Could Willow Waterhole possibly be as enchanting as it sounds? We set off this morning to see for ourselves!
The park lies to the southwest just outside the 610 loop and is easy to get to via South Post Oak Road and South Willow Drive. We left our cars along Ricecrest Street which is wide and quiet and gives easy access to the park. Harris County Flood Control Department (HCFCD) started work on this large flood control project in 2005 and estimate completion around 2015. When finished, the area will have six large detention ponds and will cover approximately 280-acres. It will be called Willow Waterhole Greenspace Reserve.
|John Rafferty Gathering Place|
We started our walk at the John H (Jack) Rafferty gathering place which is set under the welcome shade of a huge live oak tree. This visionary engineer crafted a flood control master plan for Houston more than 60 years ago which formed the basis for the complex flood control system we now have around the city. The path runs alongside the first rather small newer pond and crosses Gasmer Drive to the most developed part of the project. Here, there is a larger pond surrounded with well established grasses and wildflowers and planted with a good variety of young trees.
A network of paved paths lead you to a Gazebo which would be a good place to sit and enjoy the natural surroundings – were it not for the noise of a fabrication yard adjacent to this section of the park. So often our walks are impacted by noise pollution and today is no exception. Here, situated between the 90 and the 610 loop with the yard on one side and the site construction on the other it is difficult to escape the hum of engines running.
Despite that, this is a magical place and we happily continued on dirt track over a couple of bridges and around the pond. Because the park is much smaller than we expected (approx. 1.5 miles) we did this circuit twice – seeing something different on each occasion! The Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) - a new wildflower on our list - created a wonderful carpet of red and the showy primroses and dandelions competed magnificently. But today our attention was also on the birds. We spotted a loggerhead shrike in a tree and a very protective killdeer circled overhead warning us away from her nearby eggs.
Already this spot is attracting many birds. The Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy run monthly bird surveys and their records provide an impressive list of Birds Seen to Date. They have also posted some great bird photos which are worth checking out.
We are very happy to have added this new park to our list of walks and it will be fun to watch the development of this exciting new flood control area and nature preserve.
Forget about going for coffee after your walk here - take a picnic with you and stay awhile!
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