Texas' southernmost city, international seaport, airport and
railroad interchange point on Mexican border. Area dates from colonial days of imperial
Spain, covering periods of exploration, wars, revolution and colorful, though infamous
banditry. City began in 1846 after General Zachary Taylor established the first Fort Brown
to confirm the Rio Grande as national boundary after the Republic of Texas became a U.S.
state. Unfortunately, the annexation of Texas into the United States touched off the Mexican-American War, 1846 - 48.
Several existing buildings of Fort Brown are now part of the University of Texas at
Brownsville / Texas Southernmost Jr. College (below). Brownsville is the Rio Grande
Valley's largest city whose industries include electronics, automotive components,
apparel, industrial services and tourism. Vacationers are attracted by sub-tropical
climate, proximity to Mexico, excellent golfing courses and access to South Padre Island.
Brownsville, "On the Border by the Sea", is a birdwatcher's
paradise. The convergence of two major flyways afford the birder an abundance of Northern
species migrating for the winter. More than 370 species share the refuges and wild places
in and around the city. Check with the information center, below, for more details. Major
annual event is Charro Days, a spectacular four day costume fiesta, in late Feb., that
features parades, carnivals, music, dancing and foods of this colorful, two-nation region.
Brazos Island State Park -
Although state owned, park is actually an undeveloped beach on the
Gulf of Mexico - beautiful beach, but no facilities. And it's not island, but a small spit
of land (Boca Chica) just south of South Padre Island. Permitted activities include
camping, surfing, fishing, swimming, picnicking and nature study. half mile long stone
jetty at northern end provides Gulf fishing. about 22 miles east of Brownsville via Texas
Brownsville Art League Museum -
In historic Neale House built in 1834; moved to present location in
1950. Gazebo once was the Fort Brown bandstand. Art exhibits. Open Mon. - Fri. 9:30 a.m. -
4 p.m.; closed holidays. 956/546-3721.
Brownsville Visitor Information Center -
Beside U.S. 77/83 (F.M. 802 exit) in north Brownsville. Detailed
visitor information, maps and tourist literature about local attractions and Matamoras,
Mexico, just across the Rio Grande. Historic trolley sightseeing tours start here; call
for schedule. Open Mon. - Sat. 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; closed holidays.
Confederate Airforce Rio Grande Valley Wing -
World War II aircraft and memorabilia displayed. Popular Air Fiesta
held in fall. Open daily 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Brownsville / South Padre Island International
Airport. 956/541-8585. Admission.
Fort Brown / University of Texas at Brownsville / Texas Southmost
Established 1846, fort held troops during Mexican-American War,
defended the border, and changed hands during the Civil War. Noted for work of William C.
Gorgas, later U.S. Army Surgeon General, whose studies led to eventual control of yellow
fever. First developed into large military reservation and was an active post until the
end of World War II. Original hospital now administration building of Texas Southmost
College. Other remaining buildings include cavalry barracks, medical lab, guardhouse and
morgue. International Blvd. and Mary St. near Gateway International Bridge.
Gladys Porter Zoo -
Unique zoological park with virtually all animals living in open
exhibits surrounded by natural flowing waterways. it contains over 1,550 specimens
representing some 420 species, 47 of which are listed as endangered. Vegetation throughout
the zoo is comprised of over 250 species and sub-species of tropical and neo-tropical
plants. Named one of the best zoos in the country, it's open daily at 9 a.m. At Ringgold
and Sixth Sts. For information, call 956/546-2177. Admission.
Historic Brownsville Museum -
Housed in restored 1928 Southern Pacific Depot, well known for its
Spanish Colonial Revivalist Style. The museum contains numerous photographs, exhibits and
artifacts from the area, as well as information on local military history. Open Mon. -
Sat. 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Sun. 2 - 5 p.m. 641 East Madison. Admission. for Information
Matamoras, Mexico -
Just across Rio Grande from Brownsville, caters to host of U.S.
visitors with night clubs, restaurants, cocktail rooms and gift shops. Bargains in pottery
and a wealth of handicrafts in Mexican market area. Access via Gateway Bridge (toll) at
terminus of East 14th St. or via B&M Railroad (toll). (See
Palmito Ranch Battlefield -
Last land engagement of the Civil War fought near Brownsville at
Palmito Ranch. Confederates commanded by Col. John S. Ford, not having heard of Lee's
surrender at Appomattox a month earlier, routed and captured a Federal force in running
encounter on May 12-13, 1865. After the battle, Confederates learned from their prisoners
of the south's capitulation. The victors then became formal captives of their former
prisoners. An historical marker is 12 miles east on Texas 4.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site -
North of Brownsville near intersection of F.M. 1847 / F.M. 511 is
site of where artillery duel opened Mexican War May 8, 1846. Cannon under command of Gen.
Zachary Taylor proved superior to that of Mexican General Mariano Arista. Dedicated
national historic site May 8, 1993, the 147th anniversary of the battle. Given unique
mandate by Congress when it was created - exhibits must cover war from both country's
perspectives from the causes of the war to its effects today. For information call
Port of Brownsville -
On 17 mile ship channel connecting to gulf of Mexico, port hosts
ships from exotic foreign lands and large fleet of shrimp boats; also known as home port
to NAFTA. Huge offshore drilling rigs fabricated here. About 5 miles east off Texas 48.
Sabal Palm Grove Wildlife Sanctuary-
One of the best preserved Sabal Palm forests in the U.S. 172 acre
wildlife sanctuary owned by National Audobon Society; self-guided tours permitted. Nature
trail and visitor center. Open daily 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. From International Blvd. 5.7 miles
southeast on F.M. 1419 (Southmost Rd.); follow sign. Admission. 956/541-8034.
South Padre Island -
some 25 miles northeast of Brownsville, access to island is from
Port Isabel by causeway across Laguna Madre.
Stillman House Museum -
Residence was built about 1850 for Charles Stillman, founder of
Brownsville. Museum contains his possessions, momentous of early Brownsville, furnishings,
heirlooms, books, coins and pictures. Open Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. - noon, 2 - 5 p.m.; Sun. 3
- 5 p.m. 1305 East Washington. Admission. For information, call 956/542-3929.
Trolley Tours -
Step aboard a replica of a turn-of-the-century trolley
for a two hour narrated tour of Brownsville. Tour includes the historic downtown area,
including a stop at one of the museums, and showcases the city's attractions. All tours
start and finish at the visitor center at F.M. 802 and U.S. 77/83. For schedules and
information call 956/546-2639.