We invite you and your family to be out in nature to find, see, and hear our feathered friends in their natural Central Texas habitat! We’ve got the Top 10 list of places to go in Bastrop County, located just east of Austin, Texas.
Bastrop County is the ideal place for birding. The county has two forested state parks, lots of water, and is located on the Central Flyway, which is one of the four North American migratory paths. Over 350 different species have been spotted and counted throughout the year, including the rare Bald Eagle, Ring-necked Duck, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-headed Woodpecker, and the Great Kiskadee. Many species also choose to winter in the area to enjoy the milder climate.
Due to a large number of birding enthusiasts along with an abundance of birds, Bastrop County was established as a home to one of Texas’ 16 Audubon Society chapters. Bastrop received the Bird City Texas designation, one of only four cities in the State to receive it in the inaugural program, based on their own and their partner organizations’ bird-friendly activities.
For basic birding you’ll want to bring: binoculars, a field guide of birds, and a notebook/pen to record the birds you see and hear. Using a mobile phone, you can record your sightings using the eBird app. The Merlin Bird ID app uses the eBird database to identify birds with their Photo ID, and now can identify all the birds singing around you by their song. If you already have the Merlin app, tap “Get Sound ID.” Here is a free course on using eBird called EBird Essentials.
Also bring sunscreen/bug repellant, water, and a snack. Other options include a good camera with zoom (Better Bird Photo Tips from Texas Parks & Wildlife) and a lightweight chair for added comfort, though many of the places listed are great hikes, too.
If you enjoy birding with your children, download a free copy of this kid’s activity book called Birdsleuth Explorer’s Guide, inspired by the Every Kid in a Park initiative.
The list below gives you the Top 10 public places for avian wildlife watching and listening to the bird sounds in Bastrop County. Each listing has a printable checklist for the birds sighted at that location. How many birds can you spot?
No. 1 Bastrop State Park
100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop, TX
For more than 70 years, people have visited the historic 3,503-acre Bastrop State Park in central Texas. While areas of the park are going through a rebirth, birds still flock to the Loblolly pine trees and large oaks in the forest. Try sitting near one of the trails to listen and spot the variety of birds making the park their home.
Listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail (HOTE 033). There are three locations shown on eBird – Bastrop SP-old golf course, Bastrop SP (HOTE 033), and Bastrop SP-Alum Creek at Park Rd 1. Admission, swimming pool and camping fees apply.
No. 2 Buescher State Park
100 Park Rd 1-C, Smithville, TX 78957
Forested with Loblolly pines and old oaks near the serene lake waters, this hilly historic park (pronounced Bisher, like fisherman, and named after Emil and Elizabeth Buescher who donated the land in the 1930s) has plenty of feathery friends visiting and living within the trees and along the trails. Stay overnight to hear the early morning songs. This park is listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail. (HOTE 033) Admission and camping fees apply.
No. 3 McKinney Roughs Nature Park
1884 TX-71, Cedar Creek, TX
The 1,140-acre treed McKinney Roughs Nature Park is just 13 miles east of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail (HOTE 034). It has multi-use trails and a portion is along the Colorado River, making it easy to spot and hear the numerous birds that live and stop in the park. Fees apply to admission, lodging, water recreation, horseback riding, and zip-lining.
No. 4 Lake Bastrop – North Shore
603 FM1441, Bastrop, TX 78602
At this 182-acre park, the North Shore boasts wide open lake area with shade trees set back from the water. While this is the recreation side of the lake with water sports, fishing and swimming, many species call this either home or a pitstop on their migration. Further back from the water, the park has trails for hiking. You can reserve an airstream or tent campsite on location. Admission fees may apply.
There are two birding locations on the northern side of the lake on eBird maps – Lake Bastrop-North Shore Park and Lake Bastrop. The western-most birding spot has a hiking trail down to Lake Bastrop – South Shore Park.
No. 5 Lake Bastrop – South Shore
375 S Shore Rd, Bastrop, TX
With the serene lake, high grasses and the nearby oaks, the South Shore of 900-acre Lake Bastrop is a perfect birder’s spot to sit on by the water and watch for birds. The park not only has a designated bird viewing area, but it also has spots available for camping. So, bring your RV, or stay in cabins overnight. Entrance and lodging fees.
Nos. 6 Colorado River Refuge / Bastrop County Nature Park
315 Riverside Drive, Bastrop, TX
The combined area of the Colorado River Refuge and the adjoining Bastrop County Nature Park (formerly the Lost Pines Nature Trail Park) is 89 acres of beautiful riverside forests and upland meadows located in Tahitian Village just south of Bastrop. The refuge has approximately 10 miles of trails perfect for hiking, bird watching, and relaxing. There is ample Colorado River access, a paved trail for ADA access, and a picnic table overlooking the river.
No. 7 Bob Bryant Park
600 Charles Blvd, Bastrop, TX
This park is one of Bastrop’s largest community parks, residing on the Colorado River. With treed areas and a half-mile nature trail, it’s wonderful for city birding. The park includes several entities, including a large playscape, canoe dock, fishing pier, pavilion, barbecue pits, picnic tables, sand volleyball court, basketball court, multi-purpose sports field, and bathrooms.
Further down and across the Colorado River is Fisherman’s Park, 1200 Willow Street, where ducks and geese can be found in the river. Located on the north end of the popular River Walk and the start of the El Camino Real Paddling Trail, the 20-acre park is known to hold numerous community events.
No. 8 Vernon L. Richards “Riverbend Park”
107 TX-71, Smithville, TX 78957
High open lands and hidden treed nooks down along the Colorado River create a natural habitat for birds in Riverbend Park. It is just shy of 50 acres and is located within the Smithville city limits. There’s even an island near the fishing pier and sandy shores. Trees tower over the RV and campsite area at the back of the park. The park includes a playscape, rodeo grounds, baseball field, picnic tables, bathrooms, and an 18-hole disc golf course.
No. 9 Cedar Creek Park
5540 FM 535, Cedar Creek, TX
Yes, there is a meandering creek near the 46-acre park, which gives the community its name. Cedar Creek Park is Bastrop County’s first county park, located near the intersection of FM 535 and Highway 21. The park provides sports fields, a large pavilion for family gatherings, walking trails, and a Butterfly Discovery Garden courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
No. 10 Thomas Memorial Park
411 Maddison St., Elgin TX
Thomas Memorial is a 12-acre park built in the 1970’s. The park consists of a baseball field, playground, restrooms, pavilion, picnic tables and shelters, concession area, nine-hole disc golf course, new volleyball court, new playground equipment, expanded trails system, two additional practice fields, an expanded parking lot, bathrooms, barbecue areas and much more. Additional property has been acquired to expand the park at a later date.
Above all, in the woods and the prairies or on the water, enjoy the relaxation of outdoors while you Explore Bastrop County. Enjoy our Friendly Nature!
Special thanks to the photographers for sharing their photos under a limited copyright; your images are stunning! Thanks also to eBird.org for their hotspot listing order, and to iNaturalist.org for hosting the photographers’ nature observations.