May 26, 2015

By Amy Martin

It’s the end of May, which launches the annual parental panic: What are we going to do with the kids during the summer? Addison-based author Dan Moulton, Ph.D. has a solution: Texas Nature and Environmental Centers Guide. Read it and take the tykes on adventures learning about and exploring nature. Even when the weather’s bad, indoor exhibits are a good way to wile away an afternoon. 

More than 90 centers are described by the ecosystem that marks their particular location. For instance, while the High Plains/Rolling Plains is host to the Alibates Flint National Monument, it’s the epic riparian corridor of Canadian River that is the raison d'etre for the park. Activities for families and kids are highlighted, including festivals and other seasonal events. 

Right, More than 90 nature and eco-centers are described in Dan Moulton's new book.

Texas Nature and Environmental Centers Guide is especially vital for schools and groups seeking field trip options. Centers that provide student curriculums and CPE credits are noted. Several of the centers are open only to groups and not included in conventional guidebooks, including Camp Grady Spruce, Collin County Adventure Camp and Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve. 


The appendix features a very concise wrap-up of environmental issues facing Texas. The Dallas Sierra Club hosts Moulton at their next general meeting program at Brookhaven College, Building H, 3939 Valley View Lane, just north of LBJ Freeway (IH-635) between Marsh and Midway, on Tuesday, June 9, at 7 pm. Visit their home page for directions and details. 

Left, Addison-based author Dan Moulton will speak at the Dallas Sierra Club June 9.

Moulton’s got the chops: over 30 years with various state and national wildlife agencies. He organizes its content by eco-regions such as Edwards Plateau/Llano Uplift. His descriptions of these areas are superb, not hampered by overuse of technical terms. Beyond detailing landscape, flora and fauna, he brings alive how weather impacts these areas and changes made by man, such as how killing off bison affected prairies.  

Far more than a guidebook, Texas Nature and Environmental Centers Guide hopes that visits to these centers will counter the epidemic of nature deficit syndrome outlined in Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, perhaps even inspire a new generation of eco-activists. Its influence by Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed shows a profound commitment to the future.


Our region, Oak Wood and Prairie/Blackland Prairie, features 23 centers. All but five are within an hour of DFW, and most are in large cities or suburbs. You’d think an area like the Edwards Plateau/Llano Uplift (aka the Hill Country) would be replete with centers, yet has only 11. But Texas Nature and Environmental Centers Guide does include some you might miss like the centers in Kerrville, Fredrickberg and Boerne, which are real jewels, and the quirky Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve.  

Above, the regions of Texas. Courtesy of Dan Moulton. Below, Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve. Courtesy of the park.

No region is denser with nature centers than the Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes/Coastal Sand Plain with more than 30. The book makes it very handy to plan hot-weather vacations with children, mixing sand and sun with a little education. Moulton’s expertise shows in this region. He’s the co-author of Texas Coastal Wetlands Guidebook and Texas Coastal Ecosystems: Past, Present, and Future.  

Dividing by natural regions gets a little ungainly since Blackland Prairie, for instance, reaches from McKinney to Central Texas. Some centers in the Hill Country aren’t listed in Llano Uplift region as you’d think, and one near Athens isn’t included in the Piney Woods. A little cross-referencing would help.

Order Texas Nature and Environmental Centers Guide through this link.


If your explorations inspire you, consider starting a nature center of your own. There’s even a guide — The Nature Center Book: How to Create and Nurture a Nature Center in Your Community by Brent Evans and Carolyn Chipman Evans. 

Here are a few books with camping information to complement your Texas nature center travels. 

The Best in Tent Camping: Texas: A Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos by Wendel Withrow, Dallas Sierra Club chairman and Green Source DFW board member.

Camper's Guide to Texas Parks, Lakes, and Forests: Where to Go and How to Get There by Mickey Little

Lone Star Travel Guide to Texas Parks and Campgrounds by George Oxford Miller

Official Guide to Texas State Parks and Historic Sites by Laurence Parent

Amy Martin, a journalist and writer for more than 30 years, is currently senior comedy critic for TheaterJones, North Texas Wild columnist for GreenSource DFW and Texas Faith panelist at the Dallas Morning News. She was contributing editor for the national magazine Garbage (recycling and features), and has written for Dallas Morning News (recycling), Dallas Observer (music), and Dallas Times Herald (performing arts). For a dozen years, Martin also operated a popular alternative news service called Moonlady News, earning her the nickname Moonlady. A leader in Earth-centered and unaffiliated spirituality, Martin was director of Earth Rhythms and creator of the acclaimed Winter SolstiCelebrations. She may be reached through

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