Mansfield opened the Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park in January, 2014, and it’s become one of our favorite places to go for mid-week fun and exploration! Of course, it’s just right down the street from us, but the 80 acres make it a fun place to visit, worthy of a drive from most parts of the DFW Metroplex! However, you won’t find swings, slides or athletic fields at the park, because the focus is all on nature!
The City of Mansfield offers several different nature classes at the Oliver Nature Park, as well as hikes and even birthday parties!
Although the park closes at dark, guided night hikes are offered throughout the year, and on special request from groups. We had the opportunity to take a night hike with the park naturalist, and it was fantastic!
After assuring our group that we didn’t need flashlights, we put them away and headed off into the park!
Our adventure included a stop at the perch pond to learn about animals that live in or near the water, experiments along the trail involving our sense or smell and sight and then he used several different owl calls to teach us about these nocturnal raptors. Imagine our surprise when not only did one but two barred owls answer, then one flew up and landed in the tree closest to us!
Although it felt like we were watching the bird show at the Dallas Zoo, these were wild owls that live in the park! It was certainly an exciting addition to our hike!
We’ve taken MANY such nature classes at state parks and nature centers around the state, and this was definitely the most unique and one of our favorites!
Click HERE to visit the Mansfield website list of programs and dates.
There are several miles of paved bike trails, a portion of which runs through the park. Bikes are not allowed to ride on the crushed granite hiking trails, a big thumbs down for some park visitors.
There is a small fishing pond just beyond the restrooms at the entrance to the park. We spotted raccoon and possum tracks as we walked around the pond. This would be a great place to take a couple of marbles on a late spring or summer afternoon, and click them together. I bet you would be rewarded by the return call of some cricket frogs.
If you are a regular reader, you know we just started geocaching, and LOVE it!! It’s really easy to get hooked on it! There are four geocaches in the park. Two of them (Jilly Bean’s and Dosi-doe were very easy, perfect for beginners or younger children. My kids love getting to exchange a “prize” when they find the cache! We didn’t attempt the other two, which were much more complex. We will save those for another day when we can devote enough time for solving them!
If you haven’t tried geocaching, but are interested, check out the program being offered at the park (click HERE), or just log into Geocaching.com. They have a short tutorial video (it’s so easy), and you don’t need special equipment. You can use your phone’s GPS.
My kids loved the interesting things we found along the hiking trails, such as the Treehouse Overlook.
Scattered throughout the trails are these giant tree trunks, which are perfect photo ops! Several are facing different directions, making for good morning and afternoon pictures. I LOVE that the park saved these!
A 1930’s Monitor Windmill. That’s what the sign said, anyway.
I love this feature of the park, a raised boardwalk showing the 100 year floodplain level. While it’s only a few inches off the ground, the boardwalk helps you understand how high the waters would be during a flood, and how much of the surrounding land would be underwater!
This is one of two wildlife blinds we found along the trail.
A natural amphitheater has been built among the trees, on the shores of the creek. This would be such a great place for a night story time or even an acoustic sing-a-long! I can’t wait to see how they use this creative space! Dulcimer, anyone?
There is an overlook at the Rocky Ford, an amazing and surprising geological formation in Walnut Creek. Of course, we didn’t want to look at it, we wanted to EXPLORE it!
The kids (and I) had so much fun jumping from rock to rock, looking for fish in the creek (gotta remember to take a net next time) and swinging on vines hanging down from the trees overhead.
My little boy was even able to practice “stick walking”! This is such a great experience for kids! Love it!!
For the most part, the water was only a few inches deep, so even if they missed, they would only risk a wet shoe. However, there were a few places where the water was deep. Of course, my daughter had to find one of these, and jump in!
My Mommy Tips:
Take plenty of drinking water with you.
There are REAL restrooms at the trailhead! Go!
While there are tables in the park, there are not any grills. Grab a sandwich from our friends, Chad and Amy’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs at Matlock and Debbie Ln. (yum), and enjoy a picnic in the park!
Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park
1650 Matlock Rd. Mansfield
Click HERE to visit the website