Rio Grande Valley

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Rio Grande Valley
Map of the Rio Grande Valley
Floor elevation285 ft (87 m)
Area4,872 sq mi (12,620 km2)
LocationUnited States, Texas
Coordinates26°13′N 98°07′W / 26.22°N 98.12°W / 26.22; -98.12Coordinates: 26°13′N 98°07′W / 26.22°N 98.12°W / 26.22; -98.12

The Rio Grande Valley is an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico from the United States. The four-county region consists of Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, and Starr counties. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States,[1] with its population having jumped from about 325,000 people in 1969 to more than 1,300,000 people by 2014. Some of the biggest cities in the region are: Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, Pharr, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, San Juan, and Rio Grande City. These cities are surrounded by many small neighborhoods or colonias similar to those in Mexico.[2]

Geography and demographics[edit]

Geographic and administrative Overview

The Rio Grande Valley is not a true valley, but a floodplain, containing many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier courses of the Rio Grande.[3] Early 20th-century land developers, attempting to capitalize on unclaimed land, utilized the name "Magic Valley" to attract settlers and appeal to investors. The Rio Grande Valley is also called El Valle, the Spanish translation of "the valley", by those who live there.[4] The residents of the Rio Grande Valley no longer refer to the area as "El Mágico Valle del Río Grande" ("The Magical Valley of the Rio Grande"), but as "The Valley”. The main region is within four Texan counties: Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. As of January 1, 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of the Rio Grande Valley at 1,305,782.[5] According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, 86 percent of Cameron County, 90 percent of Hidalgo County, 97 percent of Starr County, and 86 percent of Willacy County are Hispanic.[6]

The largest city is Brownsville (Cameron County), followed by McAllen (Hidalgo County). Other major cities include Harlingen, Edinburg, Mission, Rio Grande City, Raymondville, Weslaco, Hidalgo and Pharr.[7]


The Rio Grande Valley experiences a warm and fair climate that brings visitors from many surrounding areas. The east side of the region experiences a humid subtropical climate, and becomes more arid as one heads west. The Valley is one of the southernmost areas of the continental United States, with only a small stretch of southern Florida laying at a lower latitude than the city of Brownsville. Also the region shares a similar climate to that of peninsular Florida. Due to its southerly location, the lower Rio Grande Valley tends to be very warm in comparison to northern areas. While having average temperatures that land the region a semi-tropical climate, the lower Valley only misses tropical climate status by a few degrees. Furthermore, the area lays in a transitional climate zone; therefore, cities like Brownsville and South Padre Island land in a tropical savanna climate classification during years when winter months are slightly warmer than average. Due to this, the lower part of the region has been known to sustain tropical plants such as flame trees, Cuban Royal palms, and coconut palms.

Temperature extremes range from triple digits during the summer months to freezing during the winter. Taking into consideration the region’s warm weather, periods of triple-digit weather occur much more often than those with freezing temperatures. While the Valley has seen severe cold events before, such as the 2004 Christmas snow storm, the region only occasionally experiences temperatures at or below freezing. These happen less often near the coast, where in some cases, never see temperatures below 35-40 degrees. Arctic cold fronts bring colder weather to the region but tend to dissipate quickly with daytime heating.

The Rio Grande Valley’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it a target for hurricanes. Though not impacted as frequently as other areas of the Gulf Coast of the United States, the Valley has experienced major hurricanes in the past. Hurricanes that have made landfall in or near the area include: Hurricane Beulah (1967), Hurricane Allen (1980), Hurricane Gilbert, Hurricane Bret, Hurricane Dolly (2008), Hurricane Alex (2010), and Hurricane Harvey. Having an especially flat terrain, the Valley usually experiences the catastrophic effects of tropical cyclones in the form of flooding. Due to threats of storm surge, the impending impact of tropical cyclones usually results in the closing of the Queen Isabella Causeway and voluntary -or sometimes mandatory- evacuations of the city of South Padre Island and coastal Cameron and Willacy counties.

Severe weather in the Rio Grande Valley typically occurs during the spring months. While the area doesn’t see intense severe thunderstorm and tornado events like in the northern part of the state of Texas, the South Texas region is not immune to hail and supercell events that result in brief tornado touchdowns.


The Lower Rio Grande Valley encompasses landmarks that attract tourists, and popular destinations include: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park; and on the coast: South Padre Island, Brazos Island, and the Port Isabel Lighthouse.

The Valley is a popular waypoint for tourists visiting northeast Mexico. Popular destinations across the border and Rio Grande include: Matamoros, Nuevo Progreso, Río Bravo, and Reynosa, all located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

The Valley also attracts tourists from the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Mexico, D.F. (México City).

Places of historical interest[edit]

The First Lift Station in Mission, Texas once provided water for irrigating the crops of the early Rio Grande Valley.


The Valley is historically reliant on agribusiness and tourism. Cotton, grapefruit, sorghum, maize, and sugarcane are its leading crops, and the region is the center of citrus production and the most important area of vegetable production in the State of Texas. Over the last several decades, the emergence of maquiladoras (factories or fabrication plants) has caused a surge of industrial development along the border, while international bridges have allowed Mexican nationals to shop, sell, and do business in the border cities along the Rio Grande. The geographic inclusion of South Padre Island also drives tourism, particularly during the Spring Break season, as its subtropical climate keeps temperatures warm year-round.[citation needed] During the winter months, many retirees (commonly referred to as "Winter Texans") arrive to enjoy the warm weather, access to pharmaceuticals and health care in Mexican border crossings such as Nuevo Progreso. There is a substantial health-care industry with major hospitals and many clinics and private practices in Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen.

Box of Oranges, from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas (postcard, c. 1912–1924)

Texas is the third largest producer of citrus fruit in United States, the majority of which is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Grapefruit make up over 70% of the Valley citrus crop, which also includes orange, tangerine, tangelo and Meyer lemon production each Winter.[9]

There are two minor professional sports teams that play in the Rio Grande Valley: The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (basketball), and Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (soccer). Defunct teams that previously played in the region include: the Edinburg Roadrunners (baseball), La Fiera FC (indoor soccer), Rio Grande Valley Ocelots FC,(soccer), Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings (baseball), Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (ice hockey), and the Rio Grande Valley Sol (indoor football).

One of the Valley's major tourist attractions is the semi-tropical wildlife. Birds and butterflies attract a large number of visitors every year all throughout the entire valley. Ecotourism is a major economic force in the Rio Grande Valley.


Rio Grande Valley Vote
by Party in Presidential Elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2016 29.0% 81,885 67.6% 190,922 3.40% 9,544
2012 29.6% 68,927 69.3% 161,804 1.00% 4,433
2008 31.2% 69,287 67.8% 150,424 1.00% 2,033
2004 45.8% 90,493 53.8% 106,300 0.40% 789
2000 39.5% 69,801 59.1% 104,327 1.40% 2,505
1996 29.2% 44,959 65.8% 101,327 5.00% 7,605
1992 30.7% 49,798 56.6% 91,667 12.7% 20,523
1988 37.0% 56,479 62.5% 95,425 0.50% 671
1984 46.5% 68,602 53.2% 78,625 0.30% 435
1980 42.9% 51,233 54.9% 65,571 2.14% 2,559
1976 35.3% 37,853 64.0% 68,661 0.70% 772
1972 56.8% 48,442 42.7% 36,410 0.05% 390
1968 38.1% 28,831 55.1% 41,665 6.80% 5,147
1964 34.1% 23,002 65.7% 44,374 0.20% 169
1960 40.4% 25,465 59.0% 37,239 0.60% 360
1956 54.2% 27,425 44.7% 22,621 1.04% 525
1952 60.2% 32,185 39.6% 21,189 0.15% 79
1948 36.8% 11,764 60.8% 19,439 2.5% 786
1944 37.5% 10,211 56.6% 15,406 5.86% 1,595
1940 36.4% 9,065 63.4% 15,789 0.25% 63
1936 26.1% 5,818 71.7% 15,960 2.24% 498
1932 20.9% 5,045 78.0% 18,837 1.14% 275
1928 49.7% 8,368 50.1% 8,897 0.16% 27
1924 24.6% 2,395 71.3% 6,950 4.17% 407
1920 38.0% 2,115 60.9% 3,382 1.06% 59
1916 19.5% 805 78.8% 3,250 1.67% 69
1912 9.17% 445 85.0% 4,125 5.83% 283

The 2018 US Senate Democratic candidate Beto O’rouke received 164,232 votes from the region in his failed bid to oust incumbent Republican US Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.

As of 2016, officeholders tend to be Democrat, this is in part because of its large Hispanic population. It is common for voters to be influenced by members of their own extended families and by prominent families in their towns, so politicians often try to make friends with family groups to increase their chances of getting elected.[citation needed] As of 2006, about 20,000 to 30,000 people in Cameron County habitually vote in primary elections, and Presidential elections have higher turnouts. Politiqueras, women hired to help elderly people vote, are crucial in South Texas elections. Cecilia Ballí of Texas Monthly wrote that voters expect to get favors from politicians they vote for, and if they do not get these favors they become resentful of politicians as a whole.[10]


Colleges and universities located in the Rio Grande Valley include:


Club Sport League Venue Capacity
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros Soccer USLC H-E-B Park 9,735
Rio Grande Valley Vipers Basketball NBA G League Bert Ogden Arena 9,000
RGV Barracudas FC Indoor Soccer MASL Payne Arena 6,800
UTRGV Basketball Men NCAA Division I Basketball WAC UTRGV Fieldhouse 2,500


Club Sport League
Rio Grande Valley Dorados Arena football af2 (2004–09)
Rio Grande Valley Bravos FC Soccer PDL (2008–010)
Rio Grande Valley Magic Arena football SIFL (2011)
LSFL (2012)
Rio Grande Valley Sol Arena football LSFL (2014)
XLIF (2015)
Hidalgo La Fiera Arena soccer MASL (2012–14)
Edinburg Roadrunners Baseball Texas–Louisiana League (2001)
Central Baseball League (2002–05)
United League Baseball (2006–10)
North American League (2011–12)
Rio Grande Valley Giants Baseball Texas League (1960–61)
Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings Baseball Texas–Louisiana League (1994–2001)
Central Baseball League (2002–03)
United League Baseball (2006–10)
North American League (2011–12)
Texas Thunder Baseball United League Baseball (2009–10)
North American League (2011–12)
United League Baseball (2013)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey CHL (2003–12)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey NAHL (2013–15)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey USA Central Hockey League (2018)


  • Cornerstone Regional Hospital, Edinburg, Texas
  • Edinburg Children's Hospital, Edinburg, Texas
  • Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg, Texas
  • Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Edinburg, Texas
  • Harlingen Medical Center, Harlingen, Texas
  • McAllen Heart Hospital, McAllen, Texas
  • McAllen Medical Center, McAllen, Texas
  • Rio Grande Regional Hospital, McAllen, Texas
  • Rio Grande State Hospital, Harlingen, Texas
  • Solara Hospital, Harlingen, Texas
  • VA Health Care Center at Harlingen. Harlingen, Texas
  • Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen, Texas
  • Valley Baptist Medical Center, Brownsville, Texas
  • Valley Regional Medical Center, Brownsville, Texas
  • Knapp Medical Center, Weslaco, Texas
  • Mission Regional Medical Center, Mission, Texas






  • BLST Blistering Listens and Strange Sounds, Thank You (Rock, Punk, Hip-Hop, Electronic, Experimental, Ambient, & more)
  • KBFM Wild 104 (Hip Hop/Top 40 - IHeart Media)
  • XEEW-FM Los 40 Principales 97.7 (Top 40 Spanish/English)
  • KBTQ 96.1 Exitos (Spanish Oldies)Univision
  • KCAS 91.5 FM (Christian, Teaching/Preaching/Music)
  • KESO Digital 92.7 (Internacional, Spanish Top 40)
  • KFRQ Q94.5 The Rock Station (Classic/Modern/Hard Rock)
  • KGBT 1530 La Tremenda (Univision)
  • KGBT-FM 98.5 FM (Regional Mexican) Univision
  • KHKZ Kiss FM 105.5 & 106.3 (Hot Adult Contemporary)
  • KIRT 1580 AM Radio Imagen (Variety, Spanish contemporary)
  • KIWW (Spanish)
  • KJAV 104.9 Jack FM
  • KKPS La Nueva 99.5 (Regional Mexican)
  • KJJF/KHID 88.9/88.1 NPR (Classical/Public Radio)
  • KNVO-FM Super Estrella (Super Star) 101.1
  • KQXX Kiss FM 105.5 & 106.3 (Hot Adult Contemporary, simulcast of KHKZ - IHeart Media)
  • KTEX 100.3 (Mainstream Country - IHeart Media)
  • KURV 710 AM Heritage Talk Radio (part of the BMP family of stations)
  • KVLY 107.9 Mix FM (Top 40)
  • KVMV 96.9 FM (Christian, Contemporary Music) World Radio Network
  • KVNS 1700AM (Fox Sports Radio - IHeart Media)
  • XHRYA-FM 90.9 Mas Music (Spanish/English Mix)
  • KBUC Super Tejano102.1 (Tejano)

Notable people[edit]

A list of notable people who were born, lived, or died in the Rio Grande Valley includes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Experts: Hidalgo County population will approach 1 million by 2020". From KGBT4 January 4th, 2017. Retrieved on November 16th, 2017
  2. ^ Hidalgo, Margarita (1995). Language and ethnicity in the "taboo" region: the U.S.-Mexico border. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 0165-2516,01652516. Germany, Republic of, Germany, Republic of: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. pp. 29–45.
  3. ^ Texas State Historical Association — Lower Rio Grande Valley
  4. ^ Winter Texan Resources for South Padre Island, Brownsville, Harlingen, and the Rio Grande Valley
  5. ^ 2012 Census Estimates Archived 2014-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley Fact Sheet
  7. ^ Population Estimates for Rio Grande Valley Cities 2000-2004
  8. ^ National Park Service: Rancho de Carricitos
  9. ^ Rootstock and Scion Varieties by Julian W. Sauls, Professor & Extension Horticulturist, Texas AgriLife Extension
  10. ^ Ballí, Cecilia. "The Bad Guy With the Badge" (Archive). Texas Monthly. August 2006. Retrieved on May 25, 2016.
  11. ^ RAHC Vision Statement

External links[edit]