The Sandia Springs Wetlands Project is a 40 acre wetland habitat area created from the water coming off The Nature Conservancy’s Sandia Springs Preserve. It is located on a Texas Department of Agriculture Family Land Heritage Ranch owned by Don and Ellen Weinacht. Ellen was inspired to utilize the spring’s down stream effluent to create a wetland area for migratory wetland birds. Sandia is now a critical stop over for migratory birds and a water source for Chihuahua Desert flora and fauna. The mission of the Sandia Springs Wetlands Project is to restore private lands to their natural wetland state for desert flora, fauna and migrating waterfowl.
Project Description & History
The project began in 2011 with the vision of saving nature through restored desert wetlands. The original plan was to create two wetland units. This original plan has been surpassed with a total of five wetland units existing today. In addition, Sandia has grown to include a bird blind, bat house, dragonfly pond, picnic / public meeting area, training site, and serves as a site for research and nature tourism. The next phase of development includes plans to create a habitat for burrowing owls. The ranch is a critical stop over for migratory birds and a number of Chihuahuan Desert plants and animals. Other species that have been spotted on the ranch include horned lizards and monarch butterflies.
Though on private land with access to historic water rights, Sandia is open and free to the public. It has had a total of 8,000 visitors since its opening, sustaining 160 visitors each year. Many of these visitors have documented wildlife sightings of many species, particularly waterfowl. Along with Balmorhea State Park, Balmorhea Lake and the greater Davis Mountains, Sandia is a destination for nature tourism recognized by Texas Parks & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Balmorhea State Park and the Balmorhea City Council.