Places We Protect

Independence Creek Preserve


A rocky creek runs through a dry landscape.
Independence Creek Preserve Independence Creek contributes significantly to the Lower Pecos River. © Jacqueline Ferrato

Independence Creek Preserve is the lifeblood for the Lower Pecos River Watershed.



The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Independence Creek Preserve is a significant piece of West Texas’ natural heritage. Here, spectacular vistas of flattop mesas and dramatic canyons meet woodlands, desert scrub and honey-colored prairie grasses. The pristine waters of this desert oasis make a substantial contribution to the Pecos River corridor wildlife community downstream. Independence Creek, for which the preserve is named, flows for eight miles through the preserve, sustaining diverse and abundant flora and fauna including several rare and endangered species.

Most rivers are dependent upon consistent, high-quality freshwater inflow to maintain ecological stability for the species they support, and the Pecos River is no exception—especially in the arid West Texas landscape where freshwater sources are becoming increasingly scarce and precious commodities.

In addition to its ecological value, the lower Pecos area exhibits large concentrations of rock art and other culturally significant sites, suggesting about 12,000 years of occupation by archaic people and more recently by the Apaches. Over time, from the 1870s-1890s, cattle ranching became the mainstay of the area’s economy. Today, sheep and goat production continues to dominate the region.


Limited Access

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


Swimming, fishing, hiking, birding, wildlife viewing


20,426 acres

Explore our work in Texas

Sweeping view of green valleys, mesas and ponds.
DESERT OASIS TNC's Independence Creek Preserve is a key part of West Texas' natural and cultural heritage. © Jacqueline Ferrato

Why This Place Matters

Independence Creek is a large, spring-fed creek and the most important of the few remaining recoverable freshwater tributaries of the lower Pecos River. Caroline Spring, located at the preserve headquarters produces 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per minute and comprises about 25% of the creek’s flow. Independence Creek’s contribution increases the Pecos River water volume by 42 percent and reduces the total dissolved solids by 50 percent, thus improving water quantity and quality.

The preserve hosts a variety of bird and fish species, some of which are extremely rare, like the black-capped vireo. The canyon oak shrub community around Independence Creek provides nesting habitat for this shy and elusive migratory species. Numerous other birds have been sighted on the property including vermilion flycatchers, three species of kingfishers, indigo buntings, scissor-tailed flycatchers, prairie falcons, golden eagles, golden-fronted and ladder-backed woodpeckers, zone-tailed hawks, wood ducks and great blue herons, to name a few.

Many different fish species inhabit the creek. The most threatened aquatic inhabitant is the Proserpine shiner. This and several other small fish species, including the Rio Grande darter, headwaters catfish and several other native fishes, are slowly disappearing from the Pecos River. Their declining numbers are a result of vanishing spring-fed stream habitat. Yet, the preservation of Independence Creek is helping provide a safe haven for these desert stream fish, especially during stressful river conditions when water quality is low.

The preserve's rugged canyons are composed of hillside juniper woodlands and Chihuahuan Desert scrub, contrasted with scattered stands of large plateau live oaks along the creek banks. These communities of ancient oak trees are at the western extreme of their range in Texas. The oaks are remnants of the vegetation that grew in this location thousands of years ago when the climate was wetter and cooler. Warnock’s coral-root is also sometimes found living in association with these live oaks while plateau loosestrife and spiny water niad—two rare aquatic plants—have been documented in Independence Creek.

Photos from Independence Creek Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this desert creek and spring preserve.

A bird with a black head and yellow mottled wings sits on a branch.
Long yellow, green and maroon freshwater plants sway in clear blue waters.
A creek winds through rocky pathways and trees.
At least four children stand on the grassy bank of a pond fishing.
Rocky outcrops give way to green valleys.
One person sits on a dock with an overhang while another person stands gazing up at brilliant stars shining against a dark sky.
A plump prairie dog pops its head up from a mound of dirt.
A man and women help a little boy and girl cast their rods to fish in a pond while their yellow labrador watches intently.
Virga falls from orange and purple clouds over a rocky creek.
Trees line a pond sprinkled with aquatic plants.
A boy holds a fishing rod as he stands near a creek.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS The preserve hosts occasional Open Days for the public, with recreational and educational opportunities. © Jerod Foster

What TNC Is Doing

Among the first to settle the Independence Creek area for ranching were the Chandler and Hicks families. In 1991, the Chandler family and TNC permanently protected 702 acres along the pristine, free-flowing Independence Creek through a conservation easement. In 2000 and 2001, TNC purchased the Oasis and Canon ranches to create Independence Creek Preserve.

Daily management of Independence Creek Preserve includes maintenance of wildlife watering sites. Several large projects are being conducted, including the restoration of pastures using water-efficient native grass species that are more nutritionally beneficial to wildlife. These new pastures also supply native seeds for use on the preserve and conservation partner sites in the lower Pecos area.

TNC is also conducting a multi-year hydrology study to help understand the hydrologic processes of the lower Pecos River, as well as what currently sustains and what may threaten the river in the future. The preserve is used as a living laboratory for research, offering educational opportunities for area schools and demonstrating a variety of land management techniques.


  • 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 Director of Land Protection & Stewardship Dan Snodgrass (dsnodgrass@TNC.ORG).

  • View a map of TNC's protected properties and preserves in West Texas, including Independence Creek Preserve.