Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center
Review: Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center is a fantastic and beautiful nature preserve to explore! There is so much to explore here in such a small place, including prairie, forest, wetlands and views of the Trinity River. I highly recommend visiting, but make sure to check their instagram account to check for trail status. The first time I tried to visit (2020) the majority of the preserve was closed due to flooding, so check trail status before making the trip out!
Distance: Approximately 5 miles of trails
Area of Town: Denton
Facilities: There is a portable toilet facility at the entrance. The visitor center does have water and restrooms when open
Suitable for: Hiking
Type of Trail: Natural Trails
Shade: There is quite a bit of shade on most of the trails, although the section near the wetlands is fairly exposed to the sun
Where to Park: There is a small parking lot just outside the entrance
Official Website: Official Site
Nearby Trails: Lake Ray Roberts (Isle Du Bois & Johnson Branch)
One of the reasons I am doing this blogs, is to research and find new places to explore. This is one of those spots I’d never heard of, until very recently. In going down the Google rabbit hole, i found a website where this guy drops game cams around the metroplex to see what kinds of wildlife he spots (it really is a fascinating site!). One article I saw talked about Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center (link), which I’d never heard of and started to get curious about. After I found their official site, i went out to visit in 2020, but was disappointed to find that most of the trail was closed due to flooding. There was a large logjam on the Trinity that had been causing flooding in the area, which unfortunately made much of Clear Creek unpassable. After reading that the logjam had been cleared (link), i wanted to come back out.
Once you park, you’ll enter the park through the iron fence (keep our joyriders), and then you can either go left towards the visitor center, or left towards the wetlands. I went to the left through the prarie, and frankly i was happy I did, as it saved the best part for last. As you walk along the prarie trail, once you pass the visitors center, you’ll find yourself in a large prarie dotted with junipers and tall grasses. The trail will eventually wind it’s way into the forest, on the Fisherman’s trail.
Entering the Fisherman’s Trail you’ll have a few options on the left to take the Big Cottonwood Loop or Bois d’arc Loop. Take them, these trails will take you to walk along Clear Creek, which will eventually join with the Trinity River. You’ll find access points down to the river, where you’ll be able to see the remains of the logjam, and it’s an amazing amount of tree debris. This is the same logjam that made the Greenbelt Trail from Lake Ray Roberts to be unusable (and there is apparently another logjam that continues to make the Ray Roberts Greenbelt Trail unusable). You’ll find the logjam at the confluence where Clear Creek merges with the Trinity River.
So that was a cool thing to see, but the best is yet to come. Continue to follow the Wetlands Trail around, and you’ll leave both Clear Creek and the Trinity behind you, as you soon enter the Wetlands. From the map, it looks like this is just a pond, but the wetlands is FAR more than a pond. As I walked through this part of the preserve, I saw turtles swimming in the water, ducks, geese and other water fowl swimming or flying across the wetland’s surface. This was very unexpected, and quite wonderful to take in. I spent a bit of time here on a bench just watching some of the birds going about their business. I can’t think of another nature center in the area that is like this, except possibly the Trinity Audubon Center south of Dallas. The rest of the trails are nice, but nothing unique honestly, but once i reached the wetlands area, this is why I’ll be coming back in the future!
At this point the wetlands trail will leave the water behind, and as you head back to the trail head you can choose to explore the Old Wetlands Road (closed when i was there), or the High Trail (which bisects the preserve).
I highly recommend visiting the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center, it’s on the smaller side, but it offers a variety of experiences from prairie to bottomland forest to the wetlands. Make sure to check their social media on trail status, especially if there has been substantial rain of late. It’s easy to imagine why the Center is vulnerable to flooding.