In a region The Nature Conservancy calls the Bandera Canyonlands in the western Hill Country, crystal-clear water flows from numerous springs and seeps originating from the geologic seam separating the porous Edwards limestone from the dense Upper Glen Rose formation. These perennial, life-giving waters etch through deep, cool canyons, enabling a wide variety of Texas native plants and wildlife to flourish on the Edwards Plateau.
From late October to mid-November, these rocky cliffs are adorned with some of the most dramatic displays of autumn color found in Texas. These scattered remnant stands of bigtooth maples – often called the "lost maples" for their rarity throughout most of Texas – display brilliant, contrasting shades of yellow, orange and red as temperatures drop and days shorten.
Love Creek flows through the Conservancy’s 2,508-acre preserve for 2 ¼ miles, giving it its name, then the creek joins with the West Prong of the Medina River, eventually contributing to the Edwards Aquifer. The preserve protects a representation of one of the most diverse habitats in the nation and some of the most scenic land in Texas.
The exposed upper Glen Rose formation is the primary reason this region attracts so much biological interest. The surface water that emanates from this location provides 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, big red sage and tobusch fish-hook cactus are some of the floral natives in the region.
Rare golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos are 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 include rare salamanders of the Eurycea species, and a species of tiny, freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii).
From scattered artifacts found in Love Creek and along the lower stream terraces, there is evidence that prehistoric people inhabited this region. These steep canyons provided shelter in caves, food from the abundant diversity of plants and animals, and an essential ingredient–water. Several tribes of Native Americans roamed the Bandera Canyonlands, including Lipan Apache, Apache and Comanche. The first European visitors to the area were the Spanish explorers of the late 1700s.
In 1982, 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 calls "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 is a slice of land that yields superior water and biological resources. The Conservancy acquired 1,400 acres of the ranch in April 2000 to create Love Creek Preserve. A substantial gift from Baxter and Carol as part of the purchase demonstrates their commitment to conservation and helps ensure their legacy will be enjoyed by future generations of Texans.
The Nature Conservancy in Texas is working with other private landowners in the region to promote wildlife management, natural resource stewardship and to demonstrate land management practices compatible with habitat conservation. The Conservancy also will work with other conservation organizations and agencies in the region, including Texas Parks and Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund and the Hill Country Land Trust.
Are you interested in volunteering at Love Creek Preserve? We'd love to hear from you—email Rebecca Neill at email@example.com for more information.