Back in the early 1900s, the Texoma region was a lot different. Through advocating done by Sam Rayburn and many others, the Flood Control Act of 1938 authorized the creation of the Denison Dam.
In the time between the enactment of the public law and the completion of the dam in January 1944, the region lost the city of Hagerman, but was on the brink of gaining two local wildlife refuges and the nonprofit organization that helps with education and maintaining the visitor’s center and site.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge each sit on the banks of Lake Texoma, with Hagerman bordering the Texas side and Tishomingo on the Oklahoma side.
While the refuges are each managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Friends of Hagerman are a group of volunteers that oversee programs like the site’s monthly second Saturday education program for teens and adults and Refuge Rocks, the monthly children’s program at the site. Volunteers also manage the site’s photo club, tram tours, site clean ups, visitor’s center and gift shop and more.
The High on the Hog Barbecue fundraiser is one of the site’s biggest fundraisers of the year. This year’s event was held on Oct. 26, with proceeds specified for the purchase of a new tram which would enable the Friends of Hagerman to continue offering free educational tours to refuge visitors.
“It depends on the time of year,” U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Deputy Manager Paul Balkenbush said in 2018 about the site that is always looking for new volunteers. “In the spring when the flowers are blooming, the butterfly garden is very popular. It’s a volunteer-run garden and is one of the best representations of North Texas plants. There’s a lot of volunteer hours put into maintaining the butterfly garden, and it’s a real draw for people to come see it. We [also] have five hiking trails that people can use that run from about .75 of a mile to a little more than 5.7 miles.”
All of these things make the site an optimal place for bird watching.
“Hagerman is an important resource for migrating birds since it is on the central flyway,” Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge President Becky Goodman said in an email interview in February. “This makes it important for birders and people who love nature. Refuge staff and volunteers work very hard to keep the refuge in good shape and to provide educational programs for the public.”
The refuge offers hiking, wildlife observation, fishing, limited hunting opportunities, free nature programs and more and is free for patrons.
“The refuge staff appreciate our neighbors and local community and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to manage these 11,320 acres of federal public lands for wildlife and people,” Whaley said. “For those who come here often, we are always happy to see you. For anyone who has heard about or seen signs for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge but have never visited, we invite you to come out and enjoy the beautiful natural resources it offers.”
Information on all of the these and other activities can be found on the refuge’s website at www.fws.gov/refuge/hagerman or the Friends of Hagerman website at www.friendsofhagerman.com/Home.