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Matador Wildlife Management Area

An undiscovered cycling haven awaits in North Texas.

By E. Dan Klepper

A place exists that mountain bike enthusiasts dream about but never ride because it is a place where no mountain bike has been before. Remote and obscure, it lives in the mountain biker’s mind, having yet to acquire a name. But now, Texans can give it one. In fact, history has surrounded this place with odd sounding names like Cow Hollow Creek, Cactus Flats Windmill, Moons Camp, Hell Roaring Creek and the “mouth” of the Tongue River. Sound like someplace you’d find in a folk tale? It’s not. It’s actually just northeast of Matador, Texas, and it’s called Matador Wildlife Management Area.

“I know of no one who has engaged in mountain biking activities on the Matador WMA,” says Area Manager Chip Ruthven. But with miles of rugged, 4-wheel-drive jeep track rolling across mesquite uplands, gravelly juniper hills, and sandy bottomlands typical of its central Plains location, TPWD’s Matador offers ideal biking opportunities.

“We have approximately 70 miles of roads on the Matador WMA that would be accessible to mountain bikers,” says Ruthven. “Of these, approximately 3 miles are well-maintained gravel on gently rolling terrain. Remaining roads are unimproved dirt roads on a variety of slopes and soil textures.” Good news for mountain bikers — that’s a lot of rough mileage. Even better news — the WMA doesn’t have the manpower to keep every road maintained at all times so most of them stay rough.

Matador’s 28,000 acres offer the mountain biker plenty of riding country along with a chance to see lots of wildlife. Rio Grand turkey, Mississippi kites, painted buntings, ornate box turtles, bobcats, bobwhite quail and the occasional pronghorn may join you at any point on your ride. Two rattlesnake species, the western diamondback and the western massasauga, make Matador their home as well, so bikers might want to tread with caution.

Located midway between Wichita Falls and Lubbock, Matador WMA is accessible for a day ride from Lubbock and Amarillo or a quick overnighter from Dallas/Fort Worth. The self-service visitor’s registration is open 24 hours, and all one needs to access the WMA is either an Annual Public Hunting Permit or Limited Public Use Permit, which can be obtained online at the TPWD Web site or from a license vendor.

Be prepared to bring your own drinking water. Matador is primitive and there are no facilities or hookups. Dogs are allowed but booties are recommended for protection against troublesome grass burs. The area has seen its share of camping throughout the ages and bikers should be prepared to practice proper primitive camping etiquette.

Since Matador is a wildlife management area and not a state park, access is limited by its hunting program, a factor typical of WMAs statewide. But it still provides ample opportunities to ride.

“Our general nonconsumptive-use period is from early May through August,” Ruthven says. “We are closed during special permit hunts. During much of the fall and winter we are open to Annual Public Hunting Permit holders for quail and dove hunting.” But that shouldn’t stop mountain bikers from enjoying the area during these seasons too.

“Persons interested in mountain biking during the period of September through April should contact the WMA to determine when we are open for mountain biking activities.”

Easy enough! The real challenge for mountain bikers at Matador is where it should be — on the bike.

For more information, call Matador WMA at (806) 492-3405 or visit <Matador WMA>.

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