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Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site

Operated by the City of Port Isabel
421 East Queen Isabella Blvd
Port Isabel TX 78578
Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce
Port Isabel, the southern tip of Texas

Port Isabel Lighthouse

History: Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site consists of .9 acre in Port Isabel, Cameron County. The park was acquired by purchase from private owners, Lon C. Hill and the Port Isabel Realty Company, in 1950 and was opened to the public in 1952. In September 1996, a $320,000 Visitors Center was completed and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department turned over the daily operation of Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historical Park to the City of Port Isabel, according to a 1993 agreement. While the operation and daily maintenance of the lighthouse and Visitors Center transfers to the city, Texas Parks and Wildlife retains ownership of the state park and will be responsible for any major repairs.

In the 1800s, the low-lying Texas coast made charting a seagoing course extremely difficult, and a number of captains requested that something be done. The Port Isabel Lighthouse was constructed in 1852, near sites of Civil War Battle of Palmito Ranch (1865) and Mexican War Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.

The old Texas lighthouses declined in importance over the years. Newer towers with more powerful fixtures were built at the turn of the century, and the Depression years meant that less money was available for keeping the lighthouses lit. The emergence of railroads provided a direct link between Corpus Christi and the interior of Mexico, and this meant less commercial shipping. As a result, the Port Isabel light was extinguished in 1905. The lighthouse fell into neglect until the Texas State Parks Board provided funds for restoration in 1947. Dedicated as a state park in 1952, the historic landmark has become a popular tourist attraction.

The restoration of the 72 foot lighthouse was completed in 2000. The lighthouse was returned to the appearance it had following its last major operational renovation in 1880. The restoration project involved extensive metal casting and fabrication, masonry and structural repairs, new coatings and site development.
 Port Isabel Historic Building
The Center: The center is a replica of the original lighthouse keeper's cottage and surrounding decorative fence. It is staffed by the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce, whose offices are located here. The building also includes restrooms and maintenance facilities and houses an interpretive exhibit highlighting the history of the lighthouse and the old Fort Polk site it occupies.

Activities: Of the 16 lighthouses originally constructed along the Texas coast, Port Isabel is the only one open to the public. With a perch 50 feet above the ground, it is always popular with photographers and other visitors, because they can enjoy great views of South Padre Island and the beaches. In fact, a number of couples have climbed the 75 winding stairs, including 3 short ladders, to exchange wedding vows on top of the tower.

Facilities: The grassy knoll where the lighthouse sits is ideal for strolling and relaxing, and the facilities are for historical study and scenic viewing. Picnic tables are also available.

Directions: The park is located on the Lower Laguna Madre in the City of Port Isabel, approximately 26 miles east of US Highway 77/83 on State Highway 100. The Lighthouse is 72 feet high, so you can't miss it.

Elevation, Weather, and Schedule Information: Elevation: 15. Weather: Average annual rainfall 25.4; average January minimum 51; average July maximum 93. Open: Summer hours are 10am to 6pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am-8pm Friday and Saturday. Winter Hours are 9am-5pm 7-days a week. ( last tour tickets sold 1 hour prior to closing. )

Admission: Tours are given 7-days a week. Single Ticket: Adults $3, Seniors (55 and over) $2, Students $1 (5 years old to college) Combination Ticket: Admission to the Lighthouse, the Port Isabel Historical Museum, and the Treasures of the Gulf. Adults $7, Seniors (55 and over) $5, Students $2 (5 years old to college)

Area Attractions: For information on the Port Isabel Historical Museum and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum go to Resort facilities are available across the Queen Isabella Causeway at South Padre Island. The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and the Cities of Brownsville, and Matamoros, Mexico, are some other nearby attractions.

For more information about the park operation, contact the park. For information on other state parks, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

Contact the Port Isabel Chamber at

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