On the arid western border of the Texas Hill Country, halfway between Del Rio and Sonora in Val Verde County, lies one of the jewels of The Nature Conservancy: Dolan Falls Preserve.
The preserve consists of 4,788 acres and is bolstered by an additional 129,521 acres that is either owned in fee or under TNC conservation easements along the Devils River. It is located at the intersection of three biological regions: the Edwards Plateau, Chihuahuan Desert and Rio Grande Plain brushland. This combination of terrain creates a landscape of outstanding beauty and diversity supported by the pristine waters of Dolan Springs, Dolan Creek and the Devils River.
The Devils River flows through the preserve’s canyons, which support stands of oaks and sycamore bounded by steep cliffs dotted with scrub juniper and mesquite. Rare and endangered species such as the Texas snowbell and Mexican white oak are found on the tract.
The river and its associated springs house rare salamanders and fish, many of which are unique to the Chihuahuan Desert region. The Devils River and other riparian corridors in the region serve as important migration paths for birds and monarch butterflies traversing the dry west. One conservation target is the black-capped vireo, an endangered songbird. Nesting pairs return to the preserve each spring.
The Devils River and Dolan Creek are replenished by freshwater springs flowing from the bases of towering limestone cliffs. It was the environmental significance of the property’s springwater flow that initially sparked the TNC's interest in the site.
TNC began to acquire the original 18,500-acre ranch in 1991. A $1 million endowment was established to ensure long-term management of the preserve. In 1995, John Eddie Williams facilitated acquisition of the site by purchasing 13,000 acres of the land and then dedicating a conservation easement on those acres to The Nature Conservancy of Texas.
The primary goal for TNC is the perpetual protection of the land and, especially, the riverfront. Scientific research is a significant component of the preserve's management approach and research facilities are available. Extensive habitat and wildlife inventories have been conducted and special programs are in place for protecting certain species threatened with extinction. For example, Texas snowbells, an endangered plant species, are monitored for health and reproductive success rate.
Dolan Falls Preserve is not open to the public. However, the adjacent Devils River State Natural Area is open to the public year round and shares the same river frontage and habitat as the preserve.
For more information, contact Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Devils River State Natural Area at 830-395-2133.