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If you've birded the Rio Grande Valley chances are you've spent a least one day at Boca Chica Beach east of Brownsville on Hwy. 4, past the Border Patrol checkpoint and onto the beach where it's possible (but not at high tide) to drive north to the Brownsville Ship Channel cut just below South Padre Island, or venture south to the Mexican border.  Along the way you may see Gull-billed or Sandwich Terns, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones and maybe Snowy Plovers, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts, a good sampling of gulls, perhaps even a gannet.  The bleak, surf-scarred beach has much to draw birders as well as surf fishermen and shark tooth hunters.

This same beach saw men of the army of Zachary Taylor wade ashore on their journey to attack and attach Mexico in 1846.  The Union participants of the last battle of the Civil War (including the men who later founded Lincoln University) came ashore here on their way to Palmetto Hill to fight even though both sides knew the Confederates had already surrendered at Appomattox.

The beach has witnessed many frailties and follies of men.  Skeletal hulks of ships show at low tide.  It has seen the construction and destruction of a bustling port and railroad, and borne the brunt of hurricanes that wiped ill-sited homes off the sands. It suffered the effects of the digging of the ship channel, a  levee-girded gash that destroyed the ebb and flow of Laguna Madre, one of the greatest salt marshes on earth. 

Man is a creative and ambitious creature.  The beach is witnessing yet another assault, this time from its landward side.  Not much fazed by the damage our interspecies conflicts or bold economic enrichment schemes have inflicted on the life-sustaining natural systems of Earth, we have set our sights on...MARS to explore and exploit. 

To that end, SpaceX has constructed launchpads and accompanying structures and systems within spitting (and debris fall) distance of the beach.  Last Friday there was a large explosion during a rocket test.  See the link below for additional information and expressed concerns of local citizenry about the beach wildlife.


Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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