River Watchers embark on West Texas EcoLearning Adventure

March 10 -16, 2012: 14 Young Men of Austin Youth River Watch, representing all of our nine AISD high schools, travelled to the wilds of West Texas for an EcoLearning Adventure focussed on desert oases. The first night the group arrived at Independence Creek Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy, near Sheffield, TX. After waking to morning Turkey calls, the group hiked to the top of a nearby mesa where everyone was treated to an endless vista and a talk from the Preserve Manager, Corbin Neill, about the importance of the Independence Creek watershed for improving the water quality of the Pecos River and the natural history of the area.  Students then took Conductivity and pH readings of Independence Creek, demonstrating earlier points made by the Preserve Manager. The next three days, River Watchers camped and trekked in Big Bend National Park. Notables include; camping in the picturesque, high desert biome of Chisos Basin, hiking and swimming at Boquillas Canyon, Santa Elena Canyon, and the Hot Springs, an impromptu talk with the students from a Big Bend Park Ranger, and numerous wildlife and wildness sightings. The adventure continued with a stop at McDonald Observatory to view a presentation about the Solar Cycle. Students finished at Balmorhea State Park where they camped, gazed at the bright stars and swam in the cool, clear waters of San Solomon Spring. The students will never forget their experiences and new friendships forged from their six days in west Texas amongst the oases.