Dam construction update, June 15: Visitors are no longer able to cross the outlet works. There will be no access to the Bittern Marsh Trail or east side of the river during this time.


There will be no access to the pavilion and Beaver Pond parking area on weekdays through July 3. These parking lots will be available for use on weekends. This will include the following areas and trails: Bittern Marsh, Redbud, Cicada, Green Dragon and Cottonwood Trails. Only the Blackjack will remain unaffected during this time. Access will not be available east of the pavilion at a later undetermined date. 


Hiking and Birding


Hikers, birders and wildlife-watchers have over seven miles of trails to enjoy at LLELA. There are four access points. The Cottonwood, Cicada, and Redbud Trails begin at the Cicada Pavilion. The Bittern Marsh Trail is accessed by parking in the lot adjacent to the river outlet, walking around the security gate and across the river to the kiosk at the trailhead. The Blackjack Trail is just inside our entry gate, accessed by turning right at the marked driveway just past our gatehouse. The Green Dragon Trail is a short connector trail which begins in the Beaver Pond Paddling Trail parking lot.

The trails are open only when LLELA is open. Please be sure to give yourself enough time to hike back to your vehicle and exit LLELA before closing time (5 p.m. November 1-February 28; 7 p.m. March 1-October 31). Be sure to remember a water bottle, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Know your route (a trail map is available for the asking in the LLELA gatehouse), and please stay on designated trails.

Water levels along our trails change seasonally and sometimes on short notice. North Texas is subject to periodic and prolonged droughts, so natural waterways are dry at times. On the flip side, when rain DOES come it is often in torrential downpours. Parts of the Bittern Marsh Trail, the Blackjack Trail, the Redbud Trail, and the Cottonwood Trail may be flooded after very heavy rain. For up-to-date information related to water levels, check the Current Trail Conditions or call 469.635.5483.

Which trail should I take?

If you’re looking for a walk in the woods, the Cicada Trail, the Bittern Marsh Trail and the Blackjack Trail are your best bets. The Cicada Trail is 0.3 miles long (one way) and follows the historic channel of the Elm Fork through a hardwood forest. The Bittern Marsh Trail is a 2.1 mile loop through high-quality bottomland forest habitat and a marsh near the Elm Fork. The Blackjack Trail is around 1.5 miles long and is our only trail in the Eastern Cross Timbers. Typical spring and summer birds in the forested sections of these trails include: Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, many species of warblers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cooper’s Hawks, Downy Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys, and many more.
For prairie views, you will want to hike on the Redbud Trail, the Cottonwood Trail, sections of the Blackjack Trail  or the middle section of the Bittern Marsh Trail. The Redbud Trail is 1.4 miles long, wandering through grasslands and scattered trees to a river view. The Cottonwood Trail is 1.3 miles long, and includes several prairie areas. A portion of the 2.1 mile Bittern Marsh Trail goes through open grasslands. The 1.5 mile Blackjack Trail includes grassland glades with some plants not seen elsewhere at LLELA. Typical grassland birds seen on a spring or summer day might include: Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds, Red-tailed Hawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Lark Sparrows, and many more.
Both the Redbud Trail and the western side of the Bittern Marsh Trail include river views. The river can also be accessed by parking in the lot near the outflow at the dam and walking along the western bank of the river downstream to the campground. Typical spring and summer birds along the Elm Fork’s banks might include: Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Belted Kingfishers, Mallards, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Killdeers, Barn Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and many others. At dawn or near dusk, beavers may be seen year round.
If pond or wetland habitats are what you’re seeking, you should walk on the Cottonwood Trail or the Bittern Marsh Trail. The Cottonwood Trail includes several small ponds near the beginning of its 1.3 mile loop, as well as the large Beaver Pond near the halfway point. The Bittern Marsh Trail features some of the best wetland habitat at LLELA. Both trails have wildlife observation blinds at the wetland areas. Typical wetland birds found in these areas on a spring or summer day might include: Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, Mallards, Killdeers, Belted Kingfishers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Little Blue Herons, and many others. Turtles and frogs are common.

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