Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's Happening at Hagerman This Month?

By Helen Vargus

Just in time for a busy month,  Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge  announced last week that Wildlife Drive and the low water crossings are once again open, as the early winter flooding has ended.  All hiking trails are also now open.  Come enjoy the best that nature has to offer!

Home Sweet Home to many critters!
Youth First
Youth First is back for 2016!  On Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 10:00 am – 11:30 am join us as we learn about trees and the critters that make their home in trees. 
Youth First activities are held the first Saturday of every month and are open to children from ages 4-12.  These activities are free and open to the public with advance registration. This assures plenty of supplies will be available for each child.
            You may register as a Friends member, or as a guest. If you choose to become a member, please do so before starting the registration process.  Registration is currently open to Friends of Hagerman members and those who set up a guest account. All registrations must be completed by Thursday, February 4, 2016, at 4:00 pm. You may register online at  If your plans change after you have registered, please let us know.
Our Youth First groups will be held at two different locations at the Refuge,  based on the child’s age. Children ages 4-7 will meet in the Visitor Center Meeting Room and are to be accompanied by an adult. Children ages 8-12 will meet in the Friends of Hagerman Building and may be dropped off and picked up at the start and end of the session or may be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  Look for the signs that will direct you to the FOH Building. 

Photo by Bill Powell
Each year Cornell sponsors the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year’s Citizen Science event is set for February 12 - 15, 2016.  Backyard birders can participate by counting birds in their own backyard or you can come to Hagerman NWR and take part in our bird count.
Master birder Dr. Wayne Meyer, Professor of Biology at Austin College, has agreed to lead a Great Backyard Bird Walk at Hagerman NWR from 8 - 9:30 am on Saturday, February 13.  To join the walk, participants must meet Dr. Meyer at the  Refuge Visitor Center  by 8 am.  Come dressed for the weather.  Bring your binoculars or borrow ours at the Nature Nook.  Birds counted during the walk will be reported to GBBC.   In the case of rain, the event will not be held.

Photo by Mary Karam
Second Saturday
            “Leave It to Beaver” will be the topic for Second Saturday on February 13. The program will be from 10-11:30 am at the Visitor Center at Hagerman NWR.
Dr. Jessica Healy, Assistant Professor of Biology at Austin College will give us the facts about this hardworking mammal.  A beaver’s dam in a healthy, freshwater stream helps create wetland habitats that support an array of unique plants and animals.
Each month Second Saturday programs are held at the Visitor Center.  The programs are free and no registration is required.

Hagerman NWR Turns 70 in February - watch for details on the celebration, which is set for 2 - 4 pm, Sunday, February 21.

Color-In for Teens, Grown-ups, at Hagerman NWR
Coloring isn’t just for kids!  Hagerman is sponsoring a Color-In exclusively for Teens and Grown-ups on Sunday, February 28, from 2:30-4:00 pm.  If you love to color or want to reconnect with your inner child, join us for a relaxing afternoon of coloring at Hagerman. Coloring is a great way to be creative and reduce your stress level.
The program is free; no registration is needed. Bring your own supplies or use ours. We have nature-themed pages to color, crayons, and colored pencils. We also have an assortment of nature-themed coloring books for sale in the Nature Nook book and gift shop at the Refuge.

Photo by Tom Judd
Tram Tours
            Hop on the Carlos and Eulalia Cardinal Express for a 60 - 90-minute tour along Wildlife Drive at the Refuge.  Guided tours will be offered in February on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM, weather permitting.  This is an open-air tram, so dress for the weather.  The tours are free but donations to the tram maintenance fund are welcome.  
Call 903 786 2826 for reservations as seating is limited.  Volunteers cannot access messages on the Refuge phone system.  To make a reservation, please speak to a volunteer from 9 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday and 1-5 pm on Sundays.  Standbys will be accepted on weekends if space permits.   No dogs other than service animals allowed on board the tram.

            Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  The Visitor Center is open from 7:30 am - 4 pm Monday- Friday, 9 am  -  4 pm on Saturday and from 1-5 on Sunday. The grounds are open year-round from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted.  The Refuge Office/Visitor Center is closed on all federal holidays and will be closed on Monday, February 15 for Presidents Day.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rain Be Gone!

By Kathy Whaley

As this is being written, the sky is blue and the wind is howling a brisk, cool breeze. Even with the wind, the blue skies are a very welcomed sight! Taking a look back at Hagerman NWR in 2015, the first thing that comes to mind is all of the water we had to endure. In May alone, the refuge recorded 28.51 inches of rain. Compared to all of 2014 (23.56 inches) that was A LOT of rain! Most all roads were closed from early May through mid-August.

June 1, 2015 - Photo from Refuge Files
Then, a couple of days after Thanksgiving, the roads flooded again and have been closed all but a few days since then. 
Flooding approaches accessible loop of Harris Creek Trail, January 6, 2016
The good news is that Lake Texoma will be below 620 msl (mean sea level) soon (the elevation of Wildlife Drive) and is expected to reach its normal winter pool of 617 msl on January 31st.  Click to follow the changing lake level (information from the US Army Corps of Engineers).

What will the rest of winter and this spring look like? We are waiting anxiously to find out. According to (the website used by the Corps of Engineers to obtain weather forecasts), temperatures for the next three months are expected to be near normal while there is a 40% chance of above normal precipitation. Then, according to a January 14th report from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the strong El NiƱo currently in place is expected to gradually weaken through spring 2016, and to transition to more normal conditions during late spring or early summer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed they are correct!

A few things we know for sure: 1) we can’t control the weather; 2) the Corps does their best to release as much water as possible during periods of flood, but they must take into consideration downstream conditions which sometimes means we are flooded longer than we wish we were; 3) eventually, the water level will return to normal, debris will be removed from refuge roads, and needed repairs will be made. The refuge staff would like everyone to know they have missed having their regular visitors on Wildlife Drive and are happy to have the road cleared and open once again!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Begin to Bird

Most every day I sit at my kitchen table and observe the birds who gather at our backyard feeders.  According to, I am a birdwatcher – a person who identifies and observes birds in their natural habitat as recreation.

In an article about Birdwatching on Wikipedia, we find that

“The term "birdwatching" appeared for the first time as the title of a book "Bird Watching" by Edmund Selous in 1901. In North America, the identification of birds, once thought possible only by shooting was made possible by the emergence of optics and field identification guides. The earliest field guide in the US was Birds through an Opera Glass (1889) by Florence Bailey.”

The article goes on to state that for years birdwatching in America was popular primarily in the eastern seaboard states.   The combination of more readily available binoculars following World War II and automobile helped spread birdwatching and increased travel to view birds.

A study by U.S. Fish & Wildlife  is cited by Wikipedia as estimating that currently 20% of Americans are birdwatchers.

On two Saturdays, January 23 and January 30, you can join the 20%! Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will offer Begin to Bird.  The first session will cover choosing birdwatching equipment and the second will cover identification keys to birds common in our area.  You can register online, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826,  or just show up at 10 am in the Visitor Center Meeting Room at the Refuge.

Then, on Saturday, February 13, you can practice!  The 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count is set for February 12 - 15 this year, and Hagerman and the Friends  will hold a GBBC Walk, led by Dr. Wayne Meyer, at 8 am on that date, weather permitting.  Participants will meet BY 8 am at the Visitor Center and return in time for the Second Saturday presentation.

In case you are wondering, the term birdwatching can be all inclusive or may be used to describe the casual hobbyist v. “birder”, whose approach is more serious and includes keeping multiple lists, a collection of field guides, the latest optics, and travel to see specific birds. (

Backyard Bird Photos by Dick Malnory

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Outdoors More….with help from the Interagency Pass Program

By Jean Flick

During the cold of winter, many of us turn our thoughts to summer travel plans. The Interagency Pass Program enables many US citizens and permanent residents the opportunity to enjoy the natural wonders of a variety of federally managed lands at minimal expense.

Three of these passes are available at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, including the Senior Pass for those aged 62 or over ($10 for a lifetime pass), the Access Pass for US citizens with permanent disabilities (free), and the Annual 4th grade pass, free for the child and family during the year that each child is in the fourth grade and the following summer. 

Additional passes include the Annual Pass for US military (free) and the Annual Pass for anyone ($80 for one year).

Six agencies participate in the Pass Program, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. Effective January 1, 2016, the US Army to Corps of Engineers was granted the authority to be a full participant. Passes typically allow free admission to federal sites overseen by these agencies and may include substantial discounts on some activities such as camping, boat ramp use, and swimming.

The National Park Service oversees 409 areas, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks and sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic trails and rivers, and the White House.

The US Forest Service manages 193 million acres of vast scenic beauty, including national forests and grasslands. These public lands include 10,000 developed recreation sites, as well as alpine ski areas, heritage sites, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and more than 150,000 miles of trails.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service preserves habitat and protects wildlife on 150 million acres of national wildlife refuges, as well as more than 418 million acres of national marine monuments.

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for a variety of national conservation sites, including 223 Wilderness areas with over 8.7 million acres in 10 western states. These areas are “special areas where the earth and its community of life are essentially undisturbed.” Areas are open for certain forms of recreation, but permanent changes to the land are not permitted, to preserve the integrity of the wilderness.

The Bureau of Reclamation is tasked with managing water in the West and has projects in 17 western states. The reclamation work of the Bureau has resulted in the development of 289 areas with developed recreation areas including campgrounds, boat ramps, and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the number one federal provider of recreation in the US, with 400 lake and river projects in 43 states, including our own Lake Texoma.

America the Beautiful awaits...there is something out there for everyone...go to or for more information.

  • There is no charge for admission at Hagerman NWR.   
  • Senior, Access, and Annual 4th Grade Passes are available at the Refuge Office, during regular business hours Monday - Fridays, 7:30 am - 4 pm.  They are not available on weekends or federal holidays.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Resolve to Go Wild at Hagerman NWR

It is not too late for New Year's Resolutions!  And we have some suggestions for you, for 2016, starting in January at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge:


Opportunities in January - Hear Dr. Peter Schulze, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College, speak on the importance of prairie and the Prairie Restoration program conducted as Hagerman's neighbor, Sneed Prairie. 10 am, Saturday, January 9, in the Visitor Center at the Refuge. Free nature programs are offered on the Second Saturday of each month; see our calendar for more opportunities.

Take a guided auto birding tour around the Refuge with Texas Master Naturalist Jim Varnum on Saturday, January 23.  Meet Jim at the Visitor Center at 9 am; bring a brown bag lunch and make a day of it, ending at 2 pm.  You will want to bring binoculars, field guide and optional - camera.

OR - learn to identify birds at Begin to Bird, with Dick Malnory.  This two-part class will meet from 10 am - Noon on January 23 and wind up  during the same hours on January 30.  You will learn  keys to bird identification as well as how to choose binoculars, field guides.  Meet in the Refuge Visitor Center.  Please call the Refuge to sign up, 903 786 2826, or register online.

Learn more about native plants and butterflies and train to become a Butterfly Garden Docent. Orientation will be held at 10 am on Thursday, January 28 in the Visitor Center.  Docents help visitors who come for Garden Walks and group tours identify plants and butterflies and explain the mission of the garden and the plant-wildlife connection.


Graphics artist Jesus Moreno will lead a workshop on using Lightroom CC software, from 10 am - 3 pm  on Saturday, January 16.  Seating is limited for this free workshop and Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club members get first dibs on registering, but any places open after January 9 are up for grabs.  Eager beavers can join the club and register ASAP! Use CONTACT for workshop details.


The Youth FIRST program at HNWR will resume on February 6, with Who Lives in a Tree.  Registration is open now for this event.

And - you know what - if you also resolved to get your budget in shape for the New Year, all these programs are FREE!

See you there!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reminder About Firearm Regulations at Hagerman NWR

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is an overlay of Lake Texoma lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Laws and regulations governing Corps lands are in effect on the Refuge.

Firearms are regulated on Corps of Engineers property by Title 36 of the CFR which governs public use of Corps' water resources development projects (attached). The applicable section is 327.13 which states:
(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless:

(1) In the possession of a Federal, state, or local law enforcement officer;

(2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;

(3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or

(4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander.

With this existing law in place, all firearms including those carried either openly or concealed with a concealed weapons permit, are prohibited on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge lands and in the Visitor Center.  With the new Texas open carry law going into effect on January 1, 2016, it is important that everyone be aware of this law.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

O Little Town of Hagerman

The holidays can be a time for nostalgia and we have been thinking about an old-time Christmas in Hagerman, imagining what it might have been like, in the  town of Hagerman, Texas, the little town that was cleared away for the building of Lake Texoma.

School Christmas Pageant

From “Hagerman Schools”, by Gwen Morrison Swadlenak, reprinted in the Herald Democrat column “Other Voices”, July 13, 2008:
… “in about 1920, the school was moved to a two story brick building…”, “built with three rooms downstairs and an auditorium on the second floor, later doubling as a classroom”.  The Hagerman school was used as a cultural center for the community.  

“the auditorium of the brick building was the scene of the last closing [other farewells had been held] program with the Christmas tree in 1942.”

Hagerman School - stood near the grove of trees just north of the present-day Visitor Center
Was the program   a traditional school Christmas pageant, combining the secular and sacred aspects of the occasion? By the 1930s, secular tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” were already becoming holiday favorites.  In addition to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” which was written in 1934, the 1930s produced this holiday classics “Winter Wonderland” (1934).  


In the South, firecrackers were long used to celebrate Christmas. However, this tradition led to a loss in the town of Hagerman, according to Donna Hunt’s column in the Herald Democrat for July 11, 2012:

“Just before Christmas in 1926, three stores on the east side of the street burned. Exploding fireworks set off by the flames announced the holiday a little prematurely. Children stood by and watched the exploding fireworks that they had thought would be brought to them by Santa Claus.”

According to the article, those stores never re-opened and with the bank’s closing in 1927, the town’s decline began.


For kids who earned a little, perhaps picking cotton (A Brief History of Hagerman, "A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts), the stores might have offered these treats:  Candy from the 1920s includes candy delights such as Candy Cigarettes (before they realized ‘real’ cigarettes are bad for us!), Caramel Creams, Chiclets, Clark Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and more.   

Smith Cash Grocery Store, Hagerman, Texas
Christmas Cards

By 1920, Hagerman was a thriving community with a railroad depot, cotton gin, brick bank, a restaurant, post office (established in a home and later moved to a store), a school, a church, an ice-house and two grocery stores. 

Did the grocery store offer holiday merchandise such as cards, or were they homemade?    According to Wikipedia, during the Victorian era, holiday postcards had been in favor, but by the 1920’s cards with envelopes were again used. First class postage in 1920 was two cents, which would be 23.5 cents adjusted to today’s prices. 

Holiday Treats

From A Brief History of Hagerman, compiled by Dr. Jerry Lincecum:

There was … a large hardware store well-stocked with Daisy Mae butter churns, since many people kept a milk-cow in their own backyards.  Corn meal was another staple, so Hagerman had an old-fashioned noisy mill where corn was crushed and ground.  An ice-house presented the means for safe storage of meat and dairy products.

Eggs for Eggnog?
Mail Order Gifts

(Also from Dr. Lincecum) For the founding Smith brothers, the name of the town was a foregone conclusion, since the MKT Railroad switch there was already named the Hagerman Switch (after an official of the railroad).  It was a favorite stop for the train because of good water from the springs nearby. Mail would have come in by train to be distributed through the local post office.

“By the early part of the twentieth century, the mail-order retailing business had become a major sector of the American economy, through which millions of rural consumers purchased a variety of goods. By 1919, Americans were buying over $500 million worth of goods a year from mail-order companies (roughly half of this business went to Wards and Sears alone). The millions of bulky mail-order catalogs sent from Chicago to points around the country had become important cultural documents, with significance that went beyond the purely economic. Particularly in rural areas, which were still home to half of the American population as late as 1920, the catalogs served not only as a marketing tool, but also as school readers, almanacs, symbols of abundance and progress, and objects of fantasy and desire.  

Church Services

Originally meeting in a school or in homes, members of Hagerman Presbyterian Church moved into their first building in 1905 (see photo below). The church building was shared with both the Methodist and the Baptist congregations and for years was considered the community, or “union” church. In 1922, the Hagerman Baptist Church congregation moved to their own building, which was later moved to the present day site and has since been replaced by a newer structure.  The original church building was moved to Denison by the Hyde Park Presbyterian congregation. ("A Brief History of Hagerman, A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts)

Season's Greetings, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR