Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Hurricane Harvey became the costliest tropical cyclone on record earlier this year. It made landfall in Aransas County, on Texas’ southeastern coast, as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm was quickly downgraded as it moved north along the Gulf Coast. It wasn’t even a hurricane by the time it reached Houston. But then the tropical storm lingered over Texas’ largest city. It caused record-breaking floods and damage, whose costs still continue to increase. Aid for Houston has been overwhelming. But the rest of the Texas coast shouldn’t be forgotten in the process.

The Texas barrier islands felt the brunt of the hurricane-force winds. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in the area surrounding Corpus Christi. Ferries and flights stopped running. A tornado touched down. Maximum sustained winds measured around 130 mph. While the tropical storm increased to a Category 1, a Category 2, a Category 3, and eventually a Category 4 hurricane. On Mustang Island alone, 75 percent of the homes were destroyed. The recovery will take years.

Mustang Island is an 18-mile-long island that stretches from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas in the Gulf Coast. The Aransas Channel, nicknamed the Shrimp Boat Channel, separates it from San Jose Island to the north. The island was once home to the Karankawa people, who lived off shellfish and mussels. Spanish explorers, Mexican smugglers, and cattle ranchers started arriving in the 16th century. It was even named for the horses set free beyond the sand dunes. Those sand dunes—and the long beaches in front of them—now attract sun worshippers, including lots of spring breakers, each year. The prettiest beaches are in Mustang Island State Park.

Mustang Island State Park covers nearly 4,000 acres and has five miles—five miles!—of beachfront. Sailboats, surfers, and playful dolphins are usually in the warm water. Tidal pools and the popular Mustang Island Paddling Trail follow the shoreline. Redfish and speckled trout are easily caught from the jetty. Hiking and mountain-biking paths fill the interior. While armadillos and cottontail rabbits, great blue herons and white-tailed hawks call the park home. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the whole state of Texas.

Mustang Island State Park is currently closed, though. January is the earliest it could possibly reopen. But keep it in mind when you start planning your next trip to Houston, San Antonio, or Corpus Christi next year. The island and the park need support just like the rest of the storm-ravaged area.

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