Interpretive Trail Guide
Interpretive Trail Guide of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (SNA) in Texas. Published by Texas Parks & Wildlife.
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0.11 Enchanted Rock 1600' S tate N at u r a l A r ea Loop For more information on Trail the Friends Group, visit www.friendsofenchantedrock.com (4.25 mi.) 1500' Interpretive Trail Guide A Special Thanks to John Hueckstaedt 15 Interpretive Loop (0.50 mi.) 42 . 0 0.21 ' 16 0. Project Sponsors ' 00 15 4 0.2 0.08 00 Sa n 0. 16 00 ' 16 00 0' 140 ' 1414' Whole Earth Provision Co. www.wholeearthprovision.com 1.0 Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (830) ' 685-3636 00 www.tpwd.texas.gov/enchantedrock 15 © 2015 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department PWD BR P4507-119R (6/15) In accordance with Texas State Depository Law, this publication is available at the Texas State Publications Clearinghouse and/or Texas Depository Libraries. TPWD receives funds from the USFWS. TPWD prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, and gender, pursuant to state and federal law. To request an accommodation or obtain information in an alternative format, please contact TPWD on a Text Telephone (TDD) at (512) 389-8915 or by Relay Texas at 7-1-1 or (800) 735-2989. If you believe you have been discriminated against by TPWD, please contact TPWD or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Workforce Management, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041. Welcome to Enchanted Rock’s Interpretive Trail! This half-mile loop exemplifies the diversity of the area. As it winds through grassland and forest and skirts the base of Little Rock, take note of the variety of hardwood trees and numerous forbs, ferns and shrubs that have adapted to living at the edge of the rock. The trail contrasts the richness of the forest to the stark beauty of the granite and the ever-changing skies above. And with just a little imagination, you can experience the echoes of past humans. What may have attracted people to this area? What brought you here? his publication is available at the Texas State Publications Clearinghouse and/or Texas Depository Libraries. As you enjoy your walk, please follow these trail guidelines for a safe trip! Park • Always carry water and a map. Entrance • Stay on the trail to protect yourself and the resources. • Keep pets on a leash to keep them safe and protect wildlife. • Respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance from them. • Leave No Trace. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. The Riparian Sponge Hold On Tight! Woods and Water The Big Picture Many Hill Country streams are ephemeral, or temporary. Sandy Creek is no different, and even when it appears dry, this riparian area stores water underground and sustains a small stream flow. Many plants like switchgrass, gamagrass, muhly and buttonbush depend on this stored water to survive. Lichens and mosses establish footholds in nooks and crannies that have just enough space for soil and water to collect in. A variety of lichens that colonize granite surfaces and mosses covering many rocks along the trail. Most commonly you will find the crustose (growing like a crust) lichens painting the rocks red, neon green, black, and bright orange. Many shrubs and larger trees thrive from water available in the sandy soil at the base of the rock. You’ll see cedar elm, Texas buckeye, post oak and live oak in this shadier area. Look even closer for the granite mountain wild buckwheat (Eriogonum tenellum), a low growing light gray bush found among small granite outcroppings in spring and summer. Lonestar Grass Live Oak Community Plateau live oak trees (Quercus fusiformis), common to the Hill Country, can live to be hundreds of years old. Oak mottes are groupings of small oaks connected by a single root system. See if you can spot the live oaks along the trail. Look closer at the live oak’s branches to spot small clumps of ball moss. Ball moss is an ephiphyte, taking nothing from the tree as it gets moisture and nutrients from the air. Rock to Soil Notice the cracks in the rock and the missing pieces of the granite puzzles. Over millions of years, weathering has cracked, chipped, and whittled away at layers of the granite domes in front of you. It begins with a process called exfoliation, whereby large pieces of granite separate themselves from the granite mass, much like an onion skin. The erosion of granite creates a unique soil environment that allows flora and fauna to thrive and grow in this otherwise dry and rocky landscape. The People of Enchanted Rock Humans have inhabited Central Texas and the areas around Enchanted Rock for over 12,000 years. Native Americans as far back as the Clovis and more recently the Tonkawa, Apache, and Comanche relied on the resources available around the sacred rock. Some plants they found useful were the persimmon and mesquite. They even used depressions in the granite to grind seeds into flour! Ferns of Enchanted Rock Enchanted Rock is home to a surprisingly large number of fern species. Over 25 different ferns have been recorded here. One of the more common ferns, the fairy sword (Cheilanthes lindheimeri), grows in the more shaded east side of boulders and shelves where more moisture is available. Another common fern is the ovate cliff-brake fern (Pellaea ovata). Like other ferns, it propagates from small spores rather than seeds like many flowering plants. Cliff-brake fern by Barney Lipscomb Surrounded by Song Listen for the canyon wren’s beautiful cascading song around the base of Little Dome. Other birds common to this area include rock wrens, Bewick’s wrens, northern mockingbirds, northern cardinals, black-crested titmice, Carolina chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers and ground doves. Look up and you might see black vultures, turkey vultures, or maybe a red-tailed hawk. A Prickly Situation Cacti, like the abundant prickly pear in the area, can provide good cover and food for wildlife. The spines on the cactus provide protection for smaller wildlife, and serve as a nursery to keep plants from being eaten by white-tailed deer. Other prickly friends to look for are the low-growing lace cactus, claret cup cactus, and the “jumping” tasajillo cactus. From this vantage point you can see two granite domes, Enchanted Rock to the right and Little Rock to the left. While you may see these as two free-standing rock formations, they are actually part of a larger mass known as a batholith. At over 1.1 billion years in age and extending almost 12 miles to our northwest, the surface area of the Enchanted Rock Batholith has a surface area of over 100 square miles, roughly the size of Amarillo! Side-oats grama is the Texas State Grass and you can find it growing alongside trails throughout the park. This perennial grass will have reddish-orange flowers when it blooms in June and July and its ripe seeds are a favorite among local bird populations. Switchgrass and little bluestem, two of the “Big Four” grasses of the American tallgrass prairie, can also be found here. Their partners, Indiangrass and big bluestem, are found throughout the park as well. Underground Seed Bank What do ants and the grasses along the trail have in common? Along the path you will see red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex sp.). These are large ants living in colonies along the trail that spend their day harvesting seeds from the native grasses around you. Try to spot these ants taking their grass seed harvest to their underground nest. Mistaken Identity Texas beargrass (Nolina texana) is a large, tough, and wiry plant that grows in thick clumps all around Enchanted Rock. While the name and look of the plant can be deceiving, it’s not actually a grass. It belongs to the lily family. The long, graceful “blades” were used by Native Americans to weave baskets and mats.