Park News

Beautiful wetland park 25 miles southeast of Dallas is a social distance dream

Beautiful wetland park southeast of Dallas is a social distance dream

Bunker Sands wetland center
Stunning shelf cloud crossing the Texas horizon. Photo by Stacy Breen

Editor's note: Dallas resident Stacy Breen is an intrepid explorer of local culture with an instinct for making nifty discoveries. During August, she's contributing a weekly column on her visits to North Texas parks.

I've been on a parks kick these days. I just started dating somebody, and we've been looking for places where we can go do things. With the virus, you can't go to the movies or even go out to eat.

With parks, I look for places that could be a day adventure, but that are remote. We don't want to run into a lot of people.

One facility I only recently discovered is the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, located in Seagoville. It was perfect.

The park
John Bunker Sands sits in the middle of the East Fork Wetland Project, and includes a series of manmade wetland habitats on the Rosewood Seagoville Ranch property. It's named for the late John Bunker Sands, who worked for The Rosewood Corporation and was the son of Caroline Rose Hunt and Loyd Bowmer Sands.

The Rosewood Corporation owns three ranches in Ellis, Navarro, and Henderson counties, where some of their cattle graze. Eager to support wildlife, "Bunker" began building wetlands on these ranches in 1980.

The bald eagles
Probably the most famous thing about the center is that it's home to the famous family of bald eagles who built their nest on a power transmission tower, putting them in close proximity to high-voltage electricity.

In 2014, numerous organizations including Oncor came together to build a replica tower and move the nest to a safer location. The eagles became even more famous after the center installed a 24-hour webcam so that people from around the world could watch them.

Our visit
We were there for about two hours including a very long walk out to see how close we could get to the bald eagle nest. When the eagles are in residence, you're not allowed to walk towards their nest at all. The birds are gone right now, so you can observe it, but there's only so close you can get. It was still a nice long walk.

It's worth noting that there is zero shade. No trees to walk under or anything like that. You are definitely out in the sun. The day we went, it was cloudy, and we saw an awesome shelf cloud move across the horizon. We were glad it was overcast.

The sensitive plant
I also found something fascinating that I have only seen one other time in nature, in Natchitoches, Louisiana: a huge patch of "sensitive" plants. They're like a weed. They grow low and blend into the ground like a grass covering. But when you touch them, they close up, like a mimosa leaf. I just happened to look down. I always see these leaf structures, and I always reach out and touch them, and nothing ever happens. This was first time in forever that I have seen them, and there were a whole bunch.

The drive
The center is approximately 25 miles from downtown Dallas. We took the freeway to get there. If you go southeast on 175, it's only 20 minutes.

But on the way back, we took the scenic route and went through Seagoville. There's not a lot, but they did have thrift shops. We had to stop at the thrift shops. We went to Jose's Thrift Store, where they had a couple of nice Art Deco pieces of furniture, but the strangest thing was that they had a lot of sake sets — the little cups with the little carafes? They must have had 6 sake sets. In Seagoville. It was the oddest thing.

They also had a huge collection of glass Pyrex — pie plates, rectangle bakers. I collect those. It was all I could do to not buy one of the glass pie plates. I had to remember that I already have about 10 of them.

And then they had a whole wall of adult diapers, brand new in the package. Where did that come from.

It was probably the best place to shop in all of Seagoville.

The details
John Bunker Sands Wetland Center is at 655 Martin Ln., Seagoville. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 9 am-4 pm, Saturday 7 am-4 pm. It's $5 to get in, $4 for seniors, and free for 12 and under. They emphasize that you should specifically follow their instructions, since not all map apps will get you to the right place.