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Welcome to the Firefly Ride!

13 Jun 2015

Firefly a lightning bug also known as Lampyridae&emdash;photo: Terry Priest, Art Farmer
Firefly a lightning bug also known as Lampyridae—photo: Terry Priest, Art Farmer

From the classics: It's this time of year to explore the fireflies at dusk along Salado Creek. So, we resurrected this article from archives that was published in 2015.

San Antonio—by Rob Baker

A ride that started at dusk on 11 Jun 2015 along the Salado Creek Greenway turned out to be a spectacular night ride. Hundreds of lightning bugs, known also as fireflies (Lampyridae), lit up both sides of the trail. These little creatures are part of a family of insects under the Coleoptera beetle order.

Light emission in fireflies is a result of bioluminescence that occurs in light-emitting organs usually located in the lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase interacts with magnesium ions, Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and oxygen that in turn produces light. These cute bugs breed near streams, rivers, and other wet areas. Due to recent rains, conditions are primed for fireflies along the streams in San Antonio.

Fireflies lit up both sides of Salado Creek Greenway between Lady Bird Johnson Park and Robert Tobin park trailheads
Fireflies lit up both sides of Salado Creek Greenway—SRR file photo

Riders from the Solid Rock Riders group began the ride at 7:45 p.m. from McAllister Park's Dog Park trailhead. The usual start time for this ride had been 7 p.m.; however, it was delayed on purpose to avoid the blinding sunlight on the return route, which included the narrow boardwalk that begins at the Lady Bird Johnson Park trailhead.

Parts of the trail threaded through heavily wooded areas that run along the creek. It is in these areas where the fireflies were prevalent. Because of the shade, it became darker than open range areas and it was the time of day the fireflies come out. Not only the light show was a benefit, but the temperature was also cooler following a high of 92 F (33 C).

As a downside, swarming gnats pestered the riders; one said, "Keep your mouth closed!" Also, bright lights are highly recommended so that branches that overhang the trails can be seen. A collision could mean "on your butt" with broken bones.

The ride was tracked to Holbrook Road, the historic site of the Battle of Salado Creek where the Republic of Texas Army defeated the Mexican Army who invaded San Antonio in 1842. A historic marker commemorates the event. Holbrook Road runs between Rittiman Road and a back entrance to Joint Base San Antonio—Fort Sam Houston.

The ride was relatively flat. The elevation at the McAllister Park trailhead is 800 feet (244 m) above sea level; Holbrook Road is 671 (205), thus, a difference of 129 feet (39 m). The round trip distance is 14.21 miles (22.8 km). Average calorie burn was calculated at 680.

According to a city master plan map, the Salado Creek Greenway is to be connected to John James Park and routed through Fort Sam Houston to Jack White Park where it connects the existing trail that routes through several parks—Pletz County Park, Willow Springs Park, Martin Luther King Park, and Southside Lions Park. Further expansion plans call for extending the Salado Creek Greenway to the Mission Reach Greenway and the Medina River Greenway.

To the west of McAllister Park, the Salado Creek Greenway is to be joined with a segment of the greenway that runs through Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park and Phil Hardberger Park. Eventually, it will be connected to the Leon Creek Greenway in the northwest.

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