My family and I are always up for adventure and, being fairly new to Texas, we love getting to know our beautiful adopted home state. So, on a recent Friday afternoon, we loaded up our trusty minivan and set off in search of a duck pond to explore. We were pleased to find Mills Pond, a treasure tucked away in Wells Branch just north of Austin.
The scene: A wide, level trail surrounds the entire pond, with lots of places to stop and rest, take photos or just enjoy the scenery. The pond is accessible by way of a set of impressive stone stairs or a dirt path, your choice. As we followed the meandering path around the water, we were impressed by the park’s unspoiled beauty. The trail and all its enhancements, including a fishing pier, seemed carefully planned to have minimal impact on the natural feel of the area, which provides a welcoming habitat for wildlife like turtles, geese, cranes and ducks.
The park also has a nature viewing station, with a sign requesting you to enter quietly. We recommend getting little ones to let off some steam – maybe at the park’s basketball court or bench swing – before visiting the viewing station. Nestled among thick vegetation, the viewing area offers comfortable seating for about eight to 10 people. Perfect for a Mother’s Day outing or any time, a location like this is a pleasure for all ages. Don’t forget to take photos and apply lots of sunscreen.
Facilities: There are about 20 parking spaces, with enough space to maneuver large, family-sized vehicles. The parking lot and entrance are both wheelchair-accessible. Clean bathrooms are conveniently located at the edge of the parking lot, along with a water fountain and even a water bowl set up for four-legged family members. (Mills Pond is dog-friendly, but pooches must be on a leash at all times.)
About feeding wildlife: When I was a kid, it was common for folks to take slightly stale bread to the local pond and feed the ducks. But feeding ducks bread is now discouraged because it has minimal nutritional value. It can also impede the growth of young ducklings, pollute local waterways and attract rodents and other undesirable pests. Ducks should never be fed anything spoiled or moldy; certain types of mold are fatal to waterfowl.
My family and I were prepared to feed the ducks something healthy and nutritious, but we learned that local park authorities don’t want visitors to feed the ducks and other wildlife. Before you head out to visit the duck pond of your choice, contact local park authorities to ask if visitors are allowed to feed the wildlife.
More duck ponds: Lou Neff Point, located along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail (not technically a pond, but the point where Barton Creek meets up with Lady Bird Lake is very popular with wildlife); The Arboretum, located at 1000 Research Blvd. (take the trail from the cow statues down the hill to the pond); Round Rock West Park, located at 500 Round Rock West Dr. (this pond is known in Round Rock as “the” duck pond).
Kristy Noel is an Austin-based freelance writer and mother of two.