Canopy bridge at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge: A Hidden Gem Found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It’s tucked away in the city of Alamo, near the border of Texas and Mexico. As a result, the Rio Grande runs along the southern border of the sanctuary. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one of the great hidden gems of Texas.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley consists of a unique ecosystem that houses some of the most exotic animals in the state. Therefore, the refuge attracts wildlife enthusiasts from around the world. A few common animals that can be found in this lower region of Texas include the green jay, ocelot, and plain chachalaca.

Explore Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

People visit the wildlife refuge for a handful of different reasons, including hiking nature trails, wildlife photography, and birdwatching. In fact, the sanctuary was founded back in 1943 to help protect migratory birds that stop over at the refuge. One of the most sought-after activities at the refuge, however, is the canopy walk.

Stroll through the Forest on the Canopy Walk

The canopy walk is located in the middle of the refuge. Visitors can access the canopy by walking a short distance from the park’s entrance. It’s located near the intersection of Willow Lakes Trail and Pintail Lakes Trail. The canopy walk is a popular tourist attraction that consists of a 100-foot rope bridge that’s connected to two 25-foot towers. Visitors can climb the stairs on either side to access the canopy walk.

Canopy suspension bridge in Alamo, Texas.

Once at the top of the canopy, visitors can observe their surroundings from a birdseye point of view by walking among the trees on the suspended bridge. This canopy walk is the only one of its kind in southern Texas, making it quite a unique travel destination. If you’re planning on visiting the refuge, this is a stop you don’t want to miss!

Suspension bridge in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

See for Miles Atop the Tree Tower Overlook

Another point of interest at the wildlife sanctuary is the tree tower overlook. It’s located directly next to the canopy walk, giving visitors easy access to both. The tree tower overlook is an open-air tower that stands 45 feet tall. It provides astonishing views of the refuge, giving those who brave the stairs some of the most breathtaking sights at the refuge.

Observation tower at Santa Ana NWR.

Those who choose to climb to the top of the tree tower overlook can see for miles. From here, visitors have the opportunity to observe migratory birds resting in the trees nearby or raptors flying up above. In this very spot, hundreds of thousands of raptors can be seen migrating during the spring.

Photograph Exotic Wildlife

In addition to the canopy walk and tree tower overlook, the refuge offers unique opportunities to photograph exotic wildlife. One of the most interesting birds found at the refuge is the plain chachalaca. This species is not common in the United States and is only found from the southernmost tip of Texas down to South America. One of the best places to see this bird at the refuge is near the trail that bears its name – the Chachalaca Trail.

Plain chachalaca bird featured in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge photos by Sara Turbyfill.

Another interesting species found at the wildlife sanctuary is is the Texas spotted whiptail. Although this lizard has brightly colored markings, it can be difficult to spot when resting along the trails. The Texas spotted whiptail is commonly spotted at the refuge but can be hard to distinguish because it easily blends in with the leaves. If you do happen to spot one, however, it makes for an amazing photo.

Texas spotted whiptail in Alamo, Texas.

Discover a Wide Variety of Plants

Finally, another reason people travel to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is to admire the diversity of plants found there. Dozens of native and non-native flora thrive in the woods. For example, the Texas ebony is one of the most prominent trees found throughout the property. This native Texas plant houses hundreds of black pods that resemble beans.

Texas ebony tree featured in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge photos by Sara Turbyfill.

In addition to the Texas ebony tree, another prevalent species of plant found at the wildlife refuge is Spanish moss. Spanish moss, also known by its scientific name tillandsia usneoides, covers trees throughout the refuge, making for great photo opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, however, Spanish moss isn’t a moss at all. It actually belongs to the bromeliad family.

Spanish moss on trees in Alamo, Texas.

Visit Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

In conclusion, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is an astonishing place that’s worth preserving. The sanctuary provides visitors with a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking nature trails, enjoying wildlife photography, and strolling through the trees on the suspended canopy walk.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge since it’s part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset and the vehicle parking fee is $5 for general admission. To learn more about this hidden gem, check out the resources below.

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