Miller Springs Nature Center, Belton/Temple, Bell County, Texas

Looking for new places to hike is time consuming. As I was wondering about my next trip, I thought of places I hadn’t been, and Belton Lake came to me. So, I searched hiking at Belton Lake and came up with Miller Springs Nature Center. Now this doesn’t sound all that great by the name but as I learned about this place, I found out it had over ten miles of trails. And a bit of history, so I am in!

Belton Lake is formed by the damming of the Leon River by the Belton Dam. The reservoir was created for flood control and water for the Temple/ Belton/ Fort Hood area.

Miller Springs was developed as a park with the completion of Belton Dam in 1954. It was administered by volunteers until 1993 when the cities of Belton and Temple took control.

Why the change?

In the winter of 1991-1992 Belton Lake overflowed its spillway after 22 inches of rain fell on the area. The water ran over the spillway for 42 days up to 4 foot deep. It created new canyons, uncovered unknown geological features and created wetlands that needed better protection then the volunteers could provide as the place was constantly vandalized. So, the two cities stepped up.

Why both?

Well, the park straddles the line between the cities so sometimes you are in Belton and sometimes in Temple depending on which trail you are hiking.

The “new canyon”

Although this is along the Leon River and in Texas the area was known as the Tennessee Valley before the dam was built. This came about as most of the early settlers in the region came from Tennessee.

The Long Pond formed in 1992

looking out across the “Tennessee Valley” from the top of the “new canyon”

I loved hiking here. It was a bit different than most places in Texas. There were mostly hardwood trees, no or very little cedar and no cactus. It really reminded me of being back in the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. No wonder the settlers from Tennessee gathered in the area.

One unusual feature here was the flood wall protecting the neighboring areas of Belton. A large mural that depicted the history of the city was painted on it. And if you notice the tanks and helicopters that is because Fort Hood is very near to here.

Fort Hood is a 214,000-acre U. S. Army installation housing roughly 45,000 soldiers of the III Armor, the 3rd Calvary Regiment and the 1st Calvary Division. The fort was developed in 1942 as a wide-open place to test tank destroyers and train tank destroyer troops during WW2. It is the most populous base in the United States. All the business parts of the fort are in Bell County and the training areas are in Coryell County. Lieutenant General Robert White is the current base commander.

Anyway, let’s get to more hiking. The old Woods Trail and the South River Loop were my favorite as they were so much like home.

Along the South River Trail

I went through Joplin Hollow and headed for Cox Hollow.

Joplin Hollow

At Cox Hollow I found an old bridge over the original Miller Springs.

Leon River near Cox Hollow.
Cox Hollow

Cliffs above Cox Hollow.

At the bridge the park ended, and the road was actually still paved. Obviously, this section of the trail is an old road.

Trail from Cox Hollow

Old Guardrails along the trail

I love walking through areas that still have things from the past.

Belton Lake

I will definitely return to hike here again. I will put on my to do list for this fall. I think it will be gorgeous with all the hardwoods. It was so much like the eastern forests that I love.

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