Brownsville is said to be among the poorest town in the United States, but that might change in the near future. Elon Musk’s SpaceX selected Boca Chica, a town 20 miles east of Brownsville, as headquarters for its South Texas Launch Site. It is expected to be completed this year or next and may be the place where tourists go to be launched in space. This will certainly give an economic boost to the Rio Grande Valley in general and Brownsville in particular.
The Gladys Porter Zoo is the #1 tourist attraction in Brownsville, but we didn’t see it or the Rio Grande Valley Wing Flying Museum, which is moving to the Cameron County Airport at Port Isabel. Ruth and I did find 2 worthwhile attractions in Brownsville. One was The Sabal Palm Sanctuary that isn’t in a lot of the travel literature. On our first visit to this preserve with more than 4 miles of nature trails we met David Benn, who invited us back on Saturday morning to take a stroll with him. This scheduled weekly guided walk included several avid birdwatchers and us. At our first stop, David taught Ruth & me, the non-avid, patience. There were no birds around when we arrived, but within half an hour of quiet non-movement, several appeared, The 2 most interesting ones to me were the Green Jays (above) and the Plain Chachalacas (below).
The Sabal mexicana palm tree is still common in Mexico. When the Rio Grande River was truly grand, there was an enormous Sabal Palm forest near its mouth. It has dwindled from 60,000 acres to less than 100. This protected grove is surrounded by agricultural development and border fencing. The Sabal Palm Sanctuary is in the United States on Parades Line Road but plunges deeply into Mexico and has the Rio Grande River on 2 sides. The walk lasted for 4 hours, but we left after 2½ to listen to a lecture about the Rabb Plantation House.
David talked about seeing lots of ocelots and armadillos in the Sanctuary but we only saw birds on our walk. Ruth’s favorite experience was the photo and observation blinds we entered to study as many of the 300 bird species as were around that day. These included cardinals, red-shouldered hawks, White-tipped doves, etc. Exceptionally knowledgable about both the forest and its inhabitants, David told us that the least grebe we were seeing, like all grebes, is completely unable to walk. We certainly learned as we explored the last Sabal Palm forest in the United States on the once mighty Rio Grande River.
The Robb House, at one time the headquarters for a working plantation, has been around since 1892. It’s Queen Anne style Victorianism is rare in this part of the world. A restoration of it was completed in 2013, and both Ruth & I regret that we didn’t get to see more of it.