North Texas Wild: Escape the heat at these green retreats

By Amy Martin, Mon., Aug. 25, 2014 /


Summers in Texas extend deep into September, even October. Months after the longest day, the ground continues to absorb and radiate heat.

Trapped in our air-conditioned caves for too long, we need relief! Here is a selection of nature places to go green while cooling off.

Swimming Beaches at Area Lakes 

Slather on the sunscreen, take a lot of cold beverages and get wet. The sandy beaches may be completely artificial, but much better than a mucky walk to swim in a lake. Float away from the shore to find deeper, cooler water. Most of the parks have picnic tables and playgrounds for kids; some have overnight camping. Swim until 10 pm at most.

File 7235Lynn Creek Park at Joe Pool Lake: Very cool cabins to rent. Beach was recently redone. Located at 5700 Lake Ridge Pkwy, Grand Prairie, TX 75052.

Right, Lynn Creek Park.

Little Elm Park at Lake Lewisville: Sand volleyball! No boat wakes in this swim area. Located at 701 W. Eldorado Parkway, Little Elm, TX  75068.

Westlake Park at Lake Lewisville: Best views of the bunch. Covered picnic tables next to the lake. Located on East Main Street in Hickory Creek, TX 75065.

File 7236Meadowmere Park at Grapevine Lake: Kayak and paddle boat rentals! Lake front picnic tables. Rather busy. Located at 3000 Meadowmere Lane, Grapevine, TX 76051.

Left, Twin Points Park boat ramp.

Twin Points Park at the south end of Eagle Mountain Lake near the dam. Still under construction. Located on Ten Mile Bridge Rd. in Fort Worth.

Spring-Fed Bodies of Water 

File 7238Cool, clean spring water in shady natural domains. Ahhhhhh.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area is located in the Arbuckle Mountains of south-central Oklahoma. It’s a cool, shady oasis just two hours from DFW. The spring-fed Travertine Creek is a blast to play in… when it flows. Currently it’s not, but that often changes in the fall. The spring-fed ponds are still good, but they’re too shallow for swimming. Darn good soak, though. Lots of campgrounds on site and hotels/B&Bs nearby.  Turner Falls Park a few miles away is commercial and crowded, but the springs are vigorous. GreenSource DFW feature.  Located at 1008 W. 2nd St, Sulphur, OK 73086.

Right, CCC stone work at Chickasaw NRA.

File 7240Lake Fannin Park at Caddo National Grasslands. A spring-fed lake that never goes dry, 90 minutes northeast of Dallas near Bonham. The lake bank is boggy, so take a canoe or kayak out to the center and then jump in. GreenSource DFW feature. Located at CR 2035 in Fannin County.

Left, 1930s cabin on Lake Fannin. Courtesy of Allen Rich,

Night Hikes

The focus of these night hikes is on nocturnal wildlife like opossums, raccoons and owls. They’re usually not held in cold or rainy weather. For current dates, check the GreenSource DFW weekly calendar or get on the parks’ email newsletter lists.

File 7244Campión Trails is a master-planned greenbelt from the Irving park department along the Elm Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River. It can get quite wild. Night hikes there are infrequent and worth planning for. The next one is Friday, Oct. 17. Location will be confirmed upon registration.

Right, barred owl at White Rock Lake. Courtesy of

Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in southwest Dallas offers free monthly guided night hikes, usually on the second Saturday. Located at 1206 W FM 1382, Cedar Hill, TX 75104.

Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area. Next night hike is Sept. 6. Located at Jones and Kealy St., Lewisville, TX 75057.

File 7245Fort Worth Nature Center offers monthly Evening Stroll With a Naturalist on Thursdays. Deep nature nerdism. The next one is Aug. 28. Located at 9601 Fossil Ridge Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76135.

Left, armadillo at the FW Nature Center. Courtesy of FWNC. 

Fort Worth Nature Center also offers monthly Full Moon Paddles that are not to be missed. See beavers and deer! The next one is Sept. 8. Located at 9601 Fossil Ridge Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76135.


Star-Watching Parties

Parties begin at dusk and last until 10 p.m. or so. Usually not held in cold or rainy weather. Check the GreenSource DFW weekly calendar for current listings or get on the parks’ email newsletter lists.

File 7242• See the night sky through telescopes at Texas Astronomical Society star parties. Get a close look at planets and nebulae. Held at parks in Cedar Hill, Frisco, Garland and Rockwall. Next one is Sept. 6 at Spring Park Preserve, 1787 Holford Road, Garland, TX 75044. See website for locations.

Right, Summer supermoon. Courtesy of Phil Plank/LLELA.

Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area hosts monthly Stars on the Prairie gatherings on Friday nights in warm weather. Learn the constellations and how to identify planets. Excellent and easy night hiking. LLELA is immense enough to have the least light interference in DFW. Next star party is Sept. 19. Located at 1600-1798 N Mill St, Lewisville, TX 75057.

• More deep-sky viewing with Fort Worth Astronomical Society star parties held at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Staff from the Noble Planetarium make these extra star nerdy. The next one is Sept. 6. Located at 1600 Gendy St, Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Wet and Shady Oasis

In the heart of Texas summers, even shady places can be steamy. These three are exceptions.

File 7246The Eugenia Leftwich Palmer Fern Dell at the Dallas Arboretum features misters that keep the area extra cool. Mature trees and a small winding brook provide habitat for 90 varieties of ferns, camellias and azaleas. The McCasland Sunken Garden is another sweet shady spot with water features. Located at 8525 Garland Rd., Dallas, TX 75218.

The Perennial Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is a lush, shady oasis with water features. While there, amble the nearby Texas Native Forest Boardwalk. Located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

• For a wilder experience, try the Lennox Woods Preserve. Its old growth bottomland forest stays cooler than most woods and extra tall trees allow for breezes. Two hours northeast of Dallas near Clarksville. GreenSource DFW feature. Located on CR 2227 in Red River County.


Indoor Gardens

Stay cool inside while getting your green on at these air-conditioned attractions.

File 7247Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House & Insectarium at Texas Discovery Gardens is always colorful. The second story level of the 7,000-square-foot venue is a tad on the warm side, but worth it. Butterfly release daily at noon. Located at 3601 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75210.

Right, the Clipper butterfly. Courtesy of James Laurie/Texas Discovery Gardens.

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center offers 4.5 acres of tropical gardens and meandering waterways beneath soaring climate-controlled glass atriums. Located at 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051. Located at 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051.

File 7248The Conservatory at Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is 10,000 square feet of luxuriant tropical orchids, bromeliads and exotic trees along winding paths. Lose yourself!  Located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107.


Left, Elephant fountain at the Conservatory at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Courtesy of Ken Nickels/Fort Worth Botanic Garden.


Original post:

A journalist and writer of over 30 years experience, Amy Martin was recycling columnist for the Dallas Morning News and contributing editor of Garbage magazine. For two decades she organized Winter SolstiCelebrations and other events as director of Earth Rhythms and operated the Moonlady News service. Her column “Norh Texas Wild” appears monthly in She may be reached through

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