Alcoa Lake & Granger Lake

Bert Frenz, 1998-2004

These two lakes and the surrounding areas make an interesting day trip whether starting from College Station or Austin.  Alcoa Lake, near Rockdale in Milam County, offers great quantities and varieties of ducks, occasionally rare gulls (e.g. Sabine's Gull) and a variety of out-of-season surprises.   Granger Lake in Williamson County has the reputation of a great spot for Mountain Plover, Sprague's Pipit and several longspur species, particularly Chestnut-collared Longspur, Lapland Longspur and McCown's Longspur.  The huge expanse of open farmlands are home to thousands of meadowlarks which seem to be about 90-98% Western MeadowlarksHorned Larks also enjoy this habitat.   Willis Creek Park on Granger Lake is a great spot for finding 13 or 14 sparrow species, including Harris' Sparrow and LeConte's Sparrow.

Much of the good birding at Alcoa Lake can be done without entering the Alcoa plant. But don’t let that stop you. The company is friendly toward birders - don’t use your camera, however - and provides access to good habitat around the lake. To bird the restricted area, follow the guide below to Milepost 154.5. Then continue approximately 0.2 mile further and register at the Visitor’s Center. If you are birding on a Sunday or federal holiday, the Visitor’s Center is closed and you need to look behind this building at a nondescript one-story building marked "Plant Protection Office." It is about 100 yards off the road and is not obvious.  The best times to bird Alcoa Lake are weekends and holidays.

GrangX01.bmp (153296 bytes)The Granger itinerary is complex because so many county roads weave almost randomly through the sorghum fields and the lake area hides many wildlife management areas that are not obvious to locate.  The following table hits all the key areas and marks where unusual species have been sighted in the past.  There is insufficient time in one day to make all the birding stops, so plan your trip accordingly.   You will need to leave Milepost 129.2 by 3 P.M. to allow enough time for a brief visit to Alcoa Lake.

Starting from College Station -- use the chart as given

Starting from Austin -- head northeast toward Taylor, then take Texas 95 north for 18.7 miles to Circleville.  From here, pick up the itinerary at Milepost 107.5 on the chart below.  Continue forward on the chart to cover the south side of Granger Lake or read the chart in reverse to head around the north side of Granger Lake.

Starting from Waco and points north -- take I-35 to Georgetown, then FR 971 to Granger.  Continue on FR 971 until you join the itinerary at Milepost 95.3 and decide whether you want to use the chart forwards or backwards.

Starting from Houston -- take I-10 or US 290 to Texas 95, continue north to Taylor and then another 18.7 miles to Circleville.  From here, pick up the itinerary at Milepost 107.5 on the chart below.  Continue forward on the chart to cover the south side of Granger Lake or read the chart in reverse to head around the north side of Granger Lake.

Satellite photo  - see Terraserver site

Additional maps -- successive maps zoom in on a previous one.

Alcoa Lake:    (largest area)  Map A1    Map A2     (smallest area)

Granger:    (largest area)    Map G1 show above    Map G2         Map G3         Map G4     (smallest area)

Report your sightings -- please report you sightings to Bert Frenz for inclusion in his RBA, NAB and TOS reports.

Itinerary for Alcoa Lake, Granger Lake and surrounding areas

Milepost

Action

Location

Notes

0.0

start at

Texas Av & University Dr

College Station, Brazos County

0.0

head east on

University Dr. (FM 60)

1.8

turn left (north) on

Texas 6 (bypass)

6.5

cross

Texas 21 / US 190

26.8

turn left on

US 79 (south)

in Hearne

32.0

cross

Brazos River

entering Milam County

57.6

turn right on

FM 487 (west)

in Rockdale

79.5

turn left on

CR 422

before reaching Davilla

79.7

turn left on

CR 422

gravel road, mesquite habitat, see   -------- Map G3 ----------

82.1

turn right on

Alligator Rd.

cattle pastures & wooded edges. Jet-black dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk found from here to the "T".  Latitude = 30 45' 31" (30.7552); longitude = 97 18' 29" (-97.3048)

80.5

cross

Alligator Creek

entering Bell County

84.1

turn left on

Alligator Rd.

sign post says "Althea LP."

84.2

birding stop at

"T" at Alligator Rd. and Friendship Rd.  Latitude = 30 45' 48" (30.7580); longitude = 97 19' 40" (-97.3233)

Start looking for longspurs, especially Chestnut-Collared Longspurs.

84.2

turn left on

Friendship Rd.

Mountain Plovers from the "T" south to the curve.

84.5

road becomes

CR 360

entering Williamson County

85.2

birding stop at

curve.   GSS Latitude = 30 45' 02" (30.7503); longitude = 97 19' 58" (-97.3263).   For use on Tiger Maps these correspond to 30.750 and -97.332

Mountain Plovers most often seen here. Best time seems to be early morning. Longspurs sometimes fly over this spot.

---------Map G4----------

85.7

turn right on

CR 359, "T"

Burrowing Owl seen here

87.1

turn right on

FR 971 (west)

87.5

birding stop at

Friendship Park

on Granger Lake, US Army Corp of Engineers, $3 entrance fee, usually waived for birding.   No fee in winter.

87.5

continue on

FR 971 (west)

88.3

birding stop at

Sore Finger Wildlife Area (to the left on the extension of CR 358)     Lat. N 30 43'  47" and Long. W 97 21' 04"

Granger Lake WMA - Sore Finger Unit, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept, Short-eared Owl found here

88.3

continue on

FM 971 (west)

along north side of Granger Lake

90.5

birding stop at

Willis Creek Wildlife Area (across from tower with large white sphere)

Granger Lake WMA - Willis Creek Unit, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept

91.9

turn left on

CR 349 (south)

gravel road along WMA

92.9

turn right on

same road

gravel road makes two right-hand turns and returns to FM 971

94.7

turn left on

FM 971 (west)

95.3

turn left on

CR 348 (south)

Beard Manchu Allison cemetery

95.6

cross

CR 347 (on right)

Say's Phoebe seen from here to Willis Creek Park. Also Red-shafted Flicker.

96.5

birding stop at

Opposum Creek

Granger Lake WMA - Opposum Creek, parking lot and trail along the creek, good wooded habitat

96.5

continue on

CR 348 (south)

look for sparrows & Bewick's Wren

98.3

birding stop at

Willis Creek Park

on Granger Lake, US Army Corp of Engineers, $3 entrance fee, usually waived for birding, great spot for sparrows, including Harris' and LeConte's, Spotted Towhee.  RV and tent camping is available here.

98.3

double back on

CR 348 (north)

99.2

turn left on

CR 346 (west)

Mountain Plover seen in fields.

100.0

cross

CR 347

Mountain Plover seen in fields.

101.1

turn left on

CR 345 (south)

Mountain Plover seen in fields.

103.3

turn left on

CR 347

104.7

birding stop at

San Gabriel Wildlife Area

Granger Lake WMA - San Gabriel Unit, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept, parking lot, primitive boat launch (canoeing?)

104.7

double back on

CR 347

106.1

turn left on

CR 347 (west)

106.5

turn left on

Texas 95 (south)

107.5

cross

CR 374

Circleville, lunch?, meeting place?, Great-tailed Grackles

107.7

turn left on

FR 1331 (east)

along south side of Granger Lake

111.3

turn left on

CR 496 (on left)

water treatment plant

111.3

birding stop at Comanche Park good for wintering sparrows

112.5

birding stop at

Taylor Park

on Granger Lake, US Army Corp of Engineers, $3 entrance fee, usually waived for birding

114.2

turn left to

Wilson H. Fox Park

on Granger Lake

114.9

birding stop at

overlook

ducks

114.9

birding stop at

cattail marsh below south spillway of dam

Sora, Say's Phoebe, Marsh Wren, yellowthroat, Swamp and LeConte's Sparrows

116.1

birding stop at

spillway

cormorant, herons

117.3

birding stop at

Prairie Replication Site

Wild Turkey

117.5

turn left on

FM 971 (west)

118.5

cross

CR 360

We've completed the loop around Granger Lake.  If short on time turn right here and head back the way you came until Alligator Rd.  Pick up on this table at Milepost 129.2.   If you picked up the itinerary at Circleville and haven't seen the Mountain Plovers, make this right turn also and follow from Milepost 87.1 backwards.

121.8

pass

Willis Creek Wildlife Area (across from tower with large white sphere)

122.4

turn right on CR 352

122.6

cross CR 357 (on right) longspurs sighted here

124.9

slow down at

CR 353

longspurs sighted here to Alligator Rd.

126.4

birding stop at left on Alligator Rd. Mountain Plovers seen here early in the 1998 season and again in 1999.  Nicknamed the "megafield."

126.4

turn right on

Alligator Rd.

Sprague's Pipits along this road

129.2

cross

"T" at Alligator Rd. & Friendship Rd.

we've finished the loop and are now headed back to Milam Co.

129.3

continue right at Althea LP signpost still on Alligator Rd.

131.8

turn left on CR 422 Milam County

133.9

turn right on

FR 487 (east)

at Davilla

139.3

turn right on

FR 3061

toward San Gabriel

143.3

turn right on

FR 486 (south)

in San Gabriel

149.8

turn left on

US 79 (north)

in Thorndale

157.3

turn right on

FR 1786

bird woods beside road to Alcoa Lake --------- Map A1----------

161.2

birding stop at

Alcoa Lake

bird marsh on right and bay on left for herons, ducks, yellowthroats, wrens --------- Map A2----------

162.2

turn left at

Alcoa power plant

162.4

birding stop at

pond, Lat. N 30 34' 09"  Long. W 97 04' 23"

100's of ducks

162.8

birding stop at

hot water runoff

night-herons, cormorants

birding stop at

Alcoa Lake

To bird more around the lake, continue to the Visitor's Center or Security Office.  (See details above).

231.3

return to C.S.

Texas Av & University Dr.

Other areas where plovers, longspurs and pipits have been sighted:

Mountain Plovers

    M-1.  South of CR 124 (labeled 338 on many maps) and CR 340 (labeled 337 on many maps).  This is west of Texas 95.  From the intersection of Texas 95 and Texas 29 travel north for about 2 miles, turn left (west) on CR 124, continue for 2-3 miles until you reach CR 340.

Longspurs

    L-1.  On CR 192 which is 0.6-0.7 miles north of Texas 29.

    L-2.  On CR 127 just west of its intersection with CR 192.

    L-3.  On the hill near the intersection of CR 124 and CR 341.

    L-4.  CR 158.

Sprague's Pipits

    S-1.  On CR 124 one-half mile west of Texas 95

    S-2.  CR 192 between Granger and Round Rock

Return to:  Birding in Central Brazos Valley

This page was last updated December 15, 2004.