When the heat and humidity reach their summer heights, Texans head to Padre Island National Seashore.
This 70-mile stretch of sand dunes and grassland is as refreshing as a tall glass of ice cold sweet-tea. Never developed, this untouched barrier island remains in ecological balance.
This is not just one landscape, but many. Here, coastal prairie ends in delicate dunes. Wetlands and marshes abut prairies and beaches. Laguna Madre, a hypersaline lagoon, harbors species long lost from most of the planet.
Endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles come here each year to nest. A monitoring program tracks the turtles’ migration, and specially trained dogs help locate their nests so the eggs can be protected from predators.
This part of southwest Texas lies in the flight path of many migratory birds. For other species, this is their winter paradise. Birdwatchers converge at the shore, the park road, and Bird Island Basin, armed with binoculars and poised to shoot photos of oystercatchers, piping plover, heron, ibis, and stork.
Many eyes remain raised to the sky at night, as well. Minimal light pollution makes Padre Island National Seashore a perfect spot for stargazing.