In this centennial year of the National Park Service Organic Act of August 25, 1916, travel to the scared protected spaces of the United States has become a patriotic duty. There are 59 designated National Parks and all are making headlines in magazines, newspapers, and online publications across the globe. The Organic Act was an Act of Congress and signed by the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. The Act to Establish the National Park Service states, "which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." (U.S.C., title 16, sec. 1.), NPS.gov.
Over the next 100 years, the National Park Service as a U.S. Department of the Interior has acquired many additional responsibilities; national monuments, historic sites including presidential homes and battle sites, recreational areas, national seashores, lakeshores, river ways, preserves, and reserves. According to the 2008 NPS Director's Report, there are 84,000,000 acres of land with 43,162 miles of shoreline.
Padre Island National Seashore is not counted in the 59 parks, but, as a part of the National Park Service it remains the longest undeveloped protected stretch of barrier island in the world and should be on everyone’s bucket list. As far as the eye can see, Padre Island National Seashore is windswept sand dunes, endless grasslands, and warm Gulf of Mexico waves.
There are 2 barrier islands protecting the south Texas mainland, North and South Padre Island. Mansfield Channel separates the two. North Padre Island is the designated national seashore. Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the seashore in 1968. To the east lies the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico and to the west, the hypersaline shallow lagoon, Laguna Madre. The narrow 70-mile long island is home to a rich abundance of marine life, coastal grasslands, reptiles, coyotes, deer, jackrabbits, and over 300 species of birds living or migrating through the fertile shores. North Padre Island is also the protected nesting grounds of the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle.
Clutch #75, baby Ridleys' first walk to the sea.
Every summer the Kemp's Ridleys hatchlings are released at dawn to begin life in the sea. The Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, led by Dr. Donna Shaver, work to monitor and protect these animals from being stranded or sick to incubation facilities for successful hatchling releases. Many of the early morning releases are open to the public. There is a 1-4 day window and a hatchling hotline for a target date June thru August. Call 361-949-7163 or visit the Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery Facebook Page.
Before the Spanish explorers shipwrecked onto the shore, the native Karankawas survived the daily harsh conditions of coastal Texas. They were a nomadic people well adapted to hunting with a lance or bow and arrows. The natives built seasonal thatch huts and traversed the bays and Gulf in dugouts. Several European explorers, Cabeza de Vaca, Alvarez de Pineda, and Jean Lafitte encountered the Karankawas, but few accounts remain. A Spanish priest in 1804, Padre Nicholas Balli established a settlement on the southern tip. For many years, the island was used for ranching. Today tourism and NPS support the protection of this natural seashore. A small museum at the Visitors Center retells the local history including flora and fauna, and a famous shipwreck carrying silver coins that are sometimes found by lucky visitors near the southern tip.
The goat's foot morning glory, Ipomoea pes-caprae, can push through 8 inches of blowing sand per day to remain on the surface. The relentless crashing waves and winds are slowly moving the island closer to the Texas mainland
There are R.V facilities for reservations and tent camping is facilities are also available throughout the park. The park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle for 7 days. Nearby Corpus Christi and Mustang Island offer hotels and beach house rentals. 60 miles of pristine beach is open year round to vehicles, camping, kayaking, surfing, and fishing. Gulf Coast breezes help cool the hot humid summer tempertures. Hurricane season is June through November. Be sure to check the weather forecast and take plenty of water and sunscreen. For more information visit NPS.gov