Padre Island

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Padre Island
Padre island 0001.png
Padre Island map, showing the Laguna Madre waters enclosed along the south Texas coast.
Location Gulf of Mexico
Area 209 sq mi (540 km2)(31st in U.S.)
Length 113 mi (182 km)
Width 1.61 mi (2.59 km)
Coastline 263.22 mi (423.61 km)
State  Texas
Counties Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Willacy
Additional information
Official website National Park Service – Padre Island
See: North and South Padre Island
Padre Island sand dunes.

Padre Island is the largest of the Texas barrier islands as well as the world's longest barrier island. It is part of the U.S. state of Texas. The island is located on Texas' southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is famous for its white sandy beaches at the south end. The name of the island means Father in Spanish, after Father José Nicolás Ballí (c.1770-1829),[1] who served as collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley and founded the first mission in present Cameron County.

Padre Island is the second largest island by area in the contiguous United States, after Long Island. It is about 113 miles (182 km)[2] long and 3 km wide,[3] stretching from the city of Corpus Christi, in the north, to the resort community of South Padre Island in the south. The island is oriented north-south, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east, and Laguna Madre on the west. The island's northern end connects to Mustang Island by roadway. The southern end of the island is separated from Brazos Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass.

The town of South Padre Island is located on its southern end, but the island as a whole is sparsely populated. The central part of the island is preserved in a natural wild state as Padre Island National Seashore. Since 1964, the island has been divided by the artificial Port Mansfield Channel, and as a result, the terms "North Padre Island" and "South Padre Island" are often used to refer to the separate portions of the island. Padre Island is located in Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, and Willacy counties.


When Father José Nicolás Ballí owned the island, it was known as the Isla de Santiago land grant.[1] (Ballí also owned La Feria grant, the Las Castañas grant, part of the Llano Grande grant, and the Guadalupe grant.) Padre Island had been granted to his grandfather, Nicolás Ballí in 1759, by King Charles III of Spain, and Father Ballí requested a clear title to the property in 1827.[1] He was the first person to have the island surveyed and was the first settler who brought families to the island. He also built the first church on the island for the conversion of the Karankawa Indians and for the benefit of the settlers.[1] About 26 miles (42 km) north of the island's southern tip, the priest founded the town of El Rancho Santa Cruz de Buena Vista (later known as Lost City), where he also kept cattle, horses, and mules.[1]

Ballí died on April 16, 1829, and was buried near Matamoros.[1] Title to the island was granted to him posthumously on December 15, 1829, issued jointly in the name of Father José Nicolás Ballí and his nephew Juan José Ballí. The priest had requested that half of the island be given to his nephew, who had been helping him there. Juan José (the nephew) lived on the island from 1829 until his death in 1853.[1]

Padre Island was one of the eight candidate sites for the first test of an atomic bomb but the bomb was detonated in White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico.[4]


Padre Island sand dunes at sunset.

Geologically speaking, Padre Island is a young island, having formed in just the last several thousand years. It is one of 300 islands stretching from Maine to Mexico. These natural barrier islands act to protect the mainland from the direct onslaught of storms.

Padre Island began forming as a submerged sand bar some 4500 years ago, as shown by radiocarbon dating of shells. Geologic speculation indicates the emerged island itself may be 1000 to 1500 years younger.[citation needed] Barrier island origins have been debated for many years by geologists, but it is agreed they are formed and modified by such factors as sediment type and supply, sea-level directional changes, current and wave strength and direction, and tide magnitude.

It is theorized that Padre Island formed from offshore shoals with later growth aided by spit accretion. (A spit is a long, narrow tongue of sand extending from a mainland shoreline and formed by the shoreline drifting of sediments.) After a history of shifting, abandonment and reestablishment by storm breaches, many tidal inlets were slowly closed and short islands were joined to form today's longer islands.[citation needed]

Padre Island graphically illustrates the life and sequences of a barrier shoreline: accretionary or building phase, equilibrium or stability phase and erosion or destructional state. The northern half of Padre Island's shoreline is in equilibrium; the southern half (and much of the remaining Texas coastline) is in an erosional stage. Wind, wave and current action continue to rework and shape the island. South Padre Island has been in a destructive phase for a long time, probably having retreated landward (along with the lagoon and mainland shoreline). All of Padre Island will probably retreat landward through long-term erosion due to three causes: interruption and decrease in sediment supply, relative sea level rise, and tropical storm activity. Today, hurricane washovers and wind-carried sand deposited in the Laguna Madre build Padre Island's landward side at the expense of the Laguna Madre.[citation needed]


Kemp's Ridley sea turtle[edit]

Kemp's Ridley sea turtle

On September 2007, Corpus Christi, Texas wildlife officials found a record of 128 Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nests on Texas beaches, including 81 in the Padre Island National Seashore and 4 on nearby Mustang Island. Wildlife officials released 10,594 Kemp's ridleys hatchlings along the Texas coast in 2007. The turtles are endangered due to shrimpers' nets and they are popular in Mexico as boot material and food.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Ballí, José Nicolás". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-09-02. [dead link]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Garrison, J.R., Jr., Williams, J., Potter Miller, S., Weber, E.T., II, McMechan, G., and Zeng, X., 2010, Ground-penetrating radar study of North Padre Island; Implications for barrier island interval architecture, model for growth of progradational microtidal barrier islands, and Gulf of Mexico sea-level cyclicity: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 80, p. 303-319.
  4. ^ "Trinity Atomic Web Site". Walker, Gregory. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ "Endangered Turtle Nests Found in Texas". The Washington Post (CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas). The Associated Press. September 4, 2007. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°50′40″N 97°22′04″W / 26.84444°N 97.36778°W / 26.84444; -97.36778