Places We Protect

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve

Texas

A field filled with white and yellow flowers with green shrubs in the distance.
BARTON CREEK HABITAT PRESERVE This preserve protects open space in one of the fastest growing parts of the state. © Pierce Ingram

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve provides habitat for migratory songbirds and protects water quality in the Barton Creek watershed.

Overview

Description

Nestled within southwest Travis County, The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Barton Creek Habitat Preserve is a step off the beaten path, encompassing more than 4,000 acres of pristine natural landscape and four miles of Barton Creek frontage. These waters flow through the preserve and end approximately 16 miles later at iconic Barton Springs, replenishing the Edwards Aquifer—the primary source of drinking water for two million Central Texans—along the way. Additionally, the preserve’s limestone canyons and tree-lined hills provide habitat for an incredible diversity of Texas species; in fact, the preserve was originally acquired through the Endangered Species Act to protect two migratory songbirds: the federally endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Sitting just a few miles from downtown Austin, this natural gem feels an entire world away.

Access

Limited Access

Visitation is by appointment only outside of scheduled events/volunteer opportunities

Location

Austin, Texas

Map with marker: This scenic and pristine landscape in Austin protects habitat for endangered songbirds and preserves water quality.

Highlights

Hiking, bird-watching, wildlife viewing, volunteer opportunities

Size

4,050 acres

Explore our work in Texas

This Land is Our Legacy (4:37) TNC, the City of Austin and other partners have worked together to protect open spaces, like Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, in Central Texas where development is rapidly expanding.
A creek reflects the green foliage that lines it.
FEEDING OUR SWIMMING SPOTS Barton Creek is one of the principal sources of water for Barton Springs. © Jacqueline Ferrato

Why This Place Matters

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve was originally purchased in 1994 to prevent encroaching development, the pace of which has steadily grown in this region with Austin projected to reach nearly three million residents by 2030. As part of the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve system, Barton Creek Habitat Preserve is an important link within a network of protected lands in the Texas Hill Country.

Roughly 2,500 of the preserve’s 4,050 total acres provide mature oak and juniper forest habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, the only bird species to nest exclusively in Central Texas. Additionally, portions of Barton Creek Habitat Preserve provide habitat for the black-capped vireo and other grassland bird species. While the black-capped vireo is no longer endangered, sightings in this region are rare—predominately due to lack of habitat, which TNC is working to restore on the preserve.

Finally, as the tranquil waters of Barton Creek flow through the preserve, they help to supply drinking water to Central Texans, recharge the Edwards Aquifer and protect the endangered Barton Springs salamander. As the Austin metro area continues to grow, prosper and develop at an unparalleled clip, Barton Creek Habitat Preserve remains critical for protecting water quality, conserving natural habitat and safeguarding Texas’ unique array of wildlife.

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Photos from Barton Creek Habitat Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this Central Texas preserve on the edge of Austin.

A field of tall brown grass and purple and yellow flowers.
A clear creek flows along a large limestone boulder.
A bird with a black head, white chest, and yellow feathers sits on a branch.
A small cabin sits in a field of wildflowers and flowering cactus.
A bright orange butterfly with black markings sits on a leaf.
A closeup of a white flower with a yellow center.
A group of women hike along a trail lined with green foliage in a single file line.
Rolling green hills fade against a purple and blue sunset.
A closeup of a lengthy lizard with six green stripes that fade into brown.
A worn, wooden sign reading HQ stands in a field of wildflowers.
A small black and white bird with a yellow head.
PROTECTING CRITICAL HABITAT Golden-cheeked warblers only nest in the Ashe-juniper and oak woodlands of Central Texas. © Rich Kostecke

What TNC Is Doing

Established in 1994 with funding from the Endangered Species Act, the Barton Creek Habitat Preserve is managed through restoration efforts, invasive species removal and prescribed fire. Other notable species found here include rare plants like the Heller’s False-Gromwell and Gravelbar Brickellbush, the Guadalupe Bass, which is endemic to the Edwards Plateau, and wildlife ranging from deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and porcupines to lizards, snakes and many species of birds.

Working with the community—especially as this region continues to grow—is an important part of our efforts on the preserve, which is frequently used for research projects in collaboration with universities, school groups, Boy/Girl Scouts, local youth programs and other partners. Recent projects include studies on pollinators, invasive species and monarch butterflies. Public visitation is limited to scheduled volunteer workdays and conservation-oriented groups; the preserve maintains a thriving outreach program for volunteers, researchers and nature lovers.

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Resources

  • Access

    Visitation is limited to volunteer workdays and various special events throughout the calendar year. An appointment is needed for visits outside of these organized events. For more information, contact preserve manager Brandon Crawford (bcrawford@TNC.ORG).

  • Maps