The Rio Grande Valley's Nature Site

Photos of Anzalduas County Park

Home | Contact Us | Jan's Nature Photos
All photos on this site are by Jan Dauphin and are copyright protected and may not be used or published elsewhere without the permission of Jan Dauphin

Return to Photos of Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Watching Sites


Anzalduas County Park is probably one of the most well-known county parks in the U.S.  The 96 acre, Hidalgo County Precinct-3 park was opened in 1951, and sits on the Rio Grande River.

Anzaduas Park is located on the southern bend of the Rio Grande River, right after the River makes a sharp bend to the east and back to the west. 

About half of Anzalduas Co. Park is above Anzalduas Dam and half is below the Dam.  The east .and west sides of Anzalduas Park are bordered by Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge tracts.  Just below Anzalduas Co. Park is the new Anzalduas International Bridge, which will connect the west side of McAllen to the west side of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, MX.  The Bridge will be a non-commercial traffic bridge.

Easy to get to, take the US-83 Expressway to the east side of Mission and take the Shary Rd. (FM-494) exit to the south. Continue south on Shary Rd (FM-494) across FM-1016 (Military Highway) to the community of Granjeno.  At Granjeno, FM-494 will bend to the west.  Continue west on FM-494, through Granjeno and beneath the International Bridge, and the entrance to Anzalduas Co. Park will be immediately on your left.

From the west side of Mission, take the US-83 Expressway to Conway St./FM-1016 exit.  Go south on Conway St./FM-1016(Military Highway) for 2.8 miles to FM-494.  Turn right at the caution light onto FM-494 and drive 1.2 miles to Anzalduas Co. Park Road on your right.

One of our favorite wildlife watching locations, Anzalduas Co. Park is just 5 miles south of our Mission home, and we are here, often. 


If coming from the east, begin birding as soon as you cross FM-1016 onto FM-494.  The Granjeno Cemetery, just east of the Bridge is good for Neotropical migrants in Spring and Fall, and is an often over-looked birding site.  All the farm fields and open-sky areas along FM-494, no matter which direction you use to come to Anzalduas Co. Park, should be checked for raptors.

Be sure to check the field to the right, after you turn towards Anzalduas Co. Park, for raptors. 

When you near the flood control Levee, be extremely careful as you drive up onto the Levee and make the sharp turn to the right, and then sharply to the left as you go below the Levee.

NOTE:  The Park is gated at the Levee and is not open until 8:00am!


The Levee you just crossed borders the Rio Grande River for miles along the entire southern boundary of Hidalgo Co.  The entire Levee has recently been raised from 4-8 ft. higher than the old levee.  The vast, area that starts at this location, is designed to divert flood waters from the Rio Grande River all the way to Port Mansfield at the Laguna Madre.

You will notice that the Border Wall starts at the Levee at this location and continues in sections, towards the southeast,  for well past Brownsville.  Huge gaps in the Border Wall are designed to funnel illicit drug traffic and illegal alien traffic between the gaps.  Sentiments regarding the Border Wall are mixed but extreme.  Some abhor it, some laud its construction.  There are no in-between feelings concerning the Border Wall.

You will probably notice more U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security presence at Anzalduas Co. Park than any other wildlife watching area in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.   By law, these guys can stop you, question you, and search your vehicle at any time.  Border Patrol agents are very professional and very friendly; and they are doing really difficult jobs.  If they stop you, just be polite.  If you need help, directions or even water, wave down a Border Patrolman and they will always be helpful.  We have found that many are birders and are aware of the birds in their area.

As you come down the Levee, Rock Wrens can sometimes be seen in the rocks on your left.


This photo was taken on 7/10/10.  On 6/30/10, Hurricane Alex moved northwest into Mexico, just below Brownsville.  We had a little over 9" of rain at our Mission yard; however, Alex continued northwest into Mexico and towards Monterrey and dumped 20+ inches of rain in the mountains of that area.  All this rain flows towards two huge reservoirs/lakes in southeastern Mexico, and they drain into the Rio Grande River above Laredo and just below Rio Grande City.  In order to protect its dams, Mexico had to open the flood gates on their dams.  This caused tremendous flooding in Laredo, which is just above Falcon Dam near Roma.  Falcon Dam had to release huge amounts of water into the Rio Grande, inorder to accomodate all the water flowing down into it.  The Rio Grande River flood stage is 50 feet at Rio Grande City.  On 7/10/10, the River went above 55 ft. at Rio Grande City.

The flood channel (which you cross, when entering Anzalduas Co. Park) that protects all cities in the LRGV from Mission to beyond Mercedes is bordered by two high levees.  The flood channel starts just above the dam at Anzalduas Park, continues east to just south of Estero Llano Grande SP-WBC and on towards Mercedes, where it turns north and goes under the Expressway-83 and on east towards Port Mansfield.

Just a couple of days ago, the flood channel was used for the first time in 22 years (when Hurricane Gilbert dumped so much rain in the mountains of Mexico; remember the mountains are only 50 miles west of Rio Grande City).  Compare this photo with the one above.


Across the wide flood plain, you can see the big bend in the Rio Grande River and Mexico.


Drive slowly towards the Park and to the west, on the always mowed flood plain, watch for hawks, meadowlarks, sparrows and shorebirds. 


Compare this photo (taken on 7/10/10) with the one above.  Notice the check station in the center of the picture.  This is what the flood channel looks like for many miles as water is diverted from the Rio Grande River towards Port Mansfield.


This is a Pre-flood map of the Rio Grande River, as it makes a sharp bend around Mexico's Park.  The River then flows west, in front of the north side of Anzalduas Park, before the River bends to the south towards Anzalduas Dam.

The dark notch about midway on the north side of Anzalduas Park at the River is Anzalduas' Boat Ramp.  Anzalduas Park's Boat Ramp is directly opposite the Mexican Park's boat ramp.  The map is (c)Google Maps.


This is a Post-flood map of the Rio Grande River as it flows, today.  About 3/4 of the Mexican Park has been washed away (unfortunately, Mexico had almost completed new renovation of its Park, just before the July, 2010 flood).  The River channel is now flowing behind what was the Mexican Park's boat ramp (the two dots in the River, opposite Anzalduas Park's boat ramp...again, the dark notch that is midway on the north side of Anzalduas Park).

What was the eastern extention of the Mexican Park is now an island on the U.S. side of the River channel (ignore the dark line marked "Rio Grande").

Anzalduas Park lost no land to the River, due to the flooding.  However, the Park was closed for an entire year due to sand deposits it the Park.  It has taken several hundred dump truck loads to remove the many, many thousands of tons of sand from Anzalduas Park.  The above-dam side of the Park was a massive sandpile (ALL roads were covered 5-6 feet deep with some areas having sand piled even deeper).  Hidalgo County did a fantastic job of getting the sand out of the Park, without losing any of the large trees.  New restrooms are in place with all new features.  The below-dam side of the Park, which is protected from the River by start of the Floodway Levee, was not affected by the flood.  Map is (c)Bing Maps.


As you drive to the entrance, look to your left, also, into the water-filled ditch for shorebirds, waders, Least and Pied-billed Grebes, and ducks.


At the Park's entrance, you must stop at the stop sign, then continue on south.  On weekends there is a $2.00/person entrance fee.  Most holidays are crowded with picnics and parties.  In the LRGV, Easter Sunday is more celebrated than Christmas, and wildlife watchers might as well avoid the Park, as it will be filled with up to 15,000 people (in 2009), very crowded and very noisy throughout the Park.  Pull off the road after you enter and search the trees for birds.  When the heavily perfumed Comas - Bumelia celastrina and the rough-leaved Anacuas - Ehretia anacua are in bloom, they will be active with butterflies. 


Just a couple of hundred yards west of the Park's entrance, you will come to a four-way stop sign.  The trees in the southeast corner and the northwest corner can be an excellent place to start birding.  However, we are going to turn right (north) and drive to the River and park, in order to walk along the River, towards the east in search of birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.


When the road makes a sharp bend to the left, and you can see the Fishing Deck, pull off to the right and park.  Both sides of the road are excellent for birds in the shady trees.  Butterflies will be found flying around and on the ground.  Go to your right, down the slight incline and walk along the River bank.


As you walk to the east towards the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR tract you see in the distance, search for dragonflies along the water's edge.  Check the field for birds.  Don't forget to look overhead (as a matter of fact, it is always wise to keep your eyes on the skies at Anazaduas for raptors).

The River's edge, all the way to the east, can be excellent for dragonflies, particularly Needham's and Carmine Skimmers.

As in anywhere in the LRGV, watch for rattlesnakes.


There are three little coves along the walk.  Search these for dragonflies, Least Grebes, waders and ducks, also.


Since the River winds, at the little middle cove, you are facing west and looking down-river.  You can see the Park's Fishing Deck on your left, and the Mexican park on your right (However, the land you see on the Mexican side of the River no longer exists.)


At the last little cove, you are facing north, looking up-river.  Search this open area for dragonflies and birds, then continue east and go up the slight rise to the the LRGV-NWR tract.  (note, the Mexican Park land shown in the photo is no longer there; only a very tiny part is now an island on the U.S. side).


When you climb up onto the rise, with the FWS tract on your right, you get a fantastic view of the River and the flood-plain field.  Search all this for birds.  At this location is a huge Black Vulture roost; it is  tons of fun to see the lift-offs in the early morning, from this spot.


You can walk the rise to the north for several hundred yards.  Search the trees and shrubs for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.  Early morning is the best time to be at this location.  Watch the River for ducks, grebes and all three N.A. kingfishers.


When you get back towards your car, bird the woods south of the River, then go park across the street from the Fishing Deck.


The huge Fishing Deck gives you well over 1/2 mile of River view.  It is virtually impossible to fail to see Ringed and Green Kingfishers from this location.


Your view up-river and to the east, towards the FWS tract you just hiked from.


Your Pre-flood view, from the Fishing Deck, to the north towards the Mexican Park.  Note the two concrete structures by the Mexican boat ramp and the largest tree; all seen at the far left of the photo.


Your current view across the River and to the north, facing the Mexican park.  The two concrete remnants and the large tree stump were at the Mexican boat ramp.  Note how much of the Mexican Park is now missing.  Also, the River channel is now behind what was the Mexican boat ramp.


Your view down-river and to the west towards where the River will bend to the south and the Dam.


Opposite the Fishing Deck, the forest of trees will be beckoning you with their Green Jays, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets, Long-billed Thrashers, Black-crested Titmouse, Tropical Parulas, Clay-colored Thrushes and numerous other birds.


Pre-flood view from the Boat Ramp towards Mexico's boat ramp.


Immediately west of the Fishing Deck is the Boat Launch and another good view of the River.


You can drive and park, drive and park or you can walk along the River's edge, searching for birds and dragonflies.  Watch the River, into the trees and down the bank for birds and odonates.  Check the field on the other side of the road, as well as the guard-cable for birds and perched dragonflies.


Any one of the trees across the road can be hiding a raptor.  Remember to look overhead.


All along this route, keep checking the River for kingfishers and Black Phoebes.


Just before the road makes a sharp bend to the left, you come upon a large fenced-in area with black and yellow posts, yellow ground plugs and signs that say "U.S. Government Property-Do Not Molest" ("molestar" is Spanish for "to disturb" or "to bother").  Many folks have asked what this spot is all about.

When flowing water passes over metal (as at the Dam), it builds up a huge electrical charge.  Not only is this dangerous to workers, it vastly increases corrosion in metals.  This site takes the electrical charge off the Dam and sends it into the ground.


Because it is a public park and because of the possibility of rattlesnakes, Anzalduas Co. Park is well mown, everywhere.  Still, check the fields for pipits, shorebirds and other birds. Look in the tree tops for flycatchers and bluebirds.  Watch overhead for swallows and raptors, and check the guard-cable for perched dragonflies.


Throughout the length of the River bank's curve, from the Cathode Bank to the Dam, watch along the bank for ducks, phoebes, kingfishers and other birds.  Pay particular attention to dragonflies and damselflies.


As you near the Dam, step across the cable on your right and look immediately below the bank for Coral-fronted and Amelia's Threadtails and other damselflies.  This is often an excellent location for the threadtails.


Remember to look overhead.  Anzalduas Co. Park is excellent for Zone-tailed and Gray Hawks, as well as Hook-billed Kites.


This shady little corner, where the trees meet the Dam, is particularly good for passerines and for searching for damselflies.


Anzalduas International Dam. 

Jointly constructed by the U.S. and Mexico, through the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Anzalduas Diversion Dam on the Rio Grande west of Mission, Texas, was built to effect and control diversions of floodwaters from the river into the United States off-river floodways.   Its secondary purpose is to regulate irrigation waters flowing to the farms and ranches below the Dam.


If you want a quick walk to the below-side of the Dam, just after the road curves to the left and just before the "Speed Limit-10 miles per hour/Watch for Snakes" sign, look up onto the Levee and you can see a path that takes you up towards the yellow gate on the Dam entrance.  You can hike over the Levee at this point.


As the road continues towards the east and past the big field, look into the trees for Gray Hawks.  Park near the older restroom and walk towards the Pavilion (in the middle of the photo), searching the trees for passerines.


Bat houses are regularly spaced behind and to the side of the Pavilion, this one is behind the Restroom.


Search for birds in all the trees around the Pavilion.


Check the Lantana-filled planters around the Pavilion.  All areas under all the groves of trees at Anzalduas Co. Park should be searched for butterflies.  Malachites, White Peacocks, Hermes Satyrs and many other butterfly species can be found among the trees.


Just a few years ago, special blocks had to be placed among the Pavilion's ceiling lattice to discourage bats from roosting here, due to the mess they made, below.  Bat houses were installed, and are used, to replace their roosts.

The Pavilion ceiling is a great place to look for Black Witch Moths; often hundreds can be seen here.


As you continue down the road towards the stop sign and the road over the Levee to the below-Dam side of the Park, watch in the trees and cacti for birds.


Check the trees along the drive for birds.  Get out and walk among them and listen for the slight, soft call of the Tyrannulet, and the monotonous call of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.  Remember to watch for Gray Hawks, which nest here, also.


The old, fenced Equipment Dump Site is famous as a place to look for the Tyrannulet.  However, they can be found anywhere in the Park where mossy trees occur.  Be sure to remember to search for warblers and other passerines, especially the two Parula species, which nest in the Spanish Moss.  When the trees are dense, Clay-colored Thrush nests can be found, also.


During migration, this area can be fantastic for warblers and other birds.


Continue east and park at the 2nd, and newly renovated restroom across from the stop sign.  Opposite the trees where you parked by the restroom, search the field back towards the Park's entrance for birds.  If you can smell the Comas, go check them for butterflies. 

Remember as you drive down the road to check the guard-cable for dragonflies.  Numerous clubtail species have been found on the cables.


When you have parked near the restroom ( a newer restroom is up near the Pavilion), get out and bird among the trees, all the way back towards the Equipment Dump Site.


Before crossing over the Levee to go below the Dam, go across the street and walk or drive down between the dumpsters and the Levee, towards the east, searching the trees for birds and butterflies and the field on your left for birds.  Look overhead.


Be very careful as you go over the Levee to the below-Dam side.  the Levee was raised in 2009 and is very steep.  Cars can be coming towards you as you are going over.


Having gone over the Levee, the road heads west, towards the River.  Drive this road VERY slowly (there is a 10mph speed limit throughout the Park), searching both sides of the road for birds and butterflies.  Pull off occaisonally and get out and walk, particularly if bordering trees and shrubs are in bloom.  You can find many species of butterflies, here.

Just a short while ago, while driving down this road, a Ruddy Ground-Dove gave us great looks, here.


On the left, the road is bordered by a Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR tract.  Every several yards down the entire length of the road are larger posts with USFWS signs on them. 

We often bring a half pint of butterfly bait (see our webpages "Butterflies and Lepidoptera Links" page for the recipe) and place a dab of the brew on the top of the signed posts (so we remember where we put the bait) and the cross braces, after clearing some of the grass away from the posts.  

We wait 10-20 minutes and work the posts for a while and often find Gray and Guatemalan Crackers, Red Rims, Mexican Bluewings, Pavon  and Silver Emperors, Blomfild's Beauties and other butterflies being lured to the bait.


Work the Park's side of the road for birds and butterflies, also.  We have seen and photographed Bobcats resting in the shade, under the trees.


Before you get to the end of the road, the road will come onto a one-way turn to your right (north), check the trees and guard-cable for swallows, flycatchers, bluebirds and others.  Again, remember to watch for the many dragonfly species that will often be perched on the guard-cables.  This open area can be a fantastic place to watch for raptors.


Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers are often seen on the side, along with Eastern Bluebirds.


This vast open area is perhaps the better area in the Park to watch for raptors.


Note the yellow gate on the Levee/Dam Entrance Rd.  Remember the path on the above-Dam side near the "10 mph-Watch for Snakes" sign?  This is where you can walk either way over the Levee to each side of the Dam.


The Dam is almost 80 ft. high.  Numerous waders, ducks, divers and pelicans can be found here, below the Dam.  Several species of swallows will be working the area.


Walk the entire bank above the River, checking the River for birds and looking overhead, also.


Continue working the River and  looking overhead for birds.  Here above the River, walking is easy, but watch for snakes.  Because of the cane, thorny shrubs and slippery banks, it is very treacherous trying to get down below to the River's edge.  The River is very swift at this point.  Fishermen do go down and fish among the rocks, immediately at the base of the Dam.


Ducks, shorebirds, waders, divers and raptors can be seen all along this walk.


Your walk above the River will end at the LRGV-NWR tract.  However, in the upper left portion of the photo, note the road that enters the FWS tract. 


The road through the FWS tract borders the River.  It is 1-1/4 mile long and goes from Anzalduas Co. Park to the International Bridge.  The narrow, loose sandy road is in constant use by the U.S. Border Patrol, so do NOT take your vehicle down the road.  If you take the chance and drive down the road and DO meet a Border Patrol truck, the loose sand and close vegetation will prevent you from pulling to the side.  They will ask YOU to back all the way out, not an easy task on this narrow road.   

The loose, sandy road makes for easy walking, but walk in the middle of the road on the hard, packed sand to avoid getting tired and to avoid walking close to the edge of the road, because of snakes, chiggers and thorny vegetation.

Be sure to take plenty of water with you, wear hats and watch for snakes.


The road can be fantastic for birds, dragonflies, butterflies and mammals.  It is fun to watch the road for animal tracks.  This is a good place to see Texas Indigo Snakes as well as rattlesnakes.  We have seen Bobcat, Coyote, Nine-banded Armadillos, Red Fox, Striped Skunk, Oppossum and Desert Tortoises while walking the road.

Just ahead is the only turn-around on the road.  The turn-around takes you to the Overhead Cable-car Tower.


The Overhead Cable-car is used for testing water quality in the middle of the River.  Boulders have recently been placed here to prevent drug trafficers from driving their vehicles into the River, which they have often done during drug chases, trying to escape the authorities.

This site is only about a hundred yards from where you started on the road, but since it provides a good view of the sky, pause a bit to look for raptors.

About half-way between the start of the road and this site, you can see 3, tall, triangular-spaced poles with owl boxes on them, off to your left in the shady trees.  These are Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl nest boxes and are regularly monitored.  Please do not enter this area and disturb the nest boxes.


If you want another good view of the River, step over the boulders (watch for snakes) and head on down.


The great diversity of vegetation along the road means a great variety of wildlife.  Take it slowly, look and listen.


Stay on the road, as you will not find any side trails.  Vegetation is very thorny.  Remember to look for dragonflies and butterflies.


If you have made it this far, the International Bridge is just around the bend in the road.  You have another 1 1/4 mile walk back to Anzalduas Park.

Anzalduas County Park is large, diverse, and difficult to completely cover in one day.  Any visit, no matter for how long, however, is very much worth the effort.