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Places We Protect

Love Creek Preserve

Texas

A field of brown grass filled with orange and red widlflowers and a cluster of green cactus; in the distance, green shurbs and trees outline the grassy meadow.
Love Creek Preserve Wildflowers bloom in the springtime at Love Creek Preserve. © Ian Shive

Freshwater conservation is vital to the Bandera Canyonlands.

Overview

Description

Some of the most iconic Texas rivers flow through a beautiful region that The Nature Conservancy (TNC) calls the Bandera Canyonlands in the western Hill Country. Less than 10 miles east of the infamous Lost Maples State Natural Area, Love Creek Preserve offers crystal-clear waters that etch through deep, cool canyons, enabling native plants and wildlife to flourish on the Edwards Plateau. Here, Love Creek flows through the 2,508-acre preserve for 2.25 miles, giving it its name; the creek then joins with the west prong of the Medina River, eventually contributing to the Edwards Aquifer. Together, this protected acreage represents one of the most diverse habitats in the nation and some of the most scenic land in Texas.

The preserve’s beginnings date back to 1982, when Baxter and Carol Adams moved from Houston to purchase 1,863 acres along Love Creek, calling their Hill Country homestead Love Creek Ranch. The next 19 years saw substantial changes to the property as they began to experiment with ways to produce a livelihood from what Baxter called "a rock garden," resulting from years of minimal rainfall and intensive grazing activity.

Thus, the Adamses began their journey to understanding the intricacies of the natural systems that form the Bandera Canyonlands. The results of their experimentation and careful stewardship: an expanse of land that yields superior water and biological resources. TNC acquired 1,400 acres of the ranch in April 2000 to create Love Creek Preserve. Through our conservation work, we’re helping ensure that their legacy will live on and be enjoyed by future generations of Texans.

Access

Limited Access

Size

2,508 acres

Explore our work in this region

Love Creek trickles along a shallow stream bed.
CARVING A PATH Water bubbles up from deep springs, feeding Love Creek and scouring the preserve's porous limestone features. © Jacqueline Ferrato/TNC

Why This Place Matters

The exposed upper Glen Rose formation is the primary reason this region attracts significant biological interest. The preserve’s surface water features provide habitat for a wide variety of native plants and wildlife. Rare plants such as Texas mock-orange, sycamore leaf snowbells, darkstem noseburn, spreading least-daisy, scarlet clematis, buckley tridens and big red sage are some of the floral natives in the region. The 338-acre tract that includes Clark Creek also supports the Tobusch fishhook cactus, which is only present in eight Texas counties.

Endangered golden-cheeked warblers and rare black-capped vireos are also found on the preserve, as well as Acadian flycatcher, Louisiana waterthrush, summer tanager, indigo bunting, blue-gray gnatcatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, a nesting pair of zone-tailed hawks and many other bird species. Native mammals on the land include white-tailed deer, armadillo, rock squirrel, bobcat and raccoon. Aquatic species found here include salamanders of the Eurycea species, a species of tiny, freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii) and one of the rarest fish statewide—the Medina roundnose minnow. Surveys have shown that these minnows occur in the preserve’s Elam and Clark creeks.

Scattered artifacts found in Love Creek and along the lower stream terraces present evidence that prehistoric people once inhabited this region. The land's steep canyons afforded caves for shelter, while its array of plants and animals provided food and its creeks and streams offered access to freshwater. Several tribes of Indigenous Peoples roamed the Bandera Canyonlands, including Lipan Apache, Apache and Comanche. In the late 1700s, Spanish explorers arrived, becoming the first European visitors to the area.

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Photos from Love Creek Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife of the Bandera Canyonlands. Tag @nature_tx on Instagram with your photos when you visit.

A closeup of three yellow flower blooms with a green bug sitting on a petal on top of a round, squat green cactus with long, pale spines.
Seven people walk along a worn dirt path surrounded by green shrubs, bushes, and grass.
The languid waters of Love Creek lie still in a natural, round limestone pool against a backdrop of vibrant green trees, brush, and more stacked limestone features.
A closeup of hands holding a small sunfish with large round eyes and an ombre of green, turquoise blue, and yellow scales.
A view of rolling, green hill-tops dotted with orange, yellow, and red leaves as the trees begin to turn colors in the fall season.
A closeup of a vibrant, red bell-shaped flower with curled ends and yellow stemens, hanging off of a long vine upside down.
A stream trickles into a larger pool of clear, flowing freshwater, surrounded by bright green plants and moss on limestone outcroppings.
A fire practitioner in yellow protective gear monitors orange flames as they lick at brown shrubs and grass next to a wooden sign that reads Love Creek Preserve.
Streaks of sunlight illuminate mounds of green prickly pear cactus, growing upwards amongst a field of thick grass and shrubs.
A speckled, brown salamander with short legs and a long tail maneuvers through clear waters amongst sunken limestone rocks in varying shades of red, brown, tan, and yellow.
Staff exchange a creek water sample containter.
CONSERVATION IN ACTION TNC staff members Ryan Smith and Becky Neil perform field work at Love Creek Preserve. © Kenny Braun

What TNC Is Doing

Since the preserve’s founding in 2000, TNC has expanded its boundaries by more than 1,100 acres, protecting stretches of Elam and Clark creeks in the process. As one of TNC’s “platform preserves,” located near two major Texas cities (San Antonio and Austin), Love Creek is showcasing the best aspects of our conservation efforts on former ranch lands. By working with private landowners, other non-profits and agencies in the region—including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Environmental Defense Fund, Bandera Canyonlands Alliance and the Hill Country Land Trust—TNC is promoting wildlife management and natural resource stewardship while demonstrating sustainable land management practices that are compatible with habitat conservation.

As part of this management, the preserve is serving as a living laboratory for some of TNC’s most innovative ideas and science-based strategies. Overall, we're investing in our Hill Country landscapes and working with regional landowners to realize an expansive conservation vision for the Bandera Canyonlands—one that has the potential to safeguard thousands of contiguous acres of this beautiful terrain.

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Visit

  • 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 or to become a volunteer, contact preserve manager Rebecca Neill (rebecca.neill@TNC.ORG).

  • Directions

    Directions to Love Creek Preserve Headquarters
    2725 Elam Creek Road, Medina, TX 78055

    From San Antonio:

    • Travel west on Highway 16 to Medina (through Bandera)
    • It is approximately 32 miles from the Loop 1604/Hwy 16 (Bandera Road) Exit to Bandera
    • In Bandera, you will turn right onto Main Street/Hwy 16 (at stop light)
    • Stay on Hwy 16 and travel to Medina (~12 miles)*

    From Kerrville (Intersection of Sydney Baker St/TX 16 and Main St):

    • From the intersection of Sydney Baker St/TX 16 and Main Street, travel approximately 1.1 mile on Sydney Baker Street/TX 16 out of town
    • At the intersection of TX 16 and Bandera Hwy/TX‐173, turn left onto Bandera Hwy/TX‐173
    • Travel on TX‐173 for approximately 13.4 miles until you reach FM 2828
    • Turn right onto FM 2828 and travel approximately 9 miles until the road “T’s” into Hwy 16
    • Turn right onto Hwy 16 and proceed 2.6 miles to Ranch Road 337 (just past the “Old Timer” gas station) in Medina*

    *From Medina:

    • In Medina, turn left (west) onto Ranch Road 337 (by the “Old Timer” gas station)
    • Travel west approximately 8 miles on Ranch Road 337 from Medina
    • Turn right (north) onto Elam Creek Road (gravel)
    • Travel on Elam Creek Road approximately 2.5 miles. The road will run into the large, cedar gate, which marks the entrance to the preserve
    • Continue through the gate and the Stewardship Center will be on the left, immediately inside the gate

    From Vanderpool:

    • Travel east approximately 12 miles on Highway 337
    • Turn left (north) onto Elam Creek Road (gravel)
    • Continue on Elam Creek Road approximately 2.5 miles       
    • The road will run into the large, cedar gate which marks the entrance to the preserve
    • Continue through the gate and the Stewardship Center will be on the left, immediately inside the gate
  • Resources

    View a map of the Love Creek Conservation Area, including Love Creek Preserve.