Blue, yellow and red flowers interspersed with a few cacti and trees.
Wildflowers at Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, Texas Wildflowers at Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, Texas © Lynn McBride

Places We Protect

Barton Creek Habitat Preserve

Texas

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

Nestled within southwest Travis County, 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.

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—Austin is 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 Central Texas Hill Country.

Roughly 2,500 of the preserve’s 4,084 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.

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. 

Please contact Brandon Crawford, Preserve Manager, at bcrawford@tnc.org for more information.