Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Overview
The southernmost piece of Texas seashore, 160 miles south of Corpus Christi and just across the water from South Padre Island, is also its most colorful, verdant, and bird-rich.
Few scenes produce more color than Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge's Redhead Ridge in April, when the bay-side prickly pear blooms pink and yellow, Spanish daggers bloom white, sage turns purple, and a sudden migratory"fallout" occurs. "Tons of birds are coming from the south when a north front stops them dead in their tracks," says South Texas ornithologist Jeff Rupert. Even if bird-watching seems as exciting to you as bill-paying, there's nothing quite like watching the sky rain green jays and painted buntings. Pack a camera.
Redhead Ridge, which forms two miles of the semi-paved Bayside Loop, is one of few places hikers and bikers can roam in the 45,000-acre refuge, so bring your kayak. From refuge headquarters, access the Arroyo Colorado River by driving south on Cameron County Airport Road, west on TX 106 and then north on FM 1847 to Adolph Thome Jr. Park. Put in at the end of the park road. You'll paddle east for about a mile to the river's mouth, and then north into the Laguna Madre. Cut back between spoil islands and you'll find yourself in the tidal marshes of the far-north portion of the refuge. "That area is as inaccessible as any place in North America," contends Rupert. "You're guaranteed not to see a soul." You will see black-necked stilts and snowy plovers, and possibly, if you scan the inland brush hard enough, one of the nation's few remaining ocelots.
You can rent kayaks either in Corpus Christi 160 miles north at Wind and Wave or 20 miles away on condo-lined South Padre Island at Windsurf the Boatyard. The hacienda-style Yacht Club Hotel in Port Isabel South Padre's much quieter neighbor on the mainland offers the finest steaks in South Texas, a region known for fine steaks. But be warned: Thousands of college students from across the nation swarm South Padre like locusts during the entire month of March. Avoid the area at all costs.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication