Falcon State Park in Starr
County is easy to get to. Take US-83 for a few miles west of Roma to just past Salineño
and turn south on FM-2098. Drive 3.0 miles to Park Road-46 and continue straight into the Park.
Located on the south end of Falcon International
Reservoir, this 572 acre park is a great wildlife watching site, offering unique species of birds, butterflies, dragonflies
and herpetofauna that are special to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. 144 acres of the park are developed with the remainder
left in rich Tamaulipan thorn-scrub habitat.
Headquarters Building is very small and is totally office space and business counter. It does have very clean restrooms,
and drink vending machines. The staff is eager to help you out. Wi-fi is available inside, if you are willing
to sit on the floor or bring your own stool or chair. After hours, you can sit on the covered porch and pick up the
Shortly after entering
the Park, you reach the Park Headquarters, where you must sign-in and pay a nominal entrance fee. When you leave the
Headquarters you will take the short drive to the Recreation Hall and Falcon's reknown
Located just a few hundred yards downhill from the Park Headquarters,
the Recreation Hall faces the Butterfly Garden. Inside is a small gift shop, restrooms, tables for all kinds of games
and puzzles and comfortable reading chairs along with a small library. The snack bar offers the usual in cold drinks,
water, and light snacks. However, in the past it also provided great hamburgers, barbeque sandwiches, and chile; let's
hope it continues to do so.
Outside, there is a basketball goal at the parking lot, a horseshoe-toss
pit, several shaded picnic tables and large barbeque pits. In winter, you can often easily get yourself invited to a
fish fry. There is plenty of parking available, both for the Recreation Hall users and the Butterfly Park. This
is truly a social gathering place and is well used in peak season.
Falcon State Park has one of the most productive butterfly gardens
in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Butterfly Garden is located directly in front of the Recreation Hall. Because
of its close proximity to Mexico (just very few miles away), diverse native plants that the butterflies use, and the
care that the Park staff and volunteers put into keeping the garden in shape, Falcon's Butterfly Garden attracts numerous
species of butterflies, many quite rare to the U.S.
to show what one person can do: Falcon's Butterfly Garden was conceived by Park Staff. Frances Bartle dreamed
the dream, worked with Park Staff, sought donations, selected the plants, grubbed plants from within the Park, watered,
trimmed, watered, trimmed, placed the signage, and babied this wonderful place through its first years. Texas Parks
and Wildlife Dept. owes her a great deal of gratitude for increasing awareness and attendance at Falcon State Park.
Butterfly enthusiasts owe her much more. Thanks, Fran!
Average rainfall for Falcon
State Park is about 19"/year. To have blooms, the Butterfly Garden must be constantly watered. If you water-it
will grow, along with unwanted grasses and non-butterfly productive plants. Trimming and maintenance can take up a lot
of time, but the efforts have been very worthwhile for the butterflies and the butterfly enthusiasts.
Visitors to the Butterfly
Garden are often surprised at the huge diversity of native plants that are found in a relatively small space. Also,
although small, Falcon's Butterfly Garden is one of the largest designated butterfly gardens in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
The majority of the plants
found within the Butterfly Garden are also found within the Park. In fact many were transplanted from within the Park.
The watering and plant upkeep keep the Butterfly Garden in bloom throughout the year, rather than seasonally, as occurs in
the Park due to the Park's low rainfall.
The well-designed Butterfly
Garden has numerous connecting paths which separate the flower beds, allowing the wildlife watcher and the butterfly photographer
to get close to the butterflies.
Trees, mostly Texas Ebony and Mexican Olive, are sparse in the Butterfly
Garden so as to not shade out the plants. However, several butterfly species prefer the trees (even when not in bloom)
and their shade. Look for Malachites, various Emperors and Angled-Sulphurs in the trees. Also, horizontal log
feeders are hung from some of the trees to attract, with butterfly bait, those butterfly species that are not normally found
Birders should check the Butterfly Garden for Orioles and other species
that come for the seeds, shade, water and nectar. There is almost always a too tame Greater Roadrunner that thinks he
lives in a banquet of butterflies. Lizards are here for the insects. Many species of dragonflies come to feast
on the abundance and perch; this is one of the best places in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to get excellent looks at Tawny
Pennants. And just for you, Mike: the Butterfly Garden is a wonderful place to locate many species of beetles and other
The Butterfly Garden has
interpretive signage, and most of the plant species are identified with signs.
Although there are several
shaded picnic tables at the very close Recreation Hall, if you do not want to leave the Butterfly Garden to cool off or rest,
three or four shaded bench stands are spaced throughout the Butterfly Garden. The unique design of some of these allows
you to sit up high, if you want, to watch the butterflies from a higher level.
Across from the Recreation
Hall's west lawn and just inside the scrub is an Observation Blind that birders and photographers should check out.
Water and food are provided to attract the birds. The unique
covering on the Observation Blind allows the birder and photographer to stay cool while waiting for their subjects.
Beginning on the east
side of the Recreation Hall and the Butterfly Garden, the road goes south to a peninsula that points toward Falcon Dam (seen
in the distance on the upper right of the photo), just a few miles across the Lake. On the east side of the peninsula
are 12 Air-conditioned Shelters and on the west side are twelve Screened Shelters.
All Shelters are clean,
comfortable, somewhat shaded where possible, and costs are moderate. You do have to remember to bring your own
linens, utensils, etc.
Covered Picnic Tables are
abundant along the west shore of the southern peninsula, between the Recreation Hall and the Boat Ramp area, and in the Tent
Camping area on the west end of the Park.
Looking northwest from
the the southern peninsula's Covered Picnic Tables, across the Lake towards the Boat Ramp area.
The only negative one can say about Falcon Park.
Just beside the Boat Ramp is this well-designed, well-built, handicap-accessible,
poorly located, excellent, raised, and mostly useless Observation Blind, where one can hide unobserved while photographing
boats being launched or fish being cleaned, as you smell the odor of rotting fish from the closely located dumpster.
Falcon State Park provides three, excellent, easy-to launch
from, and often extremely busy Boat Ramps. This is the closest Boat Ramp for those coming from the east side of
Falcon Reservoir. Otherwise, east-siders would have to drive an additional 40 miles to the nearest ramps at Zapata.
This is only one-fourth of the huge, paved, marked parking lot for
vehicles with boat trailers. In the upper left of the photo, note the Boat Ramp restrooms with the screened Fish-cleaning
Station, Dumpster, and the Observation Blind ramp that is right beside all three.
Falcon State Park
is located at the southern end of the 60 mile long, 87,000 surface acre Falcon International Reservoir (Falcon Lake to most).
Lake is divided down the middle by the U.S./Mexico Border. Falcon Dam was dedicated in 1953 by Mexican President Adolfo
Ruiz Cortines and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to create a reservoir for conservation, irrigation, power, recreation,
and flood control. Falcon State Park was opened to the public
Falcon Lake is known throughout the world
as one of the best fishing lakes available. Largemouth Bass and Channel Catfish are the most sought after species.
Remember that this is an International Reservoir. If you fish on the Mexico side of Falcon Lake you need a Mexico Fishing
License, which is easily obtained at a few marinas in Zapata (or see: www(dot)conapescasandiego(dot)org). Access
to the Lake from many shorelines within the Park make wade-fishing easy and fun.
Falcon State Park is used primarily by anglers.
Northwest of the Recreation Hall are 30 Full Hookup Trailer
Pads (the Dump Station is back by the Headquarters, directly across the street) and 30 Tent-camping Sites with water and electricity.
Clean Restrooms with Showers are available at 4 locations:
Tent-camping Site, Full Hookup Trailer Pad Site, Tent-camping with water and electricity Site, and on the Shelters Site at
the southern peninsula.
Other restrooms are at
the Park Headquarters and Recreation Hall. A Self-composting Toilet is at the Boat Ramp.
Falcon State Park offers 3.1 miles of Hiking Trails which form
an oval loop that starts at the Park Headquarters and returns there. There are eleven places to enter the overall Hiking
Trail Loop. Each of these are fairly close to drinking water sources, but no matter how short the trail be sure you
take plenty of water with you.
Whitebrush Trail starts
on the north side of the Park Headquarters and goes northwest to Woodland Trail which starts across the street from the east
entrance to the Trailer Pad/Tent-camping with electrical site.
Woodland Trail continues northwest then south to the west entrance to the Trailer Pad Site where Desert
Trail begins and continues southeast to the Boat Ramp.
Trail begins at the end of Desert Trail and the Boat Ramp, heads northeast for a short ways to the Picnic Area that is
just to the northwest of the Recreation Hall and then continues southeast to the southern peninsula road.
Roadrunner Trail begins at the end of Verdin Trail at the southern peninsula
road and goes northeast back to the Park Headquarters.
good paths, each of the 5 Trails is ~0.6 miles long. Each is generally without shade and thorny. Each is fun and
interesting. However, again be sure you take plenty of water with you and be sure you watch out for the many rattlesnakes
that are found along the Trails.
Overall, Falcon State Park is typical Tamaulipan thorn-scrub
habitat. With its only 19" average annual rainfall, the Park's habitat is arid, semi-tropical desert. March
is the driest month of the year; September is the wettest. In summer it is extremely hot, normally 110F or above.
At first glance to
many, the Park's habitat may seem monotonous. However, a close look will show that the plant life is very diverse; hence
a very diverse fauna. All this diversity makes for fantastic wildlife watching, even in the miserable summers.
No matter what season of the year it is some plants will be in bloom,
filling the air with their unique perfumes. If you spend your time driving around in a car, wildlife watching the side
of the road or just within the camping areas, you will be disappointed. Grab a hat or even take an umbrella, bring a
couple of pints of water, and walk, walk, walk and listen and watch.
Look closely and you will see why Falcon State Park is so special and adds so much to the Lower
Rio Grande Valley's flora and fauna lists.
If you plan on doing any birding to the east of Falcon
State Park, be sure to use the restrooms before you leave, as they are very few and very poor quality until
you reach Roma.
When you leave Falcon State Park,
Park Road-46 will come to FM-2098. Turn right (south) onto FM-2098, going towards the International Bridge. Drive
just a few yards and you will come to Starr County Park on your right. Birding in the County Park can often be very
good (particularly if the Park was mowed a few weeks before your visit). Drive slowly, going slightly uphill to the
The County Park is mowed in the Fall and Winter, and is most
used by campers during those months. The large meadows can be great for looking for Cassin's Sparrows in the early Spring,
as the males do their unique courting flights.
The large patch of trees and brush on the right is encircled by the
road. Although there are no real trails or paths into the brush, there are places where you can walk in and search for
birds. Cactus Wrens and Black-throated Sparrows are easily located here.
Neotropical Migrants can be found in the trees in both Spring
Again, birding can at times
be very good in the County Park. However, be constantly aware of the presence of Rattlesnakes wherever you walk.
When leaving the County Park as you come out of the Park, turn back
to the left (north) towards the intersection. Turn right onto FM-2098 into Falcon Heights. Drive just a little
ways east to Chapeño Road, which is just about directly across the street from Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Falcon
Heights. Turn right (south)onto Chapeño Road and drive 2.5 miles to Chapeño (be careful of the high, rough
speed bumps near the houses).
You can still pay
a nominal fee (honk your horn if not soon approached) and bird both above the Rvier Bank or down by its banks. Feeding
for Brown Jays is still tried, but none have been seen here for the past couple of years.
Go back to Falcon Heights, using the same route you came in
on (remember those high speed bumps--cross them slowly). Turn right (east) onto FM-2098 and continue through Falcon
Heights back to US-83. Turn right (east) onto US-83 and drive just a short distance to Salineño.
Watch for the brown-and-white Wildlife Refuge sign and slow down in the right lane of the highway. When you see the
green-and-white signs for Salineño/Post Office/Justice of the Peace, turn right (south) onto
the paved, unmarked road. This is Salineño Rd./River Road. It is 2.0 miles down River
Rd. to the Rio Grande River.
has about 300 population and the community is just over 250 years old. The pretty Catholic Church was built in 1906.
Continue downhill from the Catholic Church on the unimproved road to
the boat ramp.
Check for birds across the Rio Grande River (yep, that's Mexico...remember
that if keeping your ABA lists). Butterflies are often found "puddling" on the wet River Banks, and this is
a good place to look for dragonflies and damselflies.
At the boat ramp, on the west side of the road is a short trail that
will border the River for a ways. This is an excellent place to look for birds, particularly Clay-colored Thrushes (not
found at Falcon State Park nor Starr Co. Park).
Check up-river to your
right (west) for Red-billed Pigeons, Muscovy Ducks, Hook-billed Kites, Ringed and Green Kingfishers.
Check down-river to the left (east) for the same birds.
Search across the River for Gray Hawks and be sure to scope the River banks for sitting Muscovy Ducks. Watch for fly-bys,
as that is how they are most often seen. Spend some time looking on, above, and along the River on both sides
and across from you.
In the Fall through
the Winter, the Salineño Birder's Colony is a fantastic place to bird. This property is
owned by the Valley Land Fund. It is staffed by USFWS volunteers. The Valley Land Fund contracts the feeding and
research to the Center for the Study of Tropical Birds.
You will see Altamira, Hooded and Audubon's Orioles, Green Jays and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers. You
will hope for Brown Jays.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO LEAVE
A SMALL DONATION TO PAY FOR THE FEEDING! Remember, the folks here are volunteers--they are not being paid--and we all
owe them a debt of thanks for helping the birds and birders.
they go through 100's of pounds of citrus, peanut butter, sunflower seeds and birdseed. And ALL of it depends on folks
bringing it or leaving a donation.
back towards Roma, go back down Salineño Rd./River Rd. to US-83 and turn right