Drive into the old downtown area of Roma, Starr Co., TX on
US-83, turn south at the sign for the World Birding Center, and you will come right up to the Roma Bluffs-WBC Observation
Deck which overlooks the Rio Grande River. Entrances to the Observation Deck are on each side of the Roma Chamber of
Roma sits halfway between Laredo and Brownsville. It is
one of Texas' oldest cities, founded in 1765. Roma is all about the Rio Grande River. From the 1850's until
1907, steamships traveled up and down the River bringing goods to and from Brownville.
Directly across the Rio Grande River is Miguel Alemon,
Tamaulipas, Mexico; in front of you is a large Miguel Alemon park.
Look to the left (east) and you face the International Bridge
between Roma and its sister city, Miguel Alemon, in Mexico.
To your right (west) is a long view of the River with an island in
the middle of the River. In the fall and winter, you can sign-up at Roma Bluffs-WBC for canoe rides on the Rio Grande
River. The canoes launch at Chapeno and travel down to Salineno, just a few miles away.
A closer view of the island to your left (west). Bring
your scopes to the Observation Deck, because this is one of the best places to see Red-billed Pigeons on the Island.
Gray Hawks, Muskovy Ducks, and both Ringed and Green Kingfishers are often seen from the Deck.
Just about 50 yards east of the Observation Deck is the main Plaza
of Roma and the parking area for the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center. At the north end of the parking lot and Plaza
is Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church, built in 1853.
At the north end of the Plaza as you face south is the Roma
Bluffs-WBC on the corner (behind the white cars). All four sides of the Plaza have been planted for butterflies.
The Roma Bluffs-WBC building is a National Historic Landmark.
South across the street is the Roma City Hall. The World Birding Center sits in the middle of a 9-square block area
that has been designated a National Historic Landmark District and contains over 30 structures built before 1900. They have
been preserved and many are in the process of being reverbished.
The entrance into the WBC gift shop/offices/interpretive rooms is
under the awning on the south end of the building. Inside the cedar fence at the north end of the building are restooms,
a small amphitheater, picnic tables, and lots of plantings for birds and butterflies.
The shaded picnic tables are a great place to sit and watch Audubon's
and Hooded Orioles, Lesser Goldfinches, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and other Lower Rio Grande Valley specialty birds.
Several bird and hummingbird feeders are hanging throughout this area, and there are lots of plantings for butterflies.
The amphitheater is used for talks and programs, and it is a cool
place to watch for LRGV specialty birds and butterflies.
Numerous plantings for butterflies and birds are in the back area
behind the fence. Feel free to come through the gate, and sit in the shade to watch the birds or to search for butterfly
species that can be found nowhere else in the US.
When you enter the WBC headquarter, you come to a well-stocked gift
shop. The center is by design quite rustic inside, preserving the history of this very old and important building.
Two rooms are filled with antique tool displays, wildlife art,
and interpretive materials.
Just outside the front door of the WBC and slightly to your left,
is "Rosita's Cantina", considered an architectural masterpiece.
Around the corner from Rosita's Cantina and back towards
the Observation Deck sits the Vale/Noah House, built in 1853. A mercantile store was downstairs and living quarters
were upstairs. Some of the stone walls that surrounded the property can still be seen. In the background stands
the old water tower that is right beside the WBC Observation Deck.
The steps from the Bluffs and down to the river are just below the
Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail sign. Note the Border Patrol's light tower and generator. These powerful lights
come on at night to illuminate the area below the bluffs.
You can reach the Rio Grande River by going down from the Bluffs
using the steep steps. Or if steps are not your "cup of tea", you can walk to the River by going two blocks
east from the north end of the Plaza and turning down the gravel road at the base of the International Bridge, then west along
the up-river trail towards the steps.
The concrete steps take you to the River through an old picnic
area. Go slowly, watching and listening for birds. Birding is usually always good, but great in winter and spring
Huge boulders can be seen as you traverse below the Bluffs.
Note there is only one handrail on the sometimes steep concrete steps
that lead from the top of the Bluffs to the River. Stay on the paths to avoid ticks and chiggers.
Once you reach the road that parallels the Rio Grande River, go slowly
and you can see Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Black Phoebes, and numerous other birds. This is a favorite walk for dragonfly,
damselfly and butterfly enthusiasts, also.
It is usually a very pleasant and very quiet walk as you go east
toward the International Bridge.
Move slowly and check out all the trees. Several huge Red Mulberry
trees can be found along the River bank. In spring, they are often filled with Orioles, Tanagers, and Grosbeaks.
There is not a lot of shaded area in the Upper Valley, and the shady
walk by the Rio Grande River can produce lots of birds.
Again, watch the Rio Grande River carefully for ducks on the
water and kingfishers perched or working the River. Don't forget to look overhead for raptors. It is always a
treat if you can catch a look at a Red-billed Pigeon or Muscovy Duck flying by.
When you reach the International Bridge, look for the various
species of swallows that, in season, will be nesting underneath. At this point, you can take the road uphill, turn left,
and take the short walk down the street, back to the parking area of the WBC.
Normally, there is a Border Patrol vehicle parked in the shade under
the bridge. Join him in the shade and scan the Mexico side of the River.
The path bordering the River stops at this point. The old,
no-longer-in-use, suspension bridge on the left was inaugerated in 1928 and was used until 1979. This was the last of
4 such bridges that spanned the Rio Grande River in this region.