The Laguna Madre Bay is a hyper-saline bay. There are only a few hyper-saline bays in the world. The only saltier body of water in the US is the Great Salt Lakes. This unique bay provides a special ecosystem that is perfect for some sea life. Many creatures including dolphins, sea turtles and fish migrate to the Laguna Madre Bay to hatch or raise their young. Protecting this unique area is crucial to the health of the Gulf of Mexico.
South Padre Island has seen its share of shipwrecks. In the 1500’s the area was used to export riches from Mexico to Spain. The most famous wrecks occurred in 1554 and millions of dollars of silver was lost. You can learn more about the 1554 shipwrecks at the Museums of Port Isabel. Over the centuries many ships were lost on the shallow sandbars of South Padre and treasure hunters still flock to the area looking for long lost treasure. Of course, any treasure found does belong to the State of Texas and state law dictates that it must be turned over for historical preservation.
At the town of South Padre the island is only ¾ of a mile wide. On a clear day, guests coming across the causeway will see all the way across to the Gulf. As the island extends northward up the coastline it widens to nearly a mile.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse stands on the smallest state park in Texas. It is one of the few lighthouses in Texas which is open for the public to climb and enjoy a great panoramic view.
The first residents of South Padre were the Karankawa Indians. The last of this native tribe vanished around the 1850’s. But, local legend tells that they were an aggressive people of great height and strength. Some stories suggest that they may have been cannibals but, no real proof of this exists. It is known that they protected their territory with huge bows and great arrows that most men weren’t capable of drawing back or using.
There is a coast guard station on South Padre Island. The station current in use was constructed in 1974 and houses main offices and duty crew quarters. However, the older station building is still on the south end of Padre Island. This building was put up in 1924 and is still in occasional use by the University of Brownsville. Occasionally, a local will tell of the ghost of an early station worker rumored to still haunt the old station after his suicide by hanging.
In the 20’s and 30’s the area was popular with the rich and famous. The Port Isabel Yacht Club was built to provide the nation’s elite with a yachting destination during the time of prohibition. The guest list included Amelia Earhart, Al Capone, President Harding and President Eisenhower and Charles Lindberg. The Yacht Club is still open as a hotel and restaurant.