-Access to the Guadalupe River
-Plenty of lush riparian habitat
This hotspot is divided in two halves: the nature trail that runs parallel to the river, and a very short trail that dead ends at the spillway of the dam. To get from one side to the other you must drive the short distance around/over the spillway and park on the other side.
Spillway access is on the North parking lot, with the steep stairway.
Nature Trail access is from the South parking lot, which is the more shaded of the two lots.
The nature trail extends at least a quarter mile downriver before you hit a dead end and turn back. Most bird species are found on this side of the river, simply because there’s more area to explore.
On the opposite side, take the cement stairway down to the trail begins. From the bottom on the stairs you can angle left and take the boardwalk to the water, or angle right and just walk directly there. This will give you a good view of where the lake water comes up through the dam, as well as a view of downriver.
When I WOULD recommend this hotspot:
If you’re picking up species for your Comal County list and are hoping for something unusual to pop up, or are just in the area for a few hours and are looking to get a full morning of birding in.
When I would NOT recommend this hotspot:
Don’t drive all the way to Canyon Lake for this spot. Odds are it will mostly be birds you can easily get at many other places in the county and area. Your time birding around Canyon Lake will probably be better spent at spots like Canyon Park.
The River Nature Trail
Although a number of decently interesting species have been seen here in past years, this spot is somewhat unpredictable. It can be slow and quiet, or you could hit a home run with something like a Zone-tailed Hawk, or maybe a Hooded Warbler during spring migration.
Expect plenty of Carolina Wrens and Northern Cardinals. Woodpeckers are a good bet too. During the winter you’ll likely get at least one duck species floating along, and sometimes Belted Kingfisher too.
Migration can be decent here, especially during the spring. There is some luck involved though, as I wouldn’t qualify this as a migrant trap.
The Spillway Overlook
This spot is interesting even if you don’t see much. The swift water is pouring out from under the dam, you can walk right up to the water while in the shade of large Bald Cypress trees, and there’s a short above-ground boardwalk through the trees.
There’s almost always a Great Blue Heron or Great Egret below the spillway, assuming it hasn’t been scared off by a fisherman.
The boardwalk always looks promising, but in the 4 or 5 times I’ve been on it, it’s usually pretty quiet.
Overall, this is a decent spot if you’re at Canyon Lake and have at least an hour to spend building a species list. Otherwise I would spend my time on the water of the lake itself.