Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Boca Chica Loop

Boca Chica Loop map

Boca Chica Loop mapScenic DriveNOAA Brownsville Weather Forecast OfficeBrownsville Sanitary LandfillSabal Palm Audubon Center and SanctuaryBoca Chica Beach/The USFWS Boca Chica Tract

map legend

More information:

  • Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau
    Phone: (956) 546-3721, (800) 626-2639
    Email: visinfo@brownsville.org
    Web: www.brownsville.org

039.gif LTC 039 TX 48 Scenic Drive

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue west on TX 100 to the intersection with TX 48. Go south on TX 48 to Brownsville, passing an extensive area of tidal flats and lomas. Lomas are clay mounds that rise above the surrounding tidal flats and are covered with native Tamaulipan brush, including the locally common Spanish Dagger Yucca. These lomas are a favored habitat of the Ocelot, a federally-listed endangered cat, found in the U.S. only in south Texas. The tidal flats are often covered with shorebirds and waterbirds such as the Reddish Egret. Watch for Aplomado Falcons perched atop the yuccas along this scenic drive.

040.gif LTC 040 NOAA Brownsville Weather Forecast Office

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on TX 48 to its intersection with TX 4 in Brownsville. Go east on TX 4 approximately 3 miles to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Brownsville Weather Forecast Office. Please do not enter the facility; park adjacent to the site. For several years Tamaulipas Crows (formerly known as Mexican Crow) have nested under the Doppler facility, the structure that resembles a large soccer ball. Be cautious, since Chihuahuan Ravens have nested here as well. This is one of the only known U.S. nesting sites for the crow; a quick look during late spring or summer requires only a moment’s detour.

041.gif LTC 041 Brownsville Sanitary Landfill

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Continue east on TX 4 to FM 511. Go north on FM 511 approximately 1.5 miles to the entrance to the Brownsville City Landfill. The Landfill is open from 7:00 am to 3:45 pm, and is closed on Sundays and holidays. As you enter the Landfill, indicate that you are a birder and you will be allowed to continue. Park only in designated areas. This Landfill is famous for wintering Tamaulipas Crows. Recent changes in landfill practices have reduced the numbers of crows present. However, the Landfill has become recognized as one of the best spots in Texas (if not the U.S.) to find vagrant gulls. In recent years Black-tailed and Slaty-backed gulls have both been recorded at the Landfill, along with an impressive variety of rare gulls such as Lesser Black-backed, California, and Thayer’s. Spring (when Franklin’s Gulls may be present in small numbers) appears to be the best time to find these rarities, so while searching for the crows be sure to scope the immense flocks of gulls, Great-tailed Grackles, and Chihuahuan Ravens that are also attracted to the Landfill.

042.gif LTC 042 Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on FM 511. Cross TX 4 and continue to the merger of FM 511 and FM 3068 (FM 511 will veer to the right), continue south on FM 3068 to FM 1419. Turn west (right) on FM 1419 and go 0.6 mile to the entrance to the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary, which is on the left. The lower extent of the Rio Grande was once bordered by 40,000 acres of Texas Sabal Palm forest. Now reduced to less than 100 acres, this Audubon sanctuary represents the largest remaining Texas Sabal Palm fragment in Texas. In addition to its magnificent palms, many species of plants found only rarely in the Valley thrive in this small preserve. Most of the Valley’s avian specialties are present, including “Brownsville” Common Yellowthroat and “Lomita” Carolina Wren, two localized subspecies. Additionally, a number of vagrants including Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and Golden-crowned Warbler have been found within the property. Neotropical migrants that normally winter in Mexico may remain in the Sanctuary throughout the winter months. Buff-bellied Hummingbird is almost assured to be seen at the feeders near the Sanctuary headquarters.

In recent years the Sanctuary staff and volunteers have worked to revegetate surrounding property that had been cleared for agriculture. A butterfly garden has been developed behind the Visitors Center, and many Valley butterfly rarities have been seen here. Zebras are commonly seen within the Sanctuary; Boisduval’s Yellow, Blue Metalmark, Tulcis Crescent, and Guava Skipper are among the rare butterflies that have occurred here. The Sanctuary has a series of walking trails, including one that borders a resaca with observation blinds. When favorable water levels and bird movements coincide, Least Grebes as well as many species of ducks and shorebirds may be viewed at close range. Simply put, no trip to the Valley should exclude a visit to this remarkable Sanctuary.

Audubon Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary
P.O. Box 5169
Brownsville, TX 78523
(956) 541-8034
Email: jpaz@audubon.org
Web: www.audubon.org/local/sanctuary/sabal

043.gif LTC 043 Boca Chica Beach/The USFWS Boca Chica Tract

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Winter

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 1419, go east toward FM 3068. Stay on FM 1419, which eventually curves north back toward TX 4. Go east on TX 4 to Boca Chica Beach and the USFWS Boca Chica Tract. About 10 miles down TX 4 you will notice an historical marker for the Battle of Palmito Ranch. Union and Confederate soldiers fought the final battle of the Civil War at this site in May 1865. After the Confederate’s victory in this skirmish, they learned of the South’s defeat 32 days earlier.

TX 4 continues east to the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Chica Beach. The road crosses wide expanses of coastal grasslands and lomas, and skirts South Bay. Check the posts and yuccas for Aplomado Falcons, as well as Merlins and Peregrine Falcons in migration. Harris’s Hawk, Chihuahuan Raven and Tamaulipas Crow (rare) may be seen along this drive as well. Willets, Horned Larks, and Wilson’s Plovers nest in the flats that border the road, and Botteri’s Sparrows are found in the sacahuistale, singing during spring and summer from low shrubs and fence wires. During winter and in migration, the telephone poles along TX 4 may support as many as 100 Ospreys. You can access USFWS properties via the fishing access roads marked with public entry signs. Eventually you will reach the pavement’s end and Boca Chica Beach. You may drive (carefully—the sand is soft) south toward the mouth of the Rio Grande, or north toward the jetties that protect the entrance to the Port of Brownsville. Brown Booby has been seen (very rarely) roosting on this jetty, and Piping Plover and other shorebirds are often common on the beach. During spring migration hundreds of colorful Red Knots may be present along the water’s edge as well as most of the region’s nesting and migrant terns. After south winds an interesting assortment of marine creatures accumulate on this beach. Avoid the Portuguese Man-of-War’s blue, football-shaped floats with its stinging tentacles. Return on TX 4 toward Brownsville to the intersection with FM 511. Go north on FM 511 to its intersection with US 77/83.


Back to Top
Back to Top