Mustang Island State Park is also a great place to visit during the winter
for any beach activities except swimming. The Gulf water probably stays about
the same temperature year round but it'd be more pleasant in the warmer months
once you get out of the water! Jim got in the water with Cody only our first
afternoon on the island:
The park has five miles of beach, which was plenty for the amount of running
we did last week. Out and back in each direction made for a tough ten-mile
workout because even hard-packed sand taxed our legs and feet more than a dirt
trail. More often we did four to six miles at a time.
When the tide was out, the beach was quite wide = more hard sand. At high tide we had to
run in looser sand or in tire tracks made by vehicles driving on the beach. We
learned to look up the tide schedules so we'd be out there when the tide was
Unlike Galveston Island State Park, vehicles are allowed to drive on most of
the beach at Mustang Island. Dodging cars and trucks was a bit different
experience for us. We didn't see many cyclists riding on the beach but fishing,
and camping in tents and truck campers are popular activities. Most of the time
we pretty much had the beach to ourselves, however, especially a mile or more
away from the bathhouse and picnic shelters.
Sand dune on the leeward side of the
We had other interesting distractions on beach walks and runs. There weren't
as many shells as Galveston Island, but lots of jellyfish beached themselves
and were lodged in the sand. No, we didn't touch them. You can tell Cody got
even closer to this one than I did; that's his paw print:
We saw several catfish that were in various stages of decay on the beach. Cody was
interested in all of these things, of course. Good thing he knows the command,
"Leave it!!" He finds snacks wherever he can.
Other things like a thick rope, netting, and driftwood also found their way to
shore. Some slobs left garbage lying where they'd been partying, but there
wasn't too much of that. We picked up what we could carry to the next garbage
The roof of a picnic pavilion (?) was the largest piece of "litter" on the
beach. At high tide the water surrounded it. At low tide it looked like a
UFO half buried in the sand.
We had fun watching two kinds of sea gulls (some double the size of the
others) and little birds like sandpipers scavenging for food along the
Jim pointed out a pelican near the shore one day but I couldn't catch it on
camera. That was cool.
There were also some beautiful herons and egrets in two small ponds near the
To the north of the main entrance to the beach were two rock
jetties that enclosed a small swimming area. I assume they were
designed to decrease the waves and dangerous undercurrents so
folks can swim more safely. The huge chunks of red granite
were fun for Jim , Cody, and me to climb.
At the south end of the park we found two long piers at Corpus
Christi Pass (a channel of water) that were popular with
fishermen (and birds) on a Saturday morning.
Looking back toward the beach. Note all the
vehicles on the sand.
While sitting on the pier for a while, I counted fifteen surfers in full wet suits riding the nearby
waves into the shore. Here a bird seems to be watching the surfers:
WHAT, NO SUNSET PICTURES??
I was hoping to get some spectacular sunrise or sunset pictures
like I got
last year on Galveston Island
but that didn't happen. The beach was positioned properly for
sunrises but I was never up early enough to get out there in
time to photograph them!
Sunsets on Mustang Island are best viewed on the bay side of the
island. You can't get over there as easily as on Galveston
Island. One evening I drove out a
primitive (i.e., very rough) dirt road that appeared to go over to the bay, but a
channel of water stopped me before I could reach it. The picture
above along a "water exchange pass" in the park is the best I
could do this time.
Like Padre Island and Galveston Island, Mustang Island is one of
several long and narrow barrier islands along the coast of Texas
that help buffer the mainland from the tide and storms. According to one of
the park brochures, these islands appeared only about
five thousand years ago as the Gulf of Mexico reached its
present sea level.
Barrier islands are constantly moving and re-forming as they
respond to wind, waves, and storms. On the Gulf side of Mustang
Island, sand dunes rise 20-30 feet high. Tenacious vines and
deeply rooted grasses pretty much fight a losing battle against
the elements on the sea side:
More vegetation is able to grow behind the crest of the seaside
dunes to hold the secondary dunes in place and create a more
sheltered environment for plants and wildlife:
The bay side of Mustang and other barrier islands is more
hospitable to grassy wetlands, placid lagoons, oyster reefs, and
brackish estuaries. Bayside is full of birds, fish and shellfish,
deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, skunks, mice,
snakes, even bobcats and coyotes.
Add in the migratory waterfowl and songbirds (the original
"sunbirds" escaping cold farther north), and you can see why
folks like to come here for wildlife viewing and photography.
WHERE ARE THE MUSTANGS?
With a name like "Mustang Island" you'd think we would have seen
some horses roaming around, but we didn't. There used to be
hundreds of them on the island. No one knows when or where they
came from. They vanished in the 1880s.
We know more about the people who have lived here. The island's
natural resources have attracted humans for centuries. The
earliest known residents were the Karankawa Indians, who also
lived up the coast on Galveston Island. They moved or vanished
by the 1850s. European explorers discovered the island in the
early 1700s. Horse and cattle ranching began as early as 1838.
The Texas Revolution and Civil War both interrupted land
transactions during the 1800s but the island continued to
attract residents and entrepreneurs. The state park lands are
the only undeveloped part of Mustang Island now. Beachfront
homes, ranches, condos, hotels, restaurants, and other
businesses occupy the northern part of the island between the
park and the town of Port Aransas. The city of Corpus Christi
lies a short distance across the bay at the southern end of the
There are two types of camping at Mustang Island which satisfy
the needs of everyone from people with tents to huge Class A motorhomes.
Primitive camping on a first-come, first-served basis is allowed
on most of the five miles of beach within the park. There are
several rinse showers, portable toilets, and garbage
cans available. I don't believe there is fee for primitive camping fee
but the state park entrance fee would apply (free with annual
There is a fee for the 48-site developed campground (in next two
photos) where we stayed,
however. The cost is reasonable for a campground located so close to
the dunes and providing water and electric hookups: $16 a
day plus the park entrance fee for each person, which we didn't
have to pay since we have a park pass. There is no weekly rate
The double sites are very close together on one side. On the
other side of each site is plenty of grass and a sheltered
picnic area. Fortunately, our door faced that direction. (We
were assigned a site before we saw how they were laid out.)
The sites aren't as big or as attractive as the
ones were at Galveston Island SP but they're better (and much
cheaper) than any of the private RV parks we saw on the island.
Even the ones called "resorts" looked more like parking lots
than ours. Yuck.
The state park campground stayed busy all week and weekend but
was never completely full while we were there.
EXPLORING THE CORPUS CHRISTI BAY AREA
If you look on a map you can see how large this bay it is. On
Friday we drove around it in a counter-clockwise loop from the
state park to Port Aransas, across Aransas Pass (water) on a
ferry to the city of Aransas Pass, through Portland, across a
bridge over the bay, into Corpus Christi (Spanish for "body of
Christ"), and back over Laguna Madre ("Mother Lagoon") to N.
Padre Island and Mustang Island. Our loop drive was 57 miles.
That was an interesting drive. Mustang Island is more developed
than Padre Island. Nice beach houses and condos lie adjacent to
cattle ranches, reminding us of Galveston Island. Port Aransas
is a tourist trap with kitschy signs and statues at some
businesses trying to entice one-time visitors to enter their
We really enjoyed our *free* ferry trip across the stretch of
water between Port Aransas and Harbor Island. We waited about 15
minutes for one of four or five ferries that were operating at
11 AM. It was fun to watch the vehicles, even campers and
a semi truck, get on and off the boats.
We were directed to park behind a panel truck. We had no view so we got out and
stood at the front of the ferry on the short ride (less than
five minutes) across the water.
We talked about the ferry system to one of the guys who directs
the vehicles on and off the boat. He reassured me that it is
efficient and cost-effective for the state. Apparently it's
impossible at this point to build a bridge there.
All the other water crossings on this trek were on long bridges,
not nearly as much fun as the ferry! Quicker, though.
We were happy to buy diesel for only $2.01 at a Wal-Mart
(Murphy's station) in Aransas Pass. That's our new lowest price
on this trip. Across the bay in Corpus Christi it went for $2.29/gallon.
I would have guessed it'd be cheaper in the larger city.
At the southern end of the Nueces Bay Causeway we stopped at the
USS Lexington Museum. The museum is the ship itself. I'll write
about our interesting tour in the next entry.
We were in Corpus Christi twice during our stay at Mustang
Island. I worked out at a YMCA and we did some shopping and
A funny thing happened on one of those trips. For some reason
Jim had on his Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch the day we went
into Wal-Mart and Sam's Club to restock our supplies. It was no
surprise that the GPS did not track our movements through Sam's
Club, considering it has to receive signals from several
What did surprise the heck out of us is that it tracked
us through Wal-Mart!! It was fun to see the readout on the
computer later. Jim's really pleased with the unit. It has never
lost tracking on our runs or bike rides, even under tree cover.
We drove seven or eight miles along scenic Ocean Drive on both
forays into Corpus Christi.
We enjoyed the beautiful homes and yards, scenic views of the
bay, and pretty parks between the boulevard and the water.
If we lived here, that's where we'd run if we wanted to run on pavement.
(There's a guy running in the photo above. It's not Jim.) Road cycling would probably
also be enjoyable on the bike path that follows Ocean Drive for
Corpus Christi was first explored by Europeans in the early
1500s but it wasn't settled until Col. Henry Kinney
established a trading post in 1839. He envisioned the area
becoming a resort area, but that didn't happen until much later.
Kinney did turn it into a trade center for the nearby cattle
ranchers and Mexican border towns.
In the 1920s the Army Corps of Engineers dug a deep ship channel
and the city was transformed into an international port. Being
the deepest port on the Texas coast
attracted many of the businesses that form Corpus Christi's
industrial base. A Naval Air Station with an advanced
flight-training school and a large Army Depot are also located
View of seawall and downtown Corpus Christi
from Ocean Drive
The city is described in the Texas AAA Tour Book as a "booming
cosmopolitan tourist mecca" because of its hotels, condos,
resort areas, and nearby beaches. It's attractive along Ocean
Drive but we weren't that impressed with other areas we drove
through. It's not a bad place to spend part of the winter though.
We much preferred being out on the island at the state park. We just aren't "city" or "resort" people.
UH, OH. WHAT'S LEAKING?
This morning we woke up in a pond of water again. It encroached
on our neighbor's site, too. And it wasn't from the little bit
of rain we got yesterday afternoon.
Nope, the first thing Jim got to do this morning was to figure
out why our water heater had leaked many gallons of water during
the night. The guy in the pop-up camper next to us heard the
water during the night and got up to inspect it. We sort of wish
he'd wakened us up, but he was probably afraid we'd be angry.
Jim determined that the problem was too much water pressure from the
spigot at the campsite. He went into town to look for a pressure
regulator for the water heater but couldn't find one on a Sunday
morning. Instead, he solved the problem (at least temporarily)
by putting our pressure regulator on the hose where it goes into
the camper. We'll look later for a regulator for the water heater if
the problem persists.
It's always something. Our neighbor was glad Jim fixed the leak
(he was nice about it) and the pool of water eventually drained into the sand beneath
Let's close with a little humor.
On our runs and walks along the beach we saw about as many dogs
as people. Golden and Labrador retrievers were the most common
because they love to run and play in the surf.
One day we passed a guy who was throwing sticks and Frisbees
into the water for his three black Labs to retrieve. Like
most dogs, they had to inspect Cody when he came into "their"
You can see the result above. Jim and I got a good laugh because
it was a bit difficult to pick Cody out from the pack. He's the
one in front, however. See the fur standing up on his shoulders
and the base of his tail? I think he was feeling (justifiably) a
No harm was done, only reciprocal sniffing and doggie posturing.
Next entry: a neat history lesson -- touring the USS
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil