail opened to the public. A descendant of Red River County pioneers, Martha Lennox, along with her brothers, David and Bagby, worked to ensure the woods her family had cared for and loved for more than a century would be protected forever.
The trail takes visitors on an easy to moderate hike through a variety of habitats. The first portion of the trail follows the old Albion Road, a wagon road in use from the 1840s until the 1930s, and then descends through pine and hardwood forest to a tributary of Pecan Bayou. From there, it loops back to the main trail, returning to the trailhead. Depending on the season, sights along the trail range from spring wildflowers to spectacular fall color to bare branches against a winter sky. Eventually, the trail will also include plant-identification signs developed by the Red River Chapter of the Master Naturalist Program.
The red-tailed hawk, northern bobwhite, great horned owl, belted kingfisher, Carolina chickadee, cedar waxwing, and the red-headed woodpecker are just a few of the birds common to the preserve. Lennox Woods also harbors a diverse fish population including various crappie, sunfish, perch and shiner. Typical northeast Texas mammal, reptile and amphibian populations can also be found here: raccoons, deer, squirrel, armadillo, rabbit, along with various snakes, toads, salamanders and lizards.
Drive north on SH 37 about 10.7 miles
Turn west on FM 2118 and drive 1.6 miles
Look for the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church sign on the left where you’ll turn onto a gravel road [the sign is easy to miss].
The road surface changes to clay as you travel into the forest. The entrance to the preserve is about a mile from the church, on the left adjacent to a small parking area. [During wet weather this road may be impassible without 4-wheel drive and can be very muddy and slick at times.]
The Lennox Woods Preserve provides habitat for several rare plant and animal species. Two species that are rare in Texas, are also found here.