Port Isabel Texas History:
By 1800, the current Port Isabel townsite was a summer resort. In 1828, the land was granted by the Spanish government to Rafael Garcia as part of the Potrero de Santa Isabel land grant. El Fronton de Santa Isabel was established in the 1830s. The community was later renamed Punta de Santa Isabel (Point Isabel). The Point Isabel post office was established in 1845. In 1949, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate established Our Lady by the Sea Church. At this time Point Isabel was renamed Brazos Santiago. By 1859, area cotton farmers were exporting $10 million of cotton each year. In 1853, the Port Isabel Lighthouse was built. It is now a state historic site managed by the Museums of Padre Island and is the only Texas lighthouse open to the public. During the Civil War, Port Isabel was a haven for blockade runners until three years into the war when Union troops seized or destroyed all the ships in the harbor. The narrow-gauge Rio Grande Valley Railway built a line Isabel in 1872. In 1881, the post office name changed from Brazos Santiago to Isabel. In 1915, the town was renamed Point Isabel. When it incorporated in 1928 it was renamed Port Isabel because the 30-foot bluffs made it a natural port. The bluffs were removed in the 1920s and used as fill. In 1933, the Port Isabel Harbor was dredged to a depth of 12 feet and a width of 125 feet. A year later the first annual Texas International Fishing Tournament was held. Two years later vessels began using Port Isabel as a seaport. In 1937 a six-foot deep channel was dredged from Port Isabel to two miles east of Harlingen, but it filled with silt and became unnavigable by 1942. In the 1950s, the completion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway increased the amount of port traffic. Today, the Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District on Port Road is one of 12 deep water ports in Texas. It extends inland to Port Harlingen in Harlingen, Texas. The town’s Porpoise Pachanga public art project consists of almost 2 dozen spinner porpoises painted by local artists. They are located along the streets of Port Isabel. Many of them are on Queen Isabella Boulevard, the main street. The Walk of Generals features 20 street medallions honoring generals linked to the history of Port Isabel. All are in the sidewalks around the Port Isabel Lighthouse. Port Isabel is situated on the Intracoastal Waterway and on the Laguna Madre, on Park Road 100. It is separated from South Padre Island on its east by the 2.2-mile Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. It is located 24.3 miles northeast of Brownsville, 54.7 miles east of Progreso and Nuevo Progreso (Mexico), 18 miles east of Los Fresnos, 36 miles southeast of Harlingen, 30 miles southeast of San Benito, 31.7 miles southeast of Rio Hondo, approximately 23 miles southeast of the Laguna Atascosa NWR, 33.4 miles southeast of Arroyo City, and 6 miles southeast of Laguna Vista, Texas.
The Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District Port, 726 Acres:
The port was constructed in 1929 to serve the marine interests of Port Isabel and the agricultural interests of San Benito, Texas. It has a depth of 36 feet. It is one of twelve deep water ports in Texas. Ships can enter the Intracoastal Waterway through the Brazos Santiago Strait and access the port through the Ship Channel. Traffic can also access the port from the Intracoastal Waterway and pass through the Long Island Swing Bridge. The port has a turning basin and provides land for industrial development with a focus on the offshore oil and gas industry. Approximately 45 acres of port land are on the waterfront and are available to businesses by annual lease. Approximately 17 businesses are located at the port including Southpoint Marina, South Padre Boatyard (formerly Sea Ranch II), and the Laguna Madre Yacht Club. (956) 943-7826. 250 Industrial Drive. Port Map
Port Isabel Long Island Swing Bridge, 1954:
This privately-owned bridge crosses the Intracoastal Waterway between Port Isabel and Long Island Village in the Old Garcia District. This district is the former home site of Port Isabel’s first recorded land owner, Raphael Garcia. Prior to 1972, vehicle traffic had to cross the swing bridge in order to access the 1952 causeway to SPI. The swing bridge site is an excellent area to view Pelicans. In Port Isabel, go east on Queen Isabella Boulevard towards the Queen Isabella Causeway. Go right on Garcia, the last light before entering the causeway bridge; continue south on Garcia to the swing bridge.
Do not speed on Highway100 between San Benito and South Padre Island (or on the island); you will get a ticket. Note that the speed limits constantly change on the roads, particularly in and near Port Isabel, and in and near Los Fresnos, Texas.
Wi-Fi is available at the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage, Pirate’s Landing, White Sands Restaurant, Doubleday Sports Bar and other places.