Only three more weeks until school starts! I feel like we are both running out of time AND running out of things to do. We’ve done parks. We’ve done splash pads. We’ve done a museum. I’m getting all funned out.
My neighbor must have known we needed a little something different to do. When she told me that she and her son caught some tadpoles at Walnut Creek Park, I knew that would be the perfect outing for us. My girls, they are a bit frog obsessed. We used to have a family of toads living in a tree stump in our back yard, but they moved on when the stump rotted out. I’m sure they found another home where they didn’t have to run for their lives from three gigantic and extremely loud little girls.
The City of Austin has temporarily banned public gatherings. Please stay home. The Free Fun in Austin calendar is only for live digital events at this time.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park (12138 N. Lamar Blvd) is nestled at the corner of North Lamar and Parmer in North Austin. The 293-acre park features a softball complex, a playground, hiking and biking trails, basketball courts, and Walnut Creek Municipal Pool. The park’s 15 miles of trails are popular with bikers (as in cyclists, not so much the hog riders), and there’s even an off leash dog area.
To find our tadpole catching area, we parked near the pool and picked up the trail at its main entrance just south of the parking lot. As a warning, we originally headed east of the parking lot to an area where we could clearly see the creek, but there were no tadpoles, and it wasn’t a good area for catching, especially with three little kids. Thanks to a quick text to my neighbor, we found where we should have gone.
Here, the trail entrance is clearly marked.
When you get away from the parking lot, the trail on the way to the stream is nice and shaded. Once we could see the (very thin) stream from the trail, we hooked a right and were able to come right up to it. There wasn’t much water and it was maybe ankle deep at the most. Flip flops aren’t great for hiking, but they do make good tadpole catching shoes! (It was a last minute outing okay? I was a little unprepared.)
It took some practice spying the tadpoles, but once we learned how to spot them, it was on. I’ll say that my husband and I were the ones totally in to this part. This kids were excited about having tadpoles, but not so much catching them. Plus the area around the stream was slippery, and I almost fell a few times. Not that there was any really deep water to fall into, but you know. My pride was at stake.
The tadpoles are dark, with bulbous heads and tiny tails. They tend to stay still at the bottom of the creek unless stirred by a sudden disruption. Like a 5-year-old whacking the water with a stick. Ahem. Once disturbed, they dart around quickly to find a safe spot, sometimes under a small rock, which helps differentiate them from the minnows swimming around.
We caught three tadpoles in our jars. Actually, no, I caught three tadpoles. Turns out I have a special hidden talent for scooping them up just right. I knew I would find my calling someday. We also caught a couple of tiny frogs, but we released them before we headed back to the car.
Make sure you’ve researched how to care for your tadpoles once you get home. We made sure to scoop up a good dose of the creek water along with our tadpoles, so they would have some comforts of home. Our friend Nicole from LiveMom wrote a great article on catching and caring for tadpoles, including what to feed them.
While the kids weren’t really into the actual catching of the tadpoles, they were into the adventure as a whole and really are excited to watch them grow into little frogs. Then I’m sure we’ll release them, maybe back into the same spot, to bring the adventure full circle. But as an outing and learning experience, I give tadpole catching a big thumbs up!
And because we were right there, here are some photos of the playground and pool areas. The Walnut Creek Pool is not a free pool, so make sure to check out the fee schedule and daily swim schedule before heading out.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
12138 N. Lamar Blvd
Austin TX 78753
Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer and blogger living in Austin with her husband and three girls. She’s a pretty good cook, a mediocre photographer, and a horrible housekeeper. She writes about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of life with twins plus one at Genie in a Blog.