Just 22 miles south of town is the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, which covers 5809 acres and is the oldest national wildlife refuge in Texas; it was established in 1935. It is a 49-mile ride from here in Clovis.
The refuge contains White Lake, Lower Paul’s Lake, and Goose Lake—playa lakes, which have no outlets and depend on runoff for their water supply. Only Upper Paul’s Lake is spring fed. When all the lakes are full there are 600 acres of water available for wildlife, in addition to other saline lakes in the area. Coyote Lake and Salt Lake are both nearby. The latter is part of the 3236 acre Grulla National Wildlife Refuge located near Arch, New Mexico.
Sandhill cranes winter over at the Muleshoe refuge and at Grulla as well. They start arriving in late September, with their populations peaking between December and February. According to the Muleshoe Brochure, an all time record of 250,000 cranes was witnessed in February 1982. The cranes “roost on the refuge lakes at night…at sunrise they fly to surrounding agricultural land where they search harvested fields for waste grain and invertebrates and graze in the grasslands and wheat fields.” (Brochure, p.5)
There are an amazing 320 species on the Muleshoe refuge bird list, ranging from raptors such as the bald and the golden eagle, to shorebirds like the snow goose and wood duck, to songbirds like the horned lark and the prairie warbler. Mammals include prairie dogs, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, skunks, rabbits, and porcupines. Prairie rattlesnakes are common throughout the area.
We only saw one other person during our visit to the Muleshoe refuge. She was watching the ducks at Paul’s Lake, so we just drove on over to White Lake so that we could have our very own lake to ourselves. We watched flocks of sandhills coming in for landings and joining the hundreds of birds already in the water. The sky was huge as it always is here, the sun shone on the lake below the mesa, and there was an incredibly peaceful feeling about the place. The night sky must be wonderful as there are no nearby light sources to interfere with stargazing. We want to go back and camp there and watch the stars. I suppose it will be just the two of us, the sandhill cranes, the stars, and the prairie rattlesnakes.
Grulla Bird List: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/muleshoe/Grullbd.pdf
Grulla National Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/newmex/grulla.html
Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/muleshoe/index.html
Muleshoe Bird List: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/muleshoe/Mulebird01.pdf
Muleshoe Brochure: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/muleshoe/Muleshoe.pdf