Our work camping experience at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was phenomenal. As usual we made new friends and we learned new skills. It was an adventure of many “firsts”.
Birds of a feather may sound like a cliche, but it fits Hagerman. In fact, it suits it so well that ‘s the name of their Friend’s of Hagerman newsletter.
This National Refuge is located near the north Texas town of Sherman. The general area is known locally as Texoma, because it is on the shores of the enormous Lake Texoma and the Red River. Lake Texoma is also located on a very popular migrating bird flyway. Mark and I arrived in late October, just in time to see the arrival of the Snow Goose. Literally thousands and thousands of them. At one point it was estimated that there were over 7,000 geese on the property.
I used to think Birding was for geeky old folks and not for me. I knew nothing about birds or the art of birding until we landed at Hagerman. I am hooked. A fascinating flurry of feathered beasts screeching, whistling, crying, swooping and flocking will keep anyone half awake mesmerized.
The Wildlife Refuge
My first work day I climbed into a van with men and women wearing binocular harnesses, some had notebooks, others had enormous lenses on cameras that I have only seen on National Geographic. I was assigned to help with the weekly bird survey.
That day, I could not keep up with all the bird names being called out by various members of our group. Often we would all gather around the fellow with the biggest telescope and he would show us the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, or the Eastern Kingbird or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Harris’s Hawk was quite prevalent during our stay and it was fun when we could finally identify them and call them out to others. I felt so smart. That first day with Chief Birder, Jack Chiles, they called out 75 species.
The Staff at Hagerman has it figured out. They aren’t so much about ego, or how much education a person has, it is more about being a TEAM player. There is a lot of kidding and joking between staff, but when the chips are down and work has to be done, they all pitch in and get it done. In fact, during our interview with Paul Balkenbush, Deputy Manager, he asked indirect questions about how we got along with others and how we felt about directing individual projects or completing projects with little supervision. We found everyone working at the Refuge, staff or volunteer, to be kind and generous.
Our work seemed to be more of a “To Do List” that the small staff couldn’t find time to accomplish. We enjoyed re-hab’ing two photo blinds so that they would be enticing to birders and hiking guests. Harris Trail, my favorite, has a photo blind, 3 ponds with ducks, turtles, an occasional hawk and I even was lucky enough to see deer on it. We cleared brush from the sides of all the trails and erected or cleaned existing interpretive signs. At one point we tested the new driving audio tour CD’s and hand-held audio devices.
The work list changes with the seasons. Mowing, painting and pressure washing would surely be on the spring and summer lists. We were provided access to a work truck that we used to cover the enormous 22,000 acres.
The RV Site
Our covered RV site was with full hook-ups was within a 3 minute walk to any of the several buildings in which we worked. It also had a view of the lake and was positioned to take full advantage of evening sunsets. There are only three RV sites on the property and they are for volunteers or interns. Bill and Carol Powell were not only good neighbors (and kept bird feeders full), but introduced us to many of the hidden treasures on the property. He once said, “You come to Hagerman with a point-and-shoot camera, but the next year you come with a tele-photo lens.”
A washer and dryer, full kitchen and shower facilities were available for our use. Wifi is available but as with most government facilities, it was not very strong at the RV site. Our AT&T cellular signal was strong and we used it for most of our internet needs.
Cortney Anderson: 903-786-2826 ext. 227
If you get an opportunity to work camp at Hagerman, take it! It’s not just the birds and the fishing, but the serenity of the whole property. You’ll see more wildlife on your hikes if you sit on one of the benches for a while and listen. The lake is rumored to be good fishing, and by the size of the Great Blue Herons that feed there, I would say it’s true. To date, I have not seen as many gorgeous sunrises and sunsets day after day than we did at Hagerman. After the fabulous sunset, the star gazing is some of the best we have encountered.
We have many happy memories for the short time we work camped at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.
See our other articles about Work Camping