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Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge Roundup is Oct. 13

Raptors are just one of the many things people can learn about during the second annual Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge Roundup on Saturday, Oct. 13, at refuge headquarters, 24518 RR 1431 between Marble Falls and Lago Vista. The event is free and goes from noon to 4 p.m. There will be activities and programs such as the raptor show at 3 p.m. and the reptile show at 1 p.m. There’s also archery and BB gun stations and much more. Courtesy photo by David Maple

It seems like one of the biggest (in land mass) secrets in the Highland Lakes, but Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refugeofficials want to let the world know about the refuge and all the great recreational activities available on the more than 27,000 acres of public land.

“We’ll go into town for lunch or something, wearing our uniforms, and people still ask, ‘Where are y’all from?’ and ‘I didn’t know (the refuge) was around here,’” said Jennifer Brown of the refuge. “We’re still trying to get the word out that the refuge is here, and that it has a lot of recreational opportunities available.”

In an effort to introduce people to the refuge, staff and volunteers are hosting the second annual Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge Roundup from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct 13, at headquarters, 24518 RR 1431, about 20 miles east of Marble Falls. The event and all activities are free.

“We started to do this Roundup as a way of inviting the community to the refuge to see the recreational opportunities available out here,” Brown said. “There are dozens and dozens of ways to enjoy your public lands.”

The staff and volunteers have lined up at least 25 activities and related booths for everyone to explore. There are archery and BB gun stations where you can test your skills.

“We have an incredible photographer coming out and he’ll have a couple of cameras set up, and he’ll show some basic macro photo techniques and other things,” Brown said. “We have a watercolor artist from Austin, and she’s going to show people how to do paint using watercolors.”

The booths and exhibits run throughout the afternoon.

There are two special exhibits: a live reptile one at 1:30 p.m. and a raptor demonstration at 3 p.m.

“The reptile show was one of the most popular last year,” Brown said. “People loved it.”

Last Chance Forever, a bird of prey rescue and rehabilitation center out of San Antonio, is conducting the raptor program. They typically bring several birds and put on a flight demonstration.

One activity the kids really enjoyed last year, which is returning this year, is the junior firefighting station. The refuge’s fire crews and staff set out firehoses, a few props — including a moving target — and let the kids give it a shot.

The Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery is bringing over a mess of catfish to put in a 2,000-gallon tank so kids can try to catch one.

Along with the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge staff, volunteers, and Friends of the Balcones NWR, other participating organizations include Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, REI, All Things Wild Rehabilitation Inc., Good Water Master Naturalists, San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Austin Ecological Services, Travis County Master Gardeners, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Science Mill. Along with introducing people to the refuge, the Roundup also encourages folks to get outside, even if it’s in their backyard or neighborhood park.

“I think it’s very important for people to have a connection with the outdoors, even if it’s not here, but just in their backyard,” Brown said. “That helps develop a bond with the outdoors, and it’s been shown to help our well-being. We also understand how important it is to protect and preserve these lands and the wildlife. Wouldn’t you like your grandkids to be able to see the same animals, flowers, and plants that we see today?”

Contact Brown at (512) 339-9432 ext. 70 or jennifer_brown@fws.gov for more information.

Also, the Friends of the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge will be grilling hamburgers around noon. They are available by donation. So you can even get out of making lunch if you want.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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