Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Following the Rio Grande
to Padre Island, Feb. 11-16

On my journey to the Gulf of Mexico, I followed the Rio Grande River from Big Bend National Park.  First, I visited Amistad National Recreation Area and the town of Del Rio

Pecos River in the Amistad National Recreation Area
Here I checked out the Pecos River, had some wonderful smoked turkey at Rudy's Texas Bar-B-Q, and just generally enjoyed the town's vibe.

Rudy's in Del Rio: Where you get BBQ with your gas!
Next, I over-nighted in the iconic town of Laredo before reaching South Padre Island.  Both of these towns were too large for my taste. 

My first view of the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island, TX
But, I did find lots of beach access and parks at the north end of South Padre where I enjoyed a beautiful sunset off the Laguna Madre Bay.

Sun set over Laguna Madre Bay, South Padre Island, TX
When I arrived on South Padre Island, I began looking for a place I could get some famous gulf shrimp.  After sunset, on my way back through town, I found the perfect place:  Cap'n Roy's where the sign proclaimed "2011 Shrimp Cook-Off Champion." I stopped and ordered a grilled shrimp dinner to go.
Road back to the touristy part of South Padre Island.
The Gulf of Mexico to the left, and Laguna Madre Bay to the right.
I took myself to a marina and had dinner by the water ... wonderful food at a wonderful location!

Beach at Boca Chica
The next day I explored some other local sights.   First, I drove to Boca Chica where I had lunch on the beach, and watched some surf fishing by humans and birds.  Boca Chica Beach is the furthest south I could get on the Gulf of Mexico by car and still be within the US.  On the way to Boca Chica  off of Hwy 4, is a turnout with an information about the Battle at Palmetto Ranch.  Also, on the radio was a history lesson on this combat ... interesting.  The Battle at Palmetto Ranch was the last land-based action of the Civil War. 

Visitor's Center at Palo Alto Battlefield
Whereas the Palmetto Ranch Battle (May 12-13, 1865) was the last of the Civil War, the Palo Alto Battle (May 8, 1846) was the first of the Mexican-American War.   At the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park I learned that the US challenged Mexico for their land to the Rio Grande River and Pacific Ocean and won, mostly through better artillery technology during this two-year conflict.

The next day I was back on the mainland and drove the 200 miles north to access Padre Island National Seashore

Willets on the South Beach of Padre Island National Seashore

 I was hoping to camp right on the South Beach of Padre Island NS, but
after driving about 5 (of the 50) miles of it, I decided getting stuck in the sand
 was too much of a risk.

I ended up spending the night at Bird Island Basin Campground.  I chose this one instead of the campground on the ocean because I'm not a big fan of sand in my bed.  :)  I especially enjoyed the day-use area at Bird Island Basin where I, appropriately so, watched many birds.
At Bird Island Basin a fisherman throws scraps out causing a frenzy ...
American White Pelicans on the water, and mostly Laughing Gulls in the air.

The White Pelicans swim off at sunset after getting their fish-head treats.
The shallow Laguna Madre at the Bird Island Basin Campground.
While at the National Seashore, I joined a couple of birders for the morning and saw great blue herons, sanderlings, long-billed curlews, egrets (snowy, redish), gulls (laughing, ring-billed, herring), terns (forster's, caspian), hawks (white tail, harrier, caracara), loggerhead shrike, ducks(redhead, northern shoveler), grackles, killdears, and many more that I can't remember. 

Ranger shows how even a little Ghost Crab can hold on with his claw.

I also went to a ranger program where he talked about the illusive Ghost Crab.  He went armed with shovel and trowel.  Amazingly, this little crab he was after had buried himself about 2 feet down!
Young Ghost Crab in the bin after letting go of the Ranger's finger.
Because of the currents in the Gulf of Mexico, a lot of items wash ashore on the beaches of Padre Island.  When I drove the beach, there were lots of those mylar Valentine's balloons.  But, they also find natural items like tropical seed pods, shells, preserved fish, coral, skeletons, etc.  It was interesting to search through the Visitor Center table of all of these found items

Indian Blanket or Fire Wheel was one of the few wild flowers in bloom.
Padre Island National Seashore.
March and April are the big months for bird migration through the seashore.  And, in April the turtles start coming to shore to nest.  Two good reasons to return to Padre Island National Seashore another year!


  1. I am soooooooooooo looking forward to exploring Padre Island and the Gulf Shore. Finding and consuming lots of tasty fresh shrimp is part of that. Cap'n Roy's is on the list, now!

  2. *Waves* Hi, you just passed by me.

  3. Hi Sue, thanks once again for sharing your fabulous photos and info on places we'd like to go! Hope you are safe and having a great time! Mary and Gary

  4. Hi Suanne....good to see these things...I bet you are really enjoying the trip....Thanks for all the good photos....
    Happy travels,


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