Congratulations Class of 2019!

We are so proud of our eighteen new volunteers in the Longleaf Ridge Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists! It was a fun class, and we have gained a great deal of talent.

2019 Class Boykin

Exploring Catahoula formations at Boykin Springs

2019 Class Fish Hatchery

Visiting the Fish Hatchery

2019Class Trail Between Lakes


Enjoying Potluck Meals


Learning about Invasives!

Boykin Red-cockaded Woodpecker Nesting Site

Looking for Red Cockaded Woodpeckers

Exploring the Old Sawmill


Siecke State Forest Field Trip

Siecke Field Trip

We had eleven hikers for the field trip to the historical E. O. Siecke State Forest on May 25th. Originally called State Forest #1, the original 1,722 acres were acquired in 1924 and much of the property was cut over and severely burned. Reforestation began immediately. An additional adjacent 100-acre plot was purchased in 1946 for tree improvement and silviculture (the growing and cultivation of trees) research. 

In 1926, the first fire lookout tower in Texas was constructed by TFS personnel; the first pine seedling nursery in the state was established; the agency began a silvicultural research program; and the first operational planting of slash pine was also conducted. The tower and remnants of the first slash pine plantation exist today. 

We walked the trail that Forester Ben Plunkett has designated to be a future nature trail for public use. We have been asked to scout the area and design informational trail signs to educate visitors about the sights that they are encountering along the trail. A convergence of ecosystems, the trail, rich in flora and fauna, incorporates hard-wood bottomland, piney wood savannahs, and sundew bogs. 

It will be an awesome location for family outings. It’s an honor to be a part of this plan and to become a segment in the impressive history of E. O. Siecke State Forest. 

Five Mile Prairie in the Rain

Hike to Five Mile Prairie

A group of our hardcore students and veterans braved the weather forecast this morning and ventured out to Five Mile Prairie for the second field trip of the 2019 Class. As the caravan arrived, the weather was gloomy but the raindrops had not began to fall yet.

Longbract Wild Indigo

Longbract Wild Indigo

As we headed out, the ground was wet and boggy in places from rainfall the previous two days, but the tiny Arkansas Leastdaisy, Chaetopappa asteroides,  still smiled, covering patches all along the way.  Moving further in, the purple blooms of Englemann’s Milkvetch, Astragalus distortus var. engelmannii,  provided a contrasting ground cover with the daisies, and light rain began to fall. We saw stunted Blackjack Oak, Quercus mirlandica,  and Post Oak, Quercus stellata, that are characteristic of shallow soil overlaying the Catahoula formation in this area. We spotted several blooming Longbract Wild Indigos, Baptisia bracteata, along the way.

Schoenolirion wrightii

Schoenolirion wrightii

Finally we arrived at the treasure we were looking for. A healthy population, perhaps hundreds, of Schoenolirion wrightii greeted us.  This flower is only found in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Its habitat is disappearing, and it is listed as globally vulernable. Louisiana lists it as Critically Imperiled and Arkansas as Threatened. The common names for this species of concern are Texas Sunnybells or Wright’s Lily, named after botanist and naturalist, Charles Wright, who discovered the plant during his surveys of present Jasper, Angelina, Tyler and Newton counties while he lived on the Neches River and taught school in Zavalla, Texas between 1837 and 1840. Afterwards he moved to Town Bluff and stayed several years before heading further west on botanizing ventures.

The rain began to set in then, and we slowly circled our way back until thunder began to rip the clouds directly above us. No one complained, but the pace quickened a little, and none protested when we reached the road and decided against venturing to our second planned site, Black Branch Barrens. We will reschedule a trip there, perhaps in the fall when the spectacular Nuttall’s Rayless Goldenrod, Bigelowia nuttallii, covers the barrens.

The brave but soaking souls who get kudos for weathering today’s field trip were Fred and Elke Lyons and their dog, Julia McCormick, Cathy and Lonny Carrell, Jacki Kopycinski, Roger Goldsberry, Heather Goodman, Jerry Clark, Janette Johnson, and Georgia Purdy led by Keith Stephens and Laura Clark.

Boykin Springs Fun & Learning

Boykin Hike Bridge

The first field trip for the Class of 2019 was a fun adventure and provided many learning opportunities. Arriving at the site, everyone immediately noticed that the entire area had been subjected to a control burn just days earlier, and was still smoldering in some places. Students saw first hand how the burns help eliminate the underbrush that can grow into a thicket, but do no harm to the Longleaf Pines, Pinus palustris, and their seedlings. It also did not affect the blooms of the local Wild Azalea, Rhododendron canescens, and the black ground provided a dramatic backdrop for the many Flowering Dogwoods, Cornus floridana.  (more…)

Sandy Creek Park Project

A plan to develop Jasper’s Sandy Creek Park submitted by the local Master Gardeners has won approval for technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program. City representatives and NPS began meeting last November to work on plans. Members of the Longleaf Ridge chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists were invited and have been participating in the project.


Paddling to Nesting Eagles

Eighteen canoers, including two children, and two volunteer guides braved temperatures in the 30s and 40s on two Saturdays this February to enjoy a special treat. I assisted Gerald Langham, Sabine-Neches Texas Master Naturalist volunteer, who lead us out through the chilly waters of Steinhagen Lake on a Martin Dies, Jr. State Park paddling trip to view nesting eagles. Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalists Keith Stephens and Lori Horne, as well as Ben King, a student enrolled in our class starting March 19, accompanied us the first Saturday.  (more…)

Longleaf Ridge Master Naturalist Training Class

We will be starting a new class for Master Naturalists on March 19th, 2019. The classes will be held on Tuesday nights from 6-9 at the dining hall at Martin Dies Jr. State Park for approximately 16 weeks. The cost of the class is $140 per person (the price for couples is discounted some). The course will cover introductory classes on subjects like geology, mammals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles, grasses, flowers, trees, geographic ecosystems, etc. The cost of the class includes a large study book.

The class size is limited, so please email us ASAP at if you have any questions or if you want to be added to the class roll.

Counting Eagles at Toledo Bend

Counting Eagles at Toledo Bend

Join the fun!

Teaching children to use a spotting scope to find an eagle nest on a guided hike at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park

Teaching children to use a spotting scope to find an eagle nest on a guided hike at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park