Spring Creek Forest Preserve Nature Trail – Garland, Texas
The preserve is situated in northern Dallas County and features an old-growth bottomland forest with a gentle, wide spring water stream that flows over a bed of solid limestone. The force of the water has cut cliffs from the surrounding Austin Chalk. The towering 20- to 40-foot-tall (6 to 12 m) cliffs contain Cretaceous fossils dated at 87 million years old, a combination primarily found only in Garland.
Austin Chalk is also found in the eastern portion of the DFW Metroplex heading toward the Texas Hill Country. Several geologic formations are interspersed along the last five miles (8 km) of the creek located in Garland and Richardson. The entire length of the creek, named Spring Creek, is spring-fed at a constant 72°F (22°C).
The swift water of Spring Creek varies in depth between one and six feet (0.3 meter – 2 meters) and is about 20 feet (7 meters) wide. Even in years of extreme drought, it has never run dry. The water clarity allows one to watch the native Longear Sunfish, which can be seen gliding along against the white, limestone bottom. The abundant water supply has allowed the forest to survive for centuries. Some of the trees in the forest are as much as 500 years old and tower 100 feet (33 meters) on trunks that are 4 feet (1.1 meters) in diameter.
Five varieties of oak live in the forest, including chinquapin, bur, and Shumard, a combination found nowhere else in the world. Native plants include Solomon’s seal, horsetails, and Pennsylvania violet (Viola pennsylvanicum). More than 630 species of plants and animals have been observed in addition to the many species of dragonflies, spiders, mites, beetles, fungi, and ants living in the forest.
The densely shaded preserve has been improved with miles of earthen trail and a short quarter-mile section of concrete trail leading from the paved parking lot to the water’s edge. The land won preservation status due to its unique old-growth trees and endangered species. The preserve website contains thousands of photographs of the landscape, flowers, wildlife, and water.
In keeping with the goals of the preservation society, the forest is kept as natural as possible so that visitors can step back in time and experience life as it was before the area was settled by the Peter’s Colony in 1846. Every February, nature walks are held by the society to celebrate the blooming of the trout lily (dogtooth-violet), a wildflower that is considered the harbinger of Spring for locals. The annual walks attract about 30 to 50 outdoor people each year.
While this pristine, clear water creek runs through the solid limestone of three cities, only two parcels of land abutting the creek have been given preservation status. These are the Spring Creek Forest Preserve, owned by the city of Garland; and the Dallas County Park Preserve, owned by Dallas County Parks and Open Spaces. Both preserves are across the street from each other on Holford Road. The majority of Spring Creek has been land-locked by private housing developments and commercial office buildings along its entire ten-mile length for decades. These two parks are all that is left of the land once inhabited by tribes of the Caddo Nation.
The total preservation area contains two sections. The Lee F. Jackson Spring Creek Forest Preserve, where official tours are held at 1770 Holford Rd., contains approximately 83 acres (34 ha). The Dallas County Park Preserve located on the opposite side of the bridge at 1787 Holford Rd., contains 33 acres (13 ha). The Preserve is maintained and managed by the Spring Creek Forest Preservation Society a not-for-profit organization formed in 1987 to oversee the park under the direction of the Garland Parks and Recreation Department as provided under its contract with Dallas County. The all-volunteer Society holds monthly meetings from September through May with a monthly volunteer workday held on Saturdays.
The land was originally purchased from private landowners through a Dallas County Bond Election. The primary landowner was Ann C. Weary, an internationally known artist who sketched the trees in intricate detail.