Review: The John F. Burke Nature Preserve has recently undergone a huge renovation, boasting nature trails that are accessible by all, and ample places to view and enjoy the natural wetlands near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. While not a massive preserve, there is a lot to see and explore here.
Distance: About 2 miles of paved, soft dirt and decomposed granite trails
Area of Town: Farmers Branch, underneath the juncture of LBJ and 190
Facilities: There are picnic tables here, near the overlook at the Trinity River, where the Thicket Trail begins. Benches are also scattered around the wetland area, and there was a port-a-pottie in the parking lot
Suitable for: Hiking, Bird Watching
Type of Trail: Natural trail and Paved Trail
Shade: Mix of sunny and shady parts
Where to Park: There is a parking lot here, just underneath the overpass
Official Website: Official Site
The John F. Burke Nature Preserve may not be something that you’ve ever heard of. Tucked underneath the NE juncture of LBJ and 190 Freeways, this 104 acre area contains wetlands and upland forests along with trails and access to the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. It’s actually just across the Trinity River from the Campion Trail. The city of Farmer’s Branch has recently done considerable upgrades to this preserve, named after the man responsible for the Farmer’s Branch Park Department. See here for a video with more details on the recent improvements.
Getting here wasn’t easy! I used Apple Maps to get here originally, and after it tried to send me down a gravel road that dead-ended, I switched to Google Maps which eventually did get me to the right spot. Apple’s confusion was likely due to the rather strange tangle of roads underneath the junction of the highways, so depending on which direction you come from, you may be doing a few U-turns to finally get there. You’ll notice a sign proclaiming “John F Burke Nature Preserve”, and you make a right turn just after you pass it. There is plenty of parking at the preserve, and don’t let the overpass above concern you. Once you set down the path, this is a beautiful spot to explore!
The trails here encompass paved trails (from parking lot to the pond trail), decomposed granite (pond trail) and soft natural paths (River and Thicket Trails). I found them to be very easy going, suitable for most people’s abilities. This is a nature preserve that is good for all ages.
The facilities here are quite nice. Spread throughout the trails are signs with information about the animals and plants you may encounter here. Some of these are about specific animals (did you know Cottontail Rabbits can see behind them, or that beavers can see through their eyelids when closed?). There are also benches around the Pond Trail, and picnic tables near the river overlook. All told the city did a nice job of renovating and improving this preserve.
The Pond Trail is a loop around the central pond and wetland, and I saw several egrets while I was there. There are multiple spots to get a closer look, unfortunately I didn’t bring a good camera, so my photos aren’t great. Wildflowers were blooming as well. I can only imagine how busy this preserve must be when the birds are migrating!
The two dirt trails aren’t well marked. The Thicket Trail is accessible by the Trinity River overlook (near the picnic tables), just to the right of the raised boardwalk. It took you through a thick forested area, and took me back towards the road, with a path that took me back to the parking lot. The River Trail Loop was accessible near a bird blind (approximately halfway around the Pond Look Trail), and is a wide trail (I thought it was a service road at first), which takes you down to the river, and gives you a more natural experience. Butterflies were everywhere when I visited, it really was beautiful back there.
I’ve known about this preserve for several years (once I tried to visit and couldn’t figure out how to get to it, the second time it was closed for renovation), and am so glad I visited when I did. The new renovations to the preserve make this a beautiful spot to visit and explore, so nature lovers should make it a point to visit and explore this recently upgraded preserve!