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County
Hidalgo
Region
South Texas Plains
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Parks
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
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Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Information:
The 2,088 acre Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1943 with the purchase of a section of a former Mexican land grant. The 2,088 acres are located on the banks of the Rio Grande River where subtropical climate, gulf coast, Great Plains, and Chihuahuan desert meet. The primarily purpose of the refuge is to protect migrating and resident birds, wild animals, butterflies (many tropical), dragonflies, reptiles and plant life. The refuge also serves to protect a remaining section of the subtropical Rio Grande Delta riparian forest, wetlands, upland forest, and rare Texas ebony trees. Before dams and other control structures significantly reduced the flow of the Rio Grande River, periodic flooding of the lands caused the formation of crescent-shaped oxbow lakes called resacas. Management of the refuge now includes periodic planned flooding of the land to maintain the bottom land hardwood forest, to provide crucial nesting and feeding habitat for birds, and to provide watering holes for wildlife. The refuge contains approximately half of the known butterfly species found in the U.S. including the malachite butterfly. The Santa Ana Refuge is located on the Central and Mississippi Flyways making it a birder’s paradise. Almost 400 bird species have been counted. Other wildlife species include the indigo snake and the endangered ocelot. The refuge has approximately 12 miles of all-weather nature trails. The original owner of this land built a home and ranch buildings, and established the cemetery in the early 1800s. Part of an original hand carved Texas ebony fence encloses a portion of the cemetery. The refuge serves as the Headquarters for the Santa Ana NWR and for the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR. The Santa Ana Refuge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Admission is free the first Sunday of each month. From Alamo, go south on South FM 907 (Alamo Road) for 7.5 miles. Turn left on U.S. 281 (Old Military Highway) and travel 0.25 miles to the refuge entrance on the south side of the highway.
 
Santa Ana Land Grant History& Cemetery:
This 15 square mile land grant was awarded in 1834 by Mexico to Benigno Leal who established ranch headquarters and a cemetery on the site. It was later developed by the Alamo Land & Sugar Company. The undeveloped southern part of the ranch, including the cemetery, was acquired in 1943 by the U.S. Government to form the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. A Texas Historical Marker is located adjacent to the Santa Ana NWR Visitor Center.
 
Rio Grande River:
The Rio Grande rises 12,000 feet above sea level in the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado as a clear, spring and snow-fed mountain stream. The river cuts through the middle of New Mexico to the sites of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez at the junction of Chihuahua, Mexico and Texas. At that point, because of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which terminated the Mexican War, the Rio Grande became the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. It forms the western or southern borders of El Paso, Hudspeth, Presidio, Brewster (where the river's sweeping curve gives Big Bend National Park its name), Terrell, Val Verde, Kinney, Maverick, Webb, Zapata, Starr, Hidalgo, and Cameron Counties. The river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river has many large and small tributaries including the Pecos and Devils Rivers which enter the Rio Grande at the Amistad Reservoir northwest of Del Rio, Texas. At El Paso the Rio Grande caused friction in the 1870s, when the river bit deep into the banks of Mexico and gradually transferred land to the United States. The famous Chamizal Dispute was not settled until 1963, when 437 acres was ceded from downtown El Paso to Mexico. The agreement economically strengthened both cities. The international border at the two cities is now lined with concrete so that the river will never again shift its channel. In Mexico the river is known as the Rio Bravo del Norte, or Rio Bravo.  Fish Stocking History  USGS River Gages 
 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center:
The Santa Ana NWR and the Laguna Atascosa NWR form the South Texas NWR Complex with offices at the Santa Ana NWR. In addition to being the headquarters of the STNWR, the Santa Ana Visitor Center houses the headquarters for the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR, an arrangement that makes sense considering that the LRGVNWR is a huge refuge with many mostly undeveloped units scattered over the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Santa Ana Refuge offers support for the LRGVNRA as does the Santa Ana Volunteer group. The headquarters site is surrounded by the ancient and rare Texas Ebony, and attracts migrant land birds, such as the Tropical Parula, and the Rose-throated Becards. The Visitor Center offers information on the latest wildlife sightings, maps and bird checklists, informative programs, displays of flora and fauna, and a gift shop selling field guides, insect repellant and other items. The gift shop also loans binoculars and offers information on canoe and tram trips, owl prowls, and other events. Volunteers offer many nature programs, special events, and nature tours to various locations. Tours include van tours, Salineno Bird Walks at the Roma Bluffs WBC, and photography tours. A butterfly garden is in front of the visitor center. During late September and October, there may be 75 or more species of butterflies, many of them indigenous only to South Texas. The Visitor Center is open daily, 8am-4pm; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days.
 
Friends of the Wildlife Corridor Volunteers:
These volunteers support the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. Resident volunteers live in Santa Ana NWR provided RV campsites in exchange for a specified number of work hours each week. All volunteers work specific activities or projects, such as construction, field maintenance, mechanical work, carpentry, assisting with annual reforesting projects, and plumbing and electrical work. Many volunteers work the Santa Ana Nursery doing many necessary activities from seed collecting to planting seedlings. Other volunteers work the coast region’s Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle project, or use their skills as artists, journalists, educators, computer whizzes, biologists, gardeners, bi-linguists, speakers and birders to contribute to the refuge programs. They also purchase available tracts of land of interest to the Refuges and temporarily hold the tracts until the refuges can purchase them. These parcels are typically small and a located adjacent to existing refuge lands. Check out their events.  (956) 784-7500. Mail volunteers at 3325 Green Jay Road, Alamo, Texas 78516.  Email 1  Email 2
 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Amenities:
The 45 foot tall, tree top level fire tower and canopy bridge offers wonderful views of the refuge, and is great for viewing hawks during the hawk migration. The 7 mile self-guided auto-bike tour is open Saturdays and Sundays, May through November, from 9am-4pm. It is closed during the months the tram is in operation. Before arriving, call the Visitor Center to confirm the wildlife drive will be open. A small fee applies. The 60 passenger interpretive tram operates daily from Thanksgiving to the end of April, except Christmas day, New Year's Day, and Easter. The tram leaves the Visitor Center three times a day; call for the schedule. A small fee is charged for the 1.5 hour tour. Visitors may work with the tram operators to schedule a drop off and pick up point in remote areas. (956) 784-7500.
 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Trails:
The 12 miles of short trails and access roads are open daily, sunrise to sunset. Two bird blinds are located along the 0.5 mile ADA compliant Chachalaca Trail. Some trailheads are located near the Visitor Center; other trailheads are located along the auto tour route. During the winter months roving naturalists and guides are available to assist visitors. The trail to Willow Lake offers viewings of waterfowl, such as least grebe, and shorebirds; watch for red-shouldered hawks in the trees. There is an abundance of Spanish moss hanging from the trees; watch for the nests of tropical parulas’ nests in the moss, and look for the long nests of the Altamira oriole. The 2 mile Pintail Lake Trail offers views of the Rio Grande River, and leads to the largest lake on the refuge; watch for waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. If you are interested in viewing the endangered Texas indigo snake, the Texas spiny lizard, or the rose-bellied lizard, take the trail that borders the eastern edge of Willow Lake.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Willow Lakes, Pintail Lakes and Cattail Lakes Trails Map 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Loop Trails Map
 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Directions:
From Alamo, go south on FM 907 (South Alamo Street) for 7.5 miles. Turn left on U.S. 281 (Old Military Highway) and travel 0.25 miles to the refuge entrance on the south side of U.S. 281. From McAllen, go east 6 miles on U.S. 83 to FM 907. Go south on 907; drive 7 miles to U.S. 281. On U.S. 281, drive east 0.25 miles to the entrance.