Mitchell Lake, once a hidden jewel on San Antonio's south side, is now a world-class eco-resource thanks to recent improvements.
SAWS has finalized a contract with the National
Audubon Society to operate
Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge as a public-use and education
For information on this partnership,
As the site of one of San Antonio's first centralized wastewater treatment projects, Mitchell Lake spent the better part of the 20th century as an unwelcomed but necessary neighbor to nearby residents.
However, the lake's unflattering function was all but ignored by the area's avian inhabitants, who continued to frequent the shallow wetlands that had welcomed their ancestors for centuries.
By the time discharge of raw or partially treated effluent was discontinued in 1987, Mitchell Lake was recognized as a world-class bird-watching site.
The lake is positioned on a natural migratory bird route and serves as a resting point for tens of thousands of birds each year. Bird watchers come from all over the world to see the unique variety of birds that visit there. Among the more than 300 species observed are pelicans, egrets, roseate spoonbills, wild ducks and hawks.
Previously, visitors enjoyed the wildlife without any kind of accommodations – not even restrooms.
Mitchell Lake is positioned on a natural migratory route and serves as a resting point for tens of thousands of birds each year. Here are a few pictures of some recent avian visitors for you to enjoy.
But in December 2002, SAWS Board committed $1.5 million to improve roads and bridges on the property and to build a visitor's center. Those
improvements were substantially completed in January 2004.
The visitor's center was created through the restoration of the Leeper House, a historic building relocated to the lake from the McNay Art Museum. The converted building features a meeting room, testing lab, office and disabled-accessible restrooms.
Eventually, Mitchell Lake will link to the historic Mission Trails with hiking and biking paths.
"Although we're developing better access and a visitors' center for the Mitchell Lake site, we're working very hard to ensure that the natural habitat that both attracts and protects these birds stays in its original condition," said Chief Operating Officer Steve Clouse.
Paths to view the wildlife are located away from nesting sites, and visitors are required to remain on the access paths. Pets are not allowed.
Plans for Mitchell Lake were developed by SAWS in partnership with the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society, the San Antonio Audubon Society and the public. Improvement construction was managed by SAWS.