History and nature abound in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
The Rio Grande Valley is flush with World Birding Center locations (nine to be exact) and Tex-Mex history. The cultural life is rich and diverse along the border; the wildlife and plant life are, too, with many species found nowhere else in the U.S.
Sabal Palm Sanctuary
Sabal palms once grew prolifically along the Rio Grande. Now, the 557-acre Sabal Palm Sanctuary, at the southernmost tip of Texas, is home to one of the last stands of the sabal palm forest. Though situated behind the border fence, public access is available daily to this unique subtropical ecosystem and birding hotspot. Three miles of nature trails and a Rio Grande overlook invite exploration.
Earl Nottingham | TPWD
County beaches of South Padre
If you want to escape the crowds and condos of South Padre Island, drive north on the island. When the sand starts covering the roadway, you’ll know you’ve arrived. The county beaches north of town provide access to less-crowded stretches of shoreline where you can drive your car and settle into your own patch of sand. Go for a swim, explore the dunes, fish the surf, maybe even enjoy a beach campfire as the sun goes down.
Louie Bond | TPWD
Gladys Porter Zoo
Located on 31 acres in the heart of Brownsville, the Gladys Porter Zoo offers visitors the chance to see 400 species of animals in four main sections: Africa, Asia, South America and Indo-Australia. When Gladys Porter traveled in the 1960s, she became concerned about the plight of the world’s wildlife and decided to establish a zoo in the Rio Grande Valley. The zoo is active in several captive breeding programs for rare and endangered animals.
Cat Groth | TPWD
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
Gaze upon the same field where soldiers faced their fate more than 170 years ago during the Mexican-American War. Palo Alto was the first battle in a war to establish boundaries between the neighboring countries. As a result of the war, the Rio Grande was established as the U.S. southern boundary, and the U.S. gained parts of present-day Arizona, California and New Mexico.
This lonely stretch of beach is where the Texas coast begins. Texas Highway 4 takes you there, providing an interesting mix of windswept grasslands, tidal inlets, Civil War markers and SpaceX facilities. Keep an eye out for Aplomado falcons, ospreys and other birds of prey, and avoid the Texas tortoises that frequently cross this highway. The pavement ends at the Gulf. If you turn right and drive along the beach, you’ll reach the mouth of the mighty Rio Grande.
Old Hidalgo Pumphouse
Visit the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse and learn how the Rio Grande Valley became a cradle of agriculture with the help of steam power. This museum and World Birding Center location tells the story of how industrial technology transformed the region through irrigation and allows visitors to enjoy native Texas wildlife such as birds and butterflies along with gardens, trees and shrubs.