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Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park / World Birding Center
Mission, Texas



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Winter sunset on the resaca
Copyright © Shannon D. Moore
See more photos at OutdoorPhoto.com
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is best known among birders and "Winter Texans" who flock to the park for its diverse bird life and subtropical climate. Located on the U.S.-Mexico border, the park's 588 acres include two large resacas (old oxbow lakes formed by the Rio Grande). These resacas are bordered by dense, brushy woodlands which provide shelter for endangered mammals such as the ocelot and jaguarandi; opossum, javelina, coyote and armadillo are more common.

Birders from the world over are drawn to the lower Rio Grande Valley to observe subtropical bird species, such as green jay, Altamira oriole, pauraque and chachalaca, that are not seen anywhere else in the United States. Due to its location on the convergence of the Central and Mississippi flyways -- invisible aerial "highways" followed by migratory bird species -- the Rio Grande Valley is a hotbed of birding opportunities. Over 290 bird species have been recorded within the borders of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and another 74 species have been observed elsewhere in the Valley; 19 of those bird species occur in the United States only in South Texas.

Existing features of the park include two bird observation blinds (available for rent by park visitors) and several dedicated bird feeding stations stocked with suet, seed and oranges. Facilities are available for picnicking, fishing, boating, hiking and bicycling (paved roads only). A group pavilion, playground, boat ramp, fish cleaning station and restrooms with showers are also available.

An extensive construction and habitat restoration project, begun in April 2003 and scheduled for completion sometime in 2004, will result in the addition of new nature trails and boardwalks, an observation tower and the World Birding Center Headquarters. Through a partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, formerly inaccessible federal land adjacent to the park will be incorporated, more than doubling the acreage of the park (from less than 600 acres to more than 1,300 acres!)

Although the park no longer features RV or developed camping facilities, there are numerous RV parks and campgrounds available near the park. Ten primitive campsites are available to hikers and backpackers, and three hiking trails -- totalling about 3 miles round-trip -- are currently available. The 1.2-mile loop Singing Chaparral Nature Trail is located near the park entrance and winds through dense brush beneath trees draped in Spanish moss; the 1.8 mile loop Rio Grande Hiking Trail leads hikers through a formerly riparian woodland that now features impressive stands of cacti; a side trail at the hike's halfway point offers the park's only actual glimpse of the Rio Grande River. Guide booklets to both trails may be available at the park headquarters.



Shannon's Notebook

Trees draped in Spanish moss
Copyright © Justin W. Moore
See more photos at OutdoorPhoto.com
The drive from San Antonio takes about 4 hours, following U.S. 281 South almost the entire way. If you visit during the winter, as we did, you are likely to observe the "Winter Texan" phenomenon in full effect as RVs and other vehicles from Missouri, Iowa, Manitoba, Washington state and Minnesota. They're fleeing the bitter winter weather and seeking the subtropical environs of the Valley. Like most Central and South Texas cities, McAllen (which dubs itself the "Home of Winter Texans" and "The Texas Tropics") offers numerous RV parks to support large numbers of seasonal residents; many of these Winter Texans enjoy birding, bicycling and wildlife observation.

The paved scenic road offers views of native brush and woodland, and is accessible to bicyclists, walkers and vehicles. If you have never been to Mexico, as I had not, you may even stop to set foot on the opposite side of one of the many markers used to determine the official position of the U.S.-Mexico international border.

For more information, read our trip report:

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Location

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is reached by travelling 7 miles west of McAllen on U.S. 83 to Mission, exit on TX Loop 374 West and proceed 1.5 miles to FM 2062. Turn left (south) on to FM 2062 and proceed 2.7 miles to the park entrance.
Map of Park's Location

For GPS Users: N 26° 10.37'   W 098° 22.93' (WGS84/NAD83)
Convert to another coordinate sytem or map datum (Courtesy of Jeeep.com)

Hours

Open 7 days a week year-round from 7 AM to 10 PM for day use activities.

Fees

A park entrance fee is charged per day. The fee is $5 per person for adults 12 years of age and older. Texas residents age 65 or older pay only $3 per person. Listed fees may not be accurate year-round due to seasonal changes. Contact the park directly to confirm fees.

Campsite and other facility fees are in addition to the park entrance fee.

Visit parks often? Learn about the $70 Texas State Parks Pass which exempts the passholder, and the passengers in their vehicle, from the entrance fees at all Texas State Parks.

Reservations

Events

N/A

Weather

Click for Mission, Texas Forecast

Volunteer Opportunities

Inquire at the park headquarters.

Contact Information

The park is managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive (FM 2062)
Mission, Texas 78572

Ranger Station: (956)585-1107
TPWD Park Info: 1-800-792-1112
Email: gabriel.trevino@tpwd.state.tx.us

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