Bright Leaf Preserve: A View of Ancient Texas Hill Country

Bright Leaf Nature Preserve is a haven of pristine, natural beauty that allows visitors a glimpse at what the original settlers of Austin might have encountered. Philanthropist and Austinite Georgia B. Lucas, who passed away in 1994, bequeathed her property to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a place of reflection and meditation. Visitors can gain an appreciation for nature and a desire for its preservation from the guided tours.

Real Estate Assembled and Given Back to Nature

Lucas originally purchased the land that is now part of the preserve in 34 separate real estate transactions over a period of 40 years. Her goal was to amass more than 200 acres of contiguous, undeveloped land inside the city limits of Austin in order to preserve the land so others could appreciate and enjoy its rugged beauty.

Now owned by the Austin Community Foundation, Bright Leaf serves as a powerful example of the importance of preservation for its many visitors. Bright Leaf is accessible by special request, and there are also free guided tours on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month. The hikes, which cover about four miles of trail, last about 2 ½ hours. Awarded the “Best Walk in the Park” by the Austin Chronicle in 2008, Bright Leaf offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding hills.

An Inspirational Journey into the Land Before Time

Bright Leaf is a showcase of geology treasures. The preserve contains a great collection of fossils, and a quarry area clearly displays how sediment was layered under the vast waters that once covered the state. The geological elements offer vivid evidence of how ancient the area really is.

Bright Leaf Nature Preserve’s wide variety of plants includes some not commonly found in the area anymore. Aspiring and professional, botanists delight in some particularly rare flora, such as the bracted twistflower. A team of agencies is working together to find, protect and reintroduce endangered species into other areas.

Quick eyes can sometimes spot coyotes, jackrabbits, horned owls and several species of snakes and birds. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might even catch some migratory birds that have chosen Bright Leaf reserve as a temporary sanctuary during their long journeys. One bird in particular, the rare and endangered golden-cheeked warbler, uses the bark of indigenous trees to create its nest.

The rustic and undeveloped beauty of Bright Leaf will leave you feeling inspired and wanting to grow some of the native plants that you see on your hike. Area nurseries specializing in indigenous plants can help you start your own “wildscaping” project. Wildscaping is important for local wildlife and water conservation, and it will help you take an active role in vital restoration and conservation efforts.

Nature Walks for People from All Walks

The park is frequently host to visitors of all ages and walks of life — from preschoolers to Japanese guests of the State Department. Several groups host frequent outings, including the Travis Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts also frequently volunteer to help with park upkeep. College students interested in wildlife conservancy can shadow the preservation manager to learn more about working in the field.

Even with Austin growing up quickly around it, Bright Leaf remains a unique and serene experience that every nature lover should take the time to see. It is a testament to the abiding and natural beauty of Texas.