April 12-14, 2010: A Visit with Ron and Prudence in San Antonio
April 4, 2010: A Gathering at Barbara Reynolds' House
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April 10, 2010
The Trinity River Audubon Center


 

Today, Saturday, we were getting together with Mario and Steve. Steve has to work this evening, so we were looking for something we could do where we'd be done by late afternoon. Fred had done some looking around on the Internet, and came upon the relatively new Trinity River Audubon Center, just a few miles southeast of Dallas. So the four of us planned to go down there about nine in the morning, spend some time there and then have lunch afterwards.

 

About the Trinity River Audubon Center


The Trinity River Audubon Center is the gateway to exploring the amazing resources of the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest. As the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States, this forest supports a diverse community of plant and animal species and contains a unique mixture of bottomland hardwoods, wetlands and grasslands.

The Trinity River Audubon Center, located eight minutes from downtown Dallas on 120 acres, opened October 2008 and is part of the City of Dallas-Trinity River Corridor Project. The land, formerly an illegal dump site, has been reclaimed by the City of Dallas and beautifully demonstrates how a municipal liability can be transformed into a major asset for people of all ages to enjoy. Visitors have the opportunity to explore hands-on exhibits, four miles of nature viewing trails, the Children’s Discovery Garden, and a great nature store with unique gifts and nature related items. Programs offered at the center educate and entertain children, families, and adults. Academic programs at the center are designed to address the need for students to improve and strengthen their science and critical thinking skills while introducing them to the wonders of nature.

The Trinity River Audubon Center, designed by 2006 AIA Gold Medalist architect Antoine Predock, is the first LEED-certified building constructed by the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Its green features include a vegetated roof, rainwater collection system, energy efficient systems, and recycled materials.

 

Getting to the Trinity River Audubon Center


Getting to the Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) was pretty easy; I'd looked up the route beforehand. We just drove south on Inwood to Mockingbird, and then east on Mockingbird all the way to US 75 (Central Expressway).

We took that south to downtown and then merged onto I-45 south towards Houston. After about eight miles, we found the exit for Loop 12 and headed east about two miles. We missed the small sign for TRAC the first time, and had to double-back to find it.

But find it we did, and by nine-thirty we were pulling into the parking lot at TRAC.

 

The Trinity River Audubon Center Building

The Trinity River Audubon Center, designed by 2006 AIA Gold Medalist architect Antoine Predock, is the first LEED-certified building constructed by the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Its green features include a vegetated roof, rainwater collection system, energy efficient systems, and recycled materials.


To get into the building, you go around to the right side in the picture at left, and there is an angled entrance at ground level that leads down an outside corridor between two wings of the building. At the end of this corridor you are under cover on an outside plaza. The entrance to the museum (and access to the trails) is through the glass doors on the right. Turning left takes you up an outside ramp that leads to the various classrooms, labs and offices. The entire building is really quite striking.

Click on the thumbnails below to see a couple more views of this interesting building:


 

Interactive Museum and Underwater Viewing

Inside the museum, we paused to listen to one of the guides talking about turtles to the assembled visitors and Fred got a good picture of one of the turtles in his tank.

Just outside the back of the museum there was a ramp that led down to an area where you could look under the surface of the pond adjacent to the building and spot the creatures that live in it. From the top of the ramp, you can see some visitors looking through the viewing glass if you click here. We went down there to see what we could see, which wasn't much. I did get a picture of the guys in this viewing area.

To begin our first nature walk, we had to go back into the museum and out the doors to the nature trails. I got a picture of Mario, Fred and Steve before we started out, and you can see that picture here.

 

Wetland Trail/Overlook Trail

We are going to do most of the trails here this morning.


The first one will be to the north of the TRAC building, and it will be a combination of two trails. From the trailhead, we'll follow the wetland trail all the way to the bird blind. Then we'll do the circular overlook trail. Instead of going back the way we came, we'll cross over to the parking lot, go alongside it a ways, and then follow another short portion of the wetland trail back to the TRAC building.

First we have to cross the bridge over Trailhead Pond from the building to the beginning of the trail. Click on the thumbnails below to see some of the pictures we took on the bridge:



View from Trailhead Pond

While I was on the bridge over Trailhead Pond, I stopped and made a movie looking 360 degree around me, taking in the TRAC building, the guys and the various trails.
 

Well, we got to the trailhead and started out on the Wetland Trail. After just a short distance we came to the Lookout Platform, which was a great place to relax and take in the scenery. If you'd like to see some of the pictures we took along the Wetland Trail, just click on the thumbnails below:

On the other side of Cattail Pond we came to the bird blind. It's used for observing the birds and other wildlife; not for shooting them. The guys started back down to the Overlook Trail, but I went inside the bird blind to look around.


View from the Overlook Trail

While I was on the bridge over Trailhead Pond, I stopped and made a movie looking 360 degree around me, taking in the TRAC building, the guys and the various trails.
 

When we took the shortcut trail back to the parking area, we continued alongside that area and picked up the Wetland Trail again.


This part of the Wetland Trail brought us towards the end of one of the elevated wings of the TRAC building. The building is really impressive architecturally, even though it isn't very large. As the trail came alongside that same wing, we could see clearly the architectural detail that we couldn't see when we came in originally on the other side of the wing. When the trail led back to the base of the building and up some stairs to the plaza level, we went out on the second-level walkway that led to the labs and offices. The angular glasswork and odd shapes lent a great deal of character to the building.

Incidentally, you might wonder about the picture at left. What is it? am I looking up the side of some skyscraper, or one of the building wings here? Nope. It was a structure alongside this last portion of the Wetland Trail, and if you want to see what it was, just click here.

 

Trinity River Trail


The other trail we are going to follow this morning is the one that leads down to the Trinity River. This trail also begins at the main traihead, so again we had to cross the bridge over Trailhead Pond to get there.

Once there, we followed the trail as it went up over a rise south of the TRAC Building and then continued southeast down to the Trinity River, winding through grasslands and then forest until it came out at the Trinity River Overlook.

Here, Fred took a couple of pictures of us, and you can have a look at them by clicking on the thumbnails below:


Here at the Trinity River Overlook, I tried an experiment. Neither Fred nor I could get the entire curve of the river into a single picture, so I tried my hand at a "photomerge." This is a feature in Photoshop that allows you to merge separate photos together. Because of the fact that the exposure of any two pictures is not going to be exactly the same, due to the direction the light is coming from in each picture (especially outdoors), you can do some smoothing to de-emphasize abrupt transitions. I only spend a few minutes on these merges; if I were more professional, and took my time, I could do better. In any event, the first thing I did was to take three pictures here at the overlook:

Then I took them into Photoshop and manually merged them together. Finally, I did some quick touch-up to de-emphasize the lighting different between the second and third pictures. Here is the result:

When we got back up the trail to the rise south of the TRAC building, I decided to do a more ambitious merge- a 360-degree view of the entire area. I tried to be as careful as I could to hold the camera at the same level as I swiveled around and took a total of ten pictures. I hoped that the lighting out here in the open would be more even- and it was. After merging the photos together and doing just a bit of touch-up, I got a pretty good result. You can have a look at it in the slider viewer below. Just move the horizontal scroll bar left and right to survey the image:

Well, that was about it for today's walks around the Trinity River Audubon Center; we'd done all the trails there are, just about. When we had all gathered back at the rise where I'd done my panorama, we headed back to the parking area along the south side of the complex. I got a good picture of Fred and the cantilevered building wing behind him. Fred also got some interesting views of this side of the complex which, apparently, is still undergoing some construction. There also seemed to be a function of some kind going on in conjunction with the museum or the Center itself. If you'd like to see some of Fred's pictures, just click on the thumbnails below:

We enjoyed our trip to the Trinity River Audubon Center- an undiscovered gem. When we left the Center, we decided to head into town and find a place for some lunch. On the way up I-45, I snapped a picture of the downtown Dallas skyline. We ended up at the Dixie House in Lakewood for lunch, after which we went back to the house and watched a nature video. Then Steve had to leave to get ready for work, and I had to make a trip up to North Dallas to take a look at some work one of the contractors I am considering to finally fix my master bath has done for someone else.

You can use the links below to continue to the album page for different day.


April 12-14, 2010: A Visit with Ron and Prudence in San Antonio
April 4, 2010: A Gathering at Barbara Reynolds' House
Return to Index for 2010