At last, the weather cleared and we headed for Port Isabel and San Padre Island, which is shortened to South Padre Island in this area. Port Isabel on the mainland was an important port for the fledgling American settlers, Mexico, and a polyglot of interested parties, Spain, France and local Natives.
At the Port Isabel Historical Museum, a real bargain if you decide to visit. A $5 ticket gets you into the museum and a Treasure Museum and the Port Isabel Light House. Zachary Taylor was a very successful General in the Mexican American war under President James Polk. Ousting the Spaniards and every interest of long standing and taking that part of Tejas for the U.S. They called him Old Rough And Ready and he was a pretty rough looking dude. He could barely write but became a very good President.
It was here that the Spaniards first brought cattle into the “states” and Texas had some of the biggest Spanish land grants. The photo shows a water delivery boy. Fresh water barrels were dragged by burrow or horse, and delivered to houses from fresh water wells.
Located on the gulf the area was notable for its fish, like this record 800 pound jew fish and tuna that also grew to giant size. What is even more interesting is the locals didn’t use the plentiful shrimp from the area for many years. They didn’t know what to do with it. They dumped them into the ground for fertilizer until a foreigner showed them how to eat them. From the 1950’s through the 1970’s, Port Isabel was the shrimp capital of the world.
I had never heard of nor seen a mantis shrimp until this week. I saw them in the local market and thought they were lobster tails for sale. Now, I know better, but I will have an opportunity to try them as we travel up the coast.
Early Texans, were rough fellows who adopted their dress code and habits partly from the Spanish, Mexicans and soldiering they did for the Confederacy or Union. The Museum is located in the Charles Champion building. Champion was practically a country unto himself. They called his stop the Key to the Gulf. He had the only store, Post Office,Railroad Station, telegraph and phone, when they came out. Also the Customs House in the area. He minted and printed his own money that the locals used until one day U.S. Treasury Agents discovered the practice and as they descended on his place he dumped the coins in his well.
This is a local folk American practice called Curanderismo. It is still practiced here in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Back walking, meditation, herbal teas, healing touch, is drawn from all the mixed cultural influences of Judeo-Christian, Arabic, Greek, Spanish, African and Native American cultures.
At the Treasure Museum, there is very little treasure. It happened that for many years treasure hunters would go to San Padre Island to search for coins that notably washed up on shore, old Spanish coins mostly, from three known wrecks. In the 1960’s an expedition decided to find them using high tech means, diving equipment and “sounders”. They found two of them and unloaded a wealth of gold and silver. The State of Texas passed a law after that to prevent underwater archeology raids. Now those sites are historic treasures, overseen by government, to be shared by everyone.
The Museum is a great hands on place for kids, with much pirate lore and has interesting displays of marine equipment, ship models, paintings, shells, and stuff you find coming in with the tide. Not all of it good.
The Port Isabel Light House is like any number of “cookie cutter” light houses that remain along U.S. shores, but I wanted to see from the tower the whole landscape of South Padre and to challenge myself on the steps. It was only a month ago and I could hardly walk up a two inch step. I’m now doing llotibial Band Syndrome rehabilitation exercises and walking with minimal pain.
I’m pleased to say, I managed the 75 steps–slooowly.
But, you cannot see the distinctive shape of San Padre Island from the light house windows.
To see the unique narrow shape of the Island, one needs an airplane. I took a picture of a picture at the Birding Center.
We had a great, lunch at Joes. Its a market and you have to find your way back to the restaurant part. Exactly what we like, a hole in the wall kind of place with good food and cheap eats.
We drove over the Queen Isabela causeway onto the island and pulled in at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. It was National Bird Day yesterday and what could be more fitting?
This photo has not been doctored and we got such beautiful photos we were bragging about what great photographers we are. But, once we quit oohing and ahhing, we realized that the center provides you with 4000 square feet of board walk over this wetlands which allows you to get pretty close to birds. They are used to people and ignore us. The day was overcast with no sun to wash out detail. And, we have good cameras. Soooo, it isn’t the photographer as much as the circumstances. But, in any case, we got great bird photos on National Birding Day.
This is some type of heron.
There was also an alligator with an eerily perfect cat pattern on his head?
I wonder what they eat, hopefully not birds.
I had to really lighten this photo to get the red color to show. Late in the day, his head looked black.
The water,the weeds, everything was picturesque.
It is hard to believe the bright orange color of her beak.
Looking for some sun.
A white egret.
A type of heron.
Again, it was hard to believe the clarity of the photo, every feather delineated. After our birding walk, we drove through town and past all the skyline buildings for the open beaches that Jim nostalgically remembered from his visit in 1997. Miles and miles of uninhabited beach where he pulled his motor home onto the beach and spent the night. You can still do that, we found out.
Several blue jelly fish had washed up on the beach.
And a cute little tern. It was getting late and we really didn’t take enough beach photos. This area may be all settled with condos by the time we come back.
On the way back through town, we stopped at the Padre Island Brewing Company for a cold brew and because we got there at happy hour, brews were only $2.75 a pint and fresh oysters on the half shell, 50 cents.
Yum! Perfect end to a perfect day. (Oops! I missed the sign on the causeway that said Watch For Low Flying Pelicans.)