This Year, almost every trip will be offered every day (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). Of course, there are some exceptions, as noted, and Tuesday's trips may be abbreviated.
As you build YOUR schedule by selecting one trip/day, please note transportation will NOT be provided to all destinations as in previous years; rather, personal vehicles, rental cars and carpooling will be the primary mode of transport, with passenger vans provided for long distance trips only (Sabal & Sams, Coastal Specialties, and Far West).
During the registration process, you will be directed to select your trips each day. As always, space for each trip is limited and we expect each to sell out. Register early to secure your participation, as changes may be made as the event approaches, based upon availability, access and scouting reports.
Sabal + Sams* - SOLD OUT
(Est. drive time = 1 hour 10 min.) Some of the richest wildlife habitat in North America may be found in the lush riparian preserves and marshes found along the banks of the Rio Grande River, as it winds to the Laguna Madre. This trip to the Sabal Palm sanctuary and Camp Lula Sams focuses on finding butterflies such as Boisduval’s Yellow, Walker's Metalmark and Gemmed Satyr; but also offers the chance to encounter endangered species and neotropical birds. One site allows you to pass through the Border Wall, while another let’s you go back in time to South Texas’ historic Girl Scout campgrounds. Slow easy walking with restrooms available.
The 'Butterfly Beltway' - SOLD OUT TUESDAY
(Est. drive time = 10 min.) Explore the public and private properties around the National Butterfly Center, where butterfly gardens large and small yield exciting and often unexpected species! Start your day at the Bentsen-RGV State Park with an easy walk around the Visitor’s Center, then embark on a 1.5 mile walk around Bentsen Palm RV Resort and the renowned wall surrounding Retama Village, as well as private gardens within the wall. In 2013, the 2nd & 3rd US Record Sightings for the Zebra Cross-streak occurred in this special corridor. See for yourself why this area of increasingly rich habitat is called 'The Butterfly Beltway.' Additional gardens may be announced, based upon sightings. Easy walking with restrooms available.
National Butterfly Center
(Est. drive time = 10 min.) It's always a good day at the National Butterfly Center, where you may expect to see 65-70+ species! This 100-acre preserve is YOUR project and now is the time to get to know it better with guides who will take you across the levee to the banks of the Rio Grande River. Ever-growing gardens and native habitat expansion invite hundreds of species each year, including U.S. Records and ultra-rarities like the Red-sided Swallowtail and Dusted Spurwing, seen in 2015. The truth is you never know what you’ll see at the NBC! Slow easy walking (unless you’re on the chase) with restrooms and benches on the ‘front 30.’ Picnic under the palapa.
Cielo Escondido (Hidden Heaven) - SOLD OUT MONDAY
(Est. drive time = 1 hour 15 min.) Imagine 9 acres of pristine native plant habitat on the arroyo in Willacy County, where many rare and two endangered plant species grow on land that has never been cleared (for as long as records of the site exist). While butterflies may be found in abundance, this is also a “quest trip” to a site where the Manfreda Giant-Skipper might be found. The larval host and adult habitat for this butterfly are both extremely limited in range, but present, here. The last verified U.S. sightings of this species are from the 1980s. This trip should include a stop at the municipal park where last year’s U.S. Record Shadowed Hairstreak was found. Hidden Heaven includes another 9 acres of reforestation and a 1-acre wildlife water feature that brings in birds and dragonflies. Easy walking with restrooms available.
King Family Compound
(Est. drive time = 10 min.) This private garden on the banks of an old caliche quarry hosts butterflies, dragonflies and birds a plenty. A ‘best kept secret’ this garden proves plant it and they will come! Paired with the old Valley Botanical Gardens (now the new McAllen Nature Center), this trip offers something old and something new, with lots of room for discovery close to the hustle and bustle of town. One site contains steep inclines; otherwise, easy walking with plenty of shaded seating and restrooms available.
Wonders of Weslaco
(Est. driving time = 30 min.) Tour Weslaco's best butterfly attractions—including the ever-popular state park, a popular Audubon tract, and private oases into which you are lucky to set foot! There’s a good chance you may see a Potrillo Skipper in this neck of the woods. The Weslaco excurion often gets “edited” by scouts and guides who stay up-to-date on sightings in high-count yards and at feeding stations. Slow easy walking with restrooms and benches available.
Far West - SOLD OUT MONDAY
(Est. drive time = 1 hour 30 min.) Trek to far western Starr County, for a guided tour of the gardens at Falcon State Park. New park leadership is paying special attention to the small, but productive, butterfly gardens and 3-mile nature trail in this brushland habitat. Falcon also offers an opportunity to see uncommon birds, such as the Scaled Quail, Varied Bunting and Green Kingfisher. Then visit the parsonage, where Berry Nall's legendary garden once yielded a dozen hairstreak species and we’ll try to make sure the garden at Roma Bluffs is open, too. Slow easy walking with restrooms and benches available at Falcon (and Roma).
Coastal Specialties - SOLD OUT MONDAY
(Est. drive time = 1 hour 30 min.) What’s a little mud? Cruise out to the Smiley Face, among several sites, to search for Xami Hairstreak, Definite Patch, Blue Metalmark, Pale-rayed and Double-dotted Skippers. Not for the faint of heart, this trip offers multiple stops to rich or rare habitat that may be thorny, mucky and inhospitable—but the butterflies are worth it! Your guides will determine which hot spots and landmarks you visit to find rewarding specialties on the fringes of Cameron County. LONG PANTS, PROPER BOOTS AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING/COVERING REQUIRED to contend with stinging pests, cactus and other hazards. Restrooms available along the way.
Into the Wild
(Est. drive time = 45 min.) It’s no wonder we return to Yturria, year after year. In 2014, this trip produced the Blue-studded Skipper, a U.S. record and chase butterfly of the year. From there, you may head to the La Puerta prairie or Perez Ranch, in search of the Banded Patch, depending on scouting reports and rainfall. A mile-long hike and easy ascent lead to look out point and some steep trails the adventuresome may descend. Sandy and rocky paths require shuffling or sure footing and LONG PANTS, PROPER BOOTS AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING/COVERING REQUIRED are suggested to contend with sun exposure and other hazards in the brushlands of Starr County. Restrooms not readily available.
La Sal del Rey (The King’s Salt)
(Est. drive time 45 min.) South Texas' three salt lakes include the 530-acre Sal del Rey, which is surrounded by endangered Tamaulipan thornscrub and grassland habitat. The focus of this trip is butterflies; however, locals will tell you the areas around the lake, such as Brushline Road, offer wonderful opportunities to encounter birds and other wildlife, such as the threatened Long-billed Curlew. White-tailed Deer, a Diamondback Rattlesnake, and Turk's-Cap White-Skippers may be reasonably expected. An easy stop to check the butterfly gardens at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands on the way back to town is likely. LONG PANTS, PROPER BOOTS AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING/COVERING REQUIRED to contend with stinging pests, cactus and other hazards. Restrooms not readily available.
Military Highway - SOLD OUT TUESDAY
(Est. drive time = 30 min.) One could spend the whole day at Santa Ana NWR, a 2000+ acre preserve containing Chihuahuan desert, subtropical wetlands and Great Plains habitat. This island in a sea of commercial farm crops is the only property in the South Texas to boast more butterfly species sightings (over its 73 year history) than the National Butterfly Center, so chances are outstanding you will seem some 'lifers' here. If time permits, this trip will stop at a private bed & breakfast and the ditch on Rio Rico Rd., where state troopers have been known to direct tourist to clouds of Curve-winged Metalmarks. Restrooms available.