A Dog’s-Eye-View of Popular Dog Parks in Houston

A Dog’s-Eye-View of Popular Dog Parks in Houston
by Carolynn Waites
Mar 22, 2014

One Local Dog’s Opinion of the Best Parks to Go Off-Leash

My name is Rocky and as a dog living in the Houston area, I enjoy a new outdoor adventure every now and then. My mom and dad like to take me to different dog parks around the city. New places offer so many smells to discover. These dog parks are popular with our owners and us doggies. They are easy to get to, have ample parking, and have plenty of amenities for both canine and human. I may not always feel like playing with the other dogs, but I can easily spend all day sniffing every shrub and tree at these parks.

Danny Jackson Family Dog Park is a popular dog park located within the heart of Houston. It is located off Westpark Drive just inside Loop 610. The park is 2.76 acres and features ponds, water fountains, benches, dog wash areas, and walking trails. The park splits into a small dog park and a large dog park. Even though I have the heart and soul of a big dog, at 12 pounds I am usually in the small dog park. Park hours are 7:00am to 10:00pm. The park address is 4828 1/2 Loop Central Drive, Houston, TX 77081.

Millie Bush Dog Park is located inside George Bush Park in west Houston. It is named after George and Barbara Bush’s dog Millie. The park is 8.68 acres and features water fountains, double-gated fencing, benches, walking trails, ponds, and dog showers. There is a separate small dog park fenced within the large dog park. I do not like getting wet, but I know many of my furry friends love splashing around and swimming in the ponds. Hours for the dog park are 7:00am to dusk. The address of the park is 16756 Westheimer Parkway, Houston, TX 77082.

Congressman Bill Archer Park includes one of the largest dog parks in the area. That means I have plenty of land to run free off the leash. The 17-acre dog park includes a separate dog park for small dogs as well as the large dog park. Both dog parks feature a double-gated fence, large swimming ponds, agility courses, dog showers, benches, water fountains and walking trails. Park hours are 7:00am to dusk. The park address is 3201 State Highway 6 North, Houston, TX 77084.

Rocky is a 12-pound chi-weenie dog that lives with his human mom and dad and two annoying cats that he likes to escape. One of his favorite pastimes is going for a car ride. It is even better when a dog park is the destination for that car ride. Rocky has been to dog parks all over the United States, but he calls Houston home and likes to check out the local doggie hangouts whenever he can get a ride in the car to visit them. He asked his mom to help him with this article about his favorite dog parks in Houston. Please remember to follow all the dog park rules and be a good canine citizen.

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Escape Into Nature Without Leaving the Metro Area: Houston’s Best Hiking Trails

Escape Into Nature Without Leaving the Metro Area: Houston’s Best Hiking Trails
by Carolynn Waites
Mar 17, 2014

Do you want to escape from the city without leaving the city? Houston has several hiking trails that can take you back to nature without having to leave the metropolitan area. These three popular hiking trails are good for all levels, so anyone can get out on them and lose themselves in nature for an hour or two.

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is an oasis within an oasis in the city of Houston. Located within Memorial Park, the nature center has many different trails. The most popular trail with hikers is the Outer Loop trail. This smooth, unpaved two-mile loop encircles the arboretum and gets you away from the more crowded trails in Memorial Park. The southern portion of the trail has a remote feel to it and you can forget that the big city surrounds you. Entrance to the Houston Arboretum is free and the trails are open seven days a week from 7:00am to dusk. Dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are kept on a leash at all times. Parking is free, but fills up quickly on weekends. There is additional free parking one-quarter mile away in the Running Lot in Memorial Park.

Armand Bayou Nature Center
Armand Bayou Nature Center is in the Clear Lake Area. The Armand Bayou/Holly Bay trail is a crushed-limestone five-mile long point-to-point trail located within the 2,500-acre nature preserve. Following the trail will take you through this region’s different original ecosystems including wetlands, tall grass prairies, and bottomland forest. Armand Bayou Nature Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Nature Center. Entrance fees are $4.00 for ages 13 to 59 years old. There are discounts for younger children and seniors age 60 and up. Three years old and under get free admission. There is plenty of parking inside the gates.

Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens
Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is located on the north side of Houston in Humble. Aldine Westfield Road divides the 325-acre park into a west side and east side. Both sides feature crushed gravel loop trails that consist of smaller loops. The trails run alongside Cypress Creek. The trail on the west side of the park is two and a quarter miles if you hike the entire loop. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the trails on the west side of the park. The trail on the east side of the park takes you through the Botanic Gardens. The entire east side loop is one and a half miles long. Dogs are not allowed on the east side of the park. Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is open seven days a week from 8:00am to dusk during March through October and 8:00am to 5:00pm during November through February. Entrance is free and there is parking available in the park.

Additional Information on these trails and others: AllTrails

Houston Area Wildlife Attractions

Houston Area Wildlife Attractions
by Carolynn Waites
Feb 20, 2014

Houston and Its Surrounding Area Is Home to Zoos, Museums, and Parks That Attract Animal Lovers

Houston offers many fun attractions for wildlife lovers and animal lovers to enjoy. These featured attractions are all on the south side Houston, from the museum district near downtown to Galveston Island. They will entertain and educate visitors to the area or locals looking for an interesting and fun way to spend a day.

Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo, located in Hermann Park in the museum district, offers the largest selection of animals for viewing in the area. There are 6,000 resident animals living at the zoo. The beautifully landscaped zoo and animal habitats represent the natural living environments of the animals. There is a petting zoo in the children’s zoo section allowing interaction with the resident goats.

Cockrell Butterfly Center
The Cockrell Butterfly Center is located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in the museum district. Hundreds of live butterflies in a lush tropical atmosphere surround visitors. The 50-foot waterfall is also a highlight of this three-story exhibit. Exotic plants are everywhere as the butterflies alight on the plants and other food sources, as well as on the occasional lucky visitor.

Bayou Wildlife Zoo
The Bayou Wildlife Zoo in Alvin is a mix of a wildlife safari and petting zoo, with over 500 different animals. The highlight is the 45-minute tram ride that takes visitors through the park. Purchase a bucket of animal food for the journey to entice many of the animal residents to the open sides of the tram. Feeding is encouraged and some of the bolder animals will eat offered food from hand or even stick their head inside the tram to eat out of a bucket. Save some food, if you can, for the petting zoo after the tram ride.

Brazos Bend State Park
Located in NeedvilleBrazos Bend State Park is a must-visit for close encounters with alligators. An easy hike around Elm Lake will provide many alligator sightings. They are lounging in the water and sunning themselves right on the pathway. Covering around 5000 acres, the park also hosts a large variety of birds and other wildlife. Bring a camera; there are fantastic photo opportunities everywhere.

Moody Gardens
Galveston Island‘s Moody Gardens has two attractions of interest for wildlife lovers: the Rainforest Pyramid and the Aquarium Pyramid. The Rainforest is a 10-story glass pyramid with animals and plants living throughout the tropical habitat. Visitors can walk pathways along the treetops to see monkeys and birds or follow the river at the bottom of the pyramid to see otters, turtles, and more. The Aquarium Pyramid is the only place in the Houston area to see penguins. The 1.5 million-gallon aquarium also features sharks, stingrays, and seals.

Monarch Butterflies in the Garden

Monarch Butterflies in the Garden
by Carolynn Waites
May 11, 2014

The Butterfly Garden Proved a Success when Monarch Butterflies Were Born

My husband and I first planted a small butterfly garden in our backyard three years ago. The next year, we expanded it to triple the original size. It has attracted a fair amount of butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees to my backyard. This year we hit the ultimate success! Monarch butterflies began their lives in the garden. Yesterday, we bid goodbye to the last of the newly formed butterflies as they began their month-long journey to the north.

Monarch Caterpillars Appear
Toward the end of March, I was checking on the plants in the butterfly garden. It had been a particularly long and cold winter for the Texas gulf coast, and the plants had only begun to re-emerge from dormancy and freeze-damage. The two milkweed plants had some interesting caterpillars crawling on them. I did some research that afternoon to identify the black, yellow, and white-striped visitors. I was excited to learn that they were monarch caterpillars! After a couple of more days, caterpillars covered the two plants and they had eaten every leaf. My husband and I ran to the nearest garden center and bought two more milkweed plants. We planted them that night. The caterpillars happily moved on to the new plants and continued their eating frenzy. By the time they were done, they had stripped one of the new plants and the other was nearly there.

Caterpillars Become Cocoons
The next step in the process was for the caterpillars, now full from the milkweed leaves, to begin looking for the perfect spot for their cocoon. They were crawling all over the back of the house, the garden, the windows, the fence, and the eaves of the roof. After finding their spot, they attached themselves to it with a white sticky substance. After a few hours of hanging out, they began “jaying,” making an upward bend in preparation for the cocoon. Next thing we knew, our house and garden were covered with bright green cocoons. We never saw the caterpillars transform. It must have been a quick process.

Monarch Butterflies Emerge
Over the next week or so, the wind knocked down some of the cocoons and some turned dark and never did anything else. Most of the cocoons remained a bright green and as time went on, the gold specks on them increased. At our highest count, we counted 23 cocoons. After a big windstorm, we were down to 18. We only counted the ones that we could find, so there may have been more. After a week and a half, suddenly one or two of the cocoons were empty! We had not seen any butterflies yet, so we were not sure if this was good news or bad. The next day we got our answer. Butterflies were emerging from the cocoons! It was a beautiful amazing process and we were so excited to have played a small part in it. Over the next few days, most of the cocoons produced butterflies. After a few hours, the butterflies took off and were on their way to the next destination.

Goodbye Monarchs
Yesterday, the last of the cocoons produced our last butterfly. It was the end of our little monarch butterfly adventure for this year. We lost a few cocoons, and two of the butterflies did not make it after emerging from the cocoon, but overall somewhere around 12 to 15 butterflies successfully emerged from our garden. We are like proud parents and feel blessed to have been a part of this awe-inspiring natural encounter. We hope we are lucky enough to do it again next spring.