About the Park

Miller Springs Park is a 360-acre park located below Belton Lake, on the Leon River, in Bell County, Texas. The Park spans both sides of the Leon River, includes much of the Miller Springs Nature Center, and is accessible from the Belton side of Belton Dam, via the Park Road off Highway FM 439, and from the Temple side, via the Nature Center entrance, off Highway FM 2271. Restrooms, trash bins, and fishing areas are accessible from the south (Belton side) parking lot

The park and nature center contain diverse riparian terrain, including limestone bluffs, estuarial wetlands, mountain cedar hilltops, and riverside cottonwood and sycamore stands. Numerous trails traverse prairie-like open spaces and forests of native cedar elm, live oak, and red oaks. Recent floods have created a new canyon that reveals numerous layers of sedimentary rock and fossils. Area wildlife includes white-tail deer, grey foxes, coyotes, black squirrels, armadillos, and more than 90 species of birds in the course of the year. It also provides easy access for canoers and kayakers to more than 3 miles of the Leon River, its backwaters and the SE areas of the Nature Center.

New Canyon SpringMiller Springs - New Canyon CreekThe United States Army Corps of Engineers insures the integrity of Belton Dam and oversees the park. Numerous rangers maintain and patrol the park, and monitor wildlife and human activity.

While Miller Springs Park contains numerous species of wildlife and some challenging hiking trails, safety in the park is uncommonly good, due to convenient road access and cell phone service throughout the park. Please respect other hikers by not using your cellphone in the park, except for emergency situations.

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The Miller Springs Nature Center is located directly north of Miller Springs Park. There are two entrances to the Nature Center.

The main (North) entrance is just north of Lake Belton dam, off  Highway FM 2271. The parking lot is adjacent to the  principal trailheads for hikers, joggers and birders, and includes large parking spaces for buses and cars, picnic tables, a covered pavilion, and several handicap-accessible trails. The park is also a popular site for geocaching*.

The South entrance to the Nature Center is accessed via Miller Springs Park, just off of Lake Road (FM 439) in Belton. This entrance is used by hikers, bikers, joggers, canoers and kayakers, and birders. Walk west from the circle drive, on the dirt road, upstream along the river, and one may enter thru the swinging gate adjacent to the dam outflow channel.

Gray Fox 2010_04_28_4108 (1280x853)The Nature Center is a 260-acre scenic natural area located between the Leon River and 80 foot high bluffs, immediately east of the Lake Belton Dam. With nearly 11 miles of trails there is something for everyone! It is home to over 200 species wildflowers and more than 80 species of mushrooms. The natural preserve is open to the self-guided public, at no charge, every day of the year, from 8am to dusk.The Nature Center is overseen by the Miller Springs Alliance, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation, whose purpose is to promote conservation and management of natural and cultural resources, and to provide an educational and recreational nature area at the Miller Springs Nature Center. The Miller Springs Alliance values volunteer efforts and community donations.

A Brief History

This area of central Texas has been inhabited since about 9,200 B.C. when it was linked to the Clovis culture. The natural springs in the porous limestone of the area around the nature center have attracted indigenous Native Americans since about 5,000 B.C. DNA analysis indicates that modern Native Americans in this area are probably descendants of the Clovis people. The earliest pioneers arrived in the area in 1844 and the first settlements began with the arrival of 8 families from Tennessee in 1851.

Belton Dam construction

The Miller Springs Nature Center and adjacent Miller Springs Park, as they are recognized today, began with construction of the Belton Dam on the Leon River, in 1947. The dam was completed in 1954. The lake filled in less than two years, and nearly overflowed in 1957.

The towns of Tennessee Valley, Sparta and Bland were sacrificed in order to provide better control of the violent flood waters of the Leon River as well as water storage for droughts and protection for wildlife.

Belton Dam after improvements

The dam was improved in 1964, to raise the lake level and improve its flood-control capability, which sufficed until the dual 50 year floods of 1991-1992, when the lake overflowed the road and spillway.

The water in the spillway was more than 3 feet deep at its peak. The flooding also created a geologic window in time from about 104 to 102 million years ago, in the rugged new canyon where the floodwaters carved the limestone below the spillway.

Floods of 1991-1992

Following the 1991-1992 flood, all of the development below the dam was inundated and damaged, and the park required numerous major improvements. The Miller Springs Alliance rallied community support to restore and improve trail access and preserve park lands. This resulted in the formal creation of the Miller Springs Nature Center and adjacent Miller Springs Park on October 26, 1993.

Miller Springs FLoodwaters, 1993-1994

Guided School Field Trip

Since the Nature Center’s inception, numerous community events have been held in the park, including school field trips, birdwatching tours, star parties, and naturalist expeditions studying geology and local flora and fauna.  There have also been a number of service projects by local organizations and projects by the Eagle Scouts.

The most recent improvements to the Nature Center include the addition of several very popular bike paths in the southern area of the park. Additional paths created in Bee Suck Hollow and Joplin Canyon are now well traveled.

Jogging, hiking, biking, wildflower and wildlife photography and geocaching are now popular pastimes in the park.

Special Request

The Miller Springs Alliance is working hard to improve and maintain the trails and animal habitat in the Nature Center. This includes the grooming of trails, removal of fallen trees, removal of more than a thousand invasive trees and thousands of invasive plants in the past year alone. It also includes the construction of animal habitats.

All of this work is done by volunteers and we need your donations and help! Please sign up for “Friends of the Park News” (right column) to be notified of upcoming volunteer events. All purchases of tools and other materials critical to improving and maintaining the park are made using donations by the general public and the occasional grant by local groups. Please visit our donations page to help us support the nature center!