What are all those green ribbons and orange flags appearing on plants around the park?

The Nature Center is working to create an Arboretum in the North Area! Orange flags mark the new section of trail being considered and green ribbons mark the more interesting plants. If you look at the green ribbons carefully you will see the name of the plant written there. There are now about 24 trees and bushes that have been chosen for consideration representing 20 different species. Please do not remove the ribbons or flags.

How can I help the nature center?

One way to help is to donate to the nature center. The other way to help is to volunteer to work in the park. Your contributions and/or donation help the Miller Springs Alliance to continue with the efforts of improving our Miller Spring Nature Center. The Nature Center is supported entirely by donations and volunteers. There are no paid employees so we can always use your help!

Ways to volunteer in the park:

  • Show up at one of our volunteer events.
  • Signup on the Friends of the Park News (right side of this page) and will let you know when these events occur.
  • Large groups should contact the Miller Springs Alliance in advance.  We will be certain to plan a project sized just right for your group!
A number of organized volunteer events occur throughout the year. Current information can be found by signing up on the Friends of the Park News to the right of this message.  Or, watch our Home and Facebook pages. Winter and Spring volunteer days are publicized for the second Thursday of the month. During the cooler weather, we meet in the parking lot at the north end of Belton Dam, at 1pm. Work will continue until about 4pm (or until you get tired). Saturday volunteer days generally start at around 9:30am and continue until about 3pm.  You are welcome to show up anytime during this period! See our Facebook and home pages to learn when these will occur,  or sign up on our Friends of the Park News (right side of this page).  Bring work gloves and tools (if you have them) such as clippers, loppers, a pruning saw or a bow saw.  Long pants and long sleeved shirts are advised. Sandals should not be worn, due to frequent encounters with poison ivy.  Closed toe shoes are recommended.

What happened to Hidden Springs?

It is still there! The spring emerges from the hill, travels gently downhill and then disappears underground. It emerges in another spot and the Army Corps of Engineers has put a new path through to this spot. It has installed a temporary weir to measure the flow of water at that spot. It has also installed a similar temporary weir just upstream of where the triple springs creek crosses the path, just above bluff falls. Eventually the weirs will be replaced with more permanent and hopefully more interesting looking structures. So if you have taken the path up to Hidden Springs and found the weir, you are on the wrong path! Return to the main path and go uphill a short distance and you will find the correct path to Hidden Springs!

Will there be more races in the nature center?

We hope so.  We are looking for a race organizer.  The first three races had great turnouts and wonderful fall conditions.  Thanks to the many volunteers, including Trails of Hope, and the runners who made them great events.

Are bikes allowed in the North Area?

Bikes are restricted to the south trails.  Please enter from the Miller Springs Park entrance on Highway 439.  Park near the circle drive, and ride to the gate near the dam outlet.  Bikes can be passed sideways through the gate.  The trailhead entrance is visible near the brown kiosk on the north side of the dam outlet. The bike trails are clearly marked on the Kiosk maps.  Please yield to hikers, and ride courteously.

What are all of those piles of brush for? Will there be a bonfire?

The brush piles are made up of invasive plants that have been removed from the nature center. They consist of Privets (Ligustrum), Chinaberry Trees and Heavenly Bamboo. These plants crowd out or poison the native plants around them and in turn this drives away the animals and insects that depend upon the native plants. The piles will indeed be burned but not as a bonfire. For safety the Fire Department will oversee the burning procedure.
Burn Piles - Miller Springs Nature Center

Why did you cut down all of those nice big trees on the Armadillo trail above the mural wall?

The trees that were cut down were all Chinaberries. They give great shade in the hot summer but are highly invasive. Most people dislike them because they are weak trees and often fall down. You will see that many of the trunks had fallen on their own and were not cut down. However, none of those reasons are sufficient to declare them "bad" trees. Chinaberry trees are entirely poisonous including the berries, leaves, bark and even the flowers! Six berries can kill a small child or a pet. The fallen leaves and berries change the acidity of the soil making it difficult for other plants to grow. This is why you do not see many wildflowers around them. The neurotoxins in the tree acts as a good insecticide and not even lichens grow on these trees! So there is not much good to say about them unless you are a Robin which likes to get drunk on the berries. Fortunately they usually survive eating them!

Will the dam construction work affect access?

The current work does not require any closures at this time for the Nature Center. This may change as the work progresses. If this happens we will publish this on both the web and facebook pages.

What is that mess for on the Green Pond access trail?

The Green Pond Access trail is being cleared of invasive plants.  The two main ones in that area are the very dense Wax Ligustrum and the occasional Heavenly Bamboo with its beautiful red berries.  The Ligustrums are so dense and green that they have nearly choked out all of the other plant life around them.  The brush you see piled on the side of the path are indicative of just how many of these there were and are.  There is quite a bit of remaining work to do and we will eventually move the brush to a place where we can properly dispose of it.  Anyone who wishes to help us is welcome to join us during our volunteer days.  See our main page or facebook page for the schedule.

Are dogs allowed in the park?

No dogs are allowed in the Miller Springs Nature Center, either on or off leash. Sometimes there is confusion about this because there are 2 principal entrances to the Nature Center. In Miller Springs Park, just south of the Nature Center, dogs are allowed. The boundary between the park and nature center is the large steel gate next to the Belton Dam outflow. Dogs are not allowed through either entrance to the Nature Center.

Are there bike trails in the park?

Yes! The Prairie Loop (light blue blaze) and the South River Trail (purple blaze) are the most popular bike trails. The best way to access them is from Miller Springs Park, near the dam outflow. You will need to pass bikes sideways through the big steel gate, and then you have two options:
  • Follow the access road along the base of the dam. Turn right at the north end of the dam, and follow the road downhill, into the park. At the end of the road, bend right, follow the singletrack downhill to the creek, and then walk your bike over the (narrow, sketchy) stone bridge.  OR,
  • Ride toward the dam, then make a large, right, U-turn down the ramp just past the outflow,ride toward the brown map kiosk.   Go through the woods until you hit the Old Forest Trail (yellow blaze). Continue north until you get to the stone bridge, and walk your bike over the (narrow, sketchy) stone bridge.
You are now at the intersection of the two main bike loops, the River Trail loop, and the Prairie Loop. Enjoy!  Remember to ride courteously, watch for children, and yield to hikers.

What are those colors I see painted on some of the rocks and trees?

They are called blazes.  If you follow a single color (other than white) then it will take you around the park in a loop and return you to your starting point. The blazes are located on trees and rocks just before and after any intersection of 2 or more trails. The solid white blazes mark connecting trails to other loops and shortcuts.  All 10 loops have been completed! Preliminary maps reflecting these changes have been posted at the two park entrances. Final park and web maps are being updated and will be posted soon. The paints were chosen to be non-harmful to the environment.

Are any trails handicap accessible?

Yes. Parking spots are marked near the MSNC parking lot trailhead, and some of the trails have improved surfaces (crushed granite) to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Benches are located along the main trail in the North area near the MSNC parking lot.  The Boardwalk trail along the spillway rim no longer exists, so the wheelchair ramp no longer leads to a wheelchair-accessible trail.

What is the current lake level?

You can find information for Belton Lake at the official Belton Lake webpage.

What is the story of the mural?

The idea for the Belton Mural came from Charles Ferguson, the Belton Lake Manager, in 1978. He worked with Mrs. Maurine Burks of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Art Department. The mural depicts the history of Bell County on the east side, and a Balloon Race on the west side of spillway retaining wall. The painting was done by art students, high school students, Congressman W.R. Poage, and many members of the public, and was finished the summer of 1979. The mural was refreshed in 1998 by the UMHB Art Department, under contract with Corps of Engineers. The west side mural was altered, to show lake scenes and the “Welcome to Belton Lake” message. More detailed information is found on the .pdf file:  Miller Springs Mural