Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in a region that is considered one of the most biologically diverse in North America. The diversity contributes to this State Park being just one of the areas in the Rio Grande Valley that make the Valley a birder’s paradise. The 587-acre state park is a stopover for migratory birds as well as home to some subtropical birds seen nowhere else in the US.
About Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
The area along the Rio Grande southwest of Mission, Texas, was settled by the Spaniards in the 1740s. The park was once part of a land grant awarded in 1767. The land grants were split up and changed hands over the years. In the 1930s, the Bentsen family purchased 3,000 acres including the area that would become the park. They developed 2,000 acres north of the park but preserved the park because of the beautiful ebony trees. In 1944, the Bentsen family donated 586.9 acres to the Texas Parks Board for $1 with the stipulation that the land would be for public park use only and be called Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. The park opened to the public in 1962.
What to do at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Take the Tram
From October through May, the free shuttle operates from 8:30 to 4:30 every day. June through September it runs from 7:30 to 5:30 Thursday through Sunday. It runs every hour on the half hour. This is a good way to get an idea of the layout of the park and to move from one location to another if you are not up for all the walking. No private vehicles are allowed in the park.
Hike or Bike the Trails
You can explore the 7 miles of trails, which includes the 3.5 miles of park roads, on bike or on foot. Most of the trails are wheelchair-accessible, including the 1.8 mile Rio Grande Trail where bikes are not allowed. Bring your own bike or rent one for $5 per day at the gift store.
Observe Birds and other Wildlife
Some wonderful aspects of the park that help you with this endeavor are two enclosed bird blinds, a birding wall, and several water features. The two-story observation deck (wheelchair accessible) gets you up for a view of the canopy as well as a look across the Rio Grande at Mexico. I really enjoyed sitting and relaxing in the benches and swings located at the feeding stations. More than 360 species of birds have been recorded at the park and, as for other wildlife, you might spot javelinas, armadillos and even bobcats.
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park had a full RV campground until it became the World Birding Center Headquarters in 2004. Now, if you want to camp here, your only option is to walk in about a 1,000 yards to one of the 10 primitive campsites. The large primitive area shares three fire rings. Restrooms with showers are available back down that 1,000 yards. You can walk in or be shuttled from the parking lot. Price currently is $18 per night plus daily entry fee.
Facilities at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
The park headquarters houses the gift store, bi-lingual exhibit hall, conference room and restrooms (there are other restrooms located throughout the park). You can purchase the usual park souvenirs, memorabilia along with other items like field guides and snacks. If you don’t have your own binoculars, you can rent some at the gift shop. If you are looking for birds or other wildlife, you’ll be glad you did! The park headquarters is surrounded by butterfly gardens and hummingbird feeders.
The group hall can accommodate up to 60 guests. Currently, the fee is $300 plus the daily entrance fee. Here is a situation where the Texas State Parks pass would definitely be a benefit!
Park hours: daily from 7am to 10pm
Park store hours: daily 8am to 5pm
Entry fee: $5 per day per adult, $3 per person in groups of 10 or more, children12 and under are free
Check out these related posts about other World Birding Centers:
Alligators Find a New Home at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center
Estero Llano Grande State Park — My First RGV Birding Experience
Quinta Mazatlan Celebrates the Monarch Butterfly
The Hidalgo Pumphouse Brings Water to the Rio Grande Valley
Museums and Nature Top the List of Things to do in Harlingen
Until next time…