Balcones Canyonlands Preserve

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Preserve photo by Heather Valey

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) is one of the nation’s largest urban preserves, covering more than 32,000 acres – about 50 square miles. It is made up of more than 140 individual tracts managed by both public and private partners. Check out the preserve map to learn more - click on any tract for additional information.

The BCP was created in 1996 to protect habitat for eight endangered species: two migratory songbirds called the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, and six karst invertebrates found in caves. The black-capped vireo was removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in May 2018. The BCP continues to provide habitat for this rare bird as well as the seven still-endangered species and 27 species of concern found on the preserve.

The BCP was created to make up for other habitat that was lost, so it can never be developed. It will continue to be managed as preserve in perpetuity. Learn more about its history and future here.

Visit the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan page to learn how the creation of the BCP allowed development to continue in western Travis County while preserving the best quality habitat for these unique species.

Visiting the Preserve

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Community volunteers help clean up the Trails End tract of the BCP. Photo by Heather Valey

About 3,500 acres of the BCP is regularly open to the public – visit the interactive map to learn more. Other areas of the 32,000+ acre preserve can be accessed by joining a guided hike or volunteering. To learn more about doing research on the preserve, check out our Research Permits page.

The BCP partners are committed to creating opportunities for public access and education wherever possible. The primary purpose of the preserve is to provide habitat for endangered species, so decisions about when and where to allow public access takes into account the potential impact on wildlife.

If you're looking for local places to hike, please also consider visiting the many Travis County Parks and the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.

Community Benefits

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Canyon Wren photographed at Hamilton Pool by Tom Hausler.

Spending time in nature has been shown to provide health benefits for people of all ages, from reducing stress to strengthening the immune system. Even just viewing nature from a passing car or through a window can have psychological and cognitive benefits.

Natural lands also help us in ways that aren't always obvious. They help clean our water, filter pollutants from the air, lower the risk of flooding and erosion, and lower temperatures by buffering the urban heat island effect. To learn more about the ecological benefits of preserving large, un-fragmented tracts of land, visit Species of the BCP.

If you live near the preserve, check out the resources on our Preserve Neighbors page.