Los Fresnos News

Explore the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

By Mike Villarreal

If you’re seeking summer activities, consider exploring the local treasures right in your backyard. Despite having lived in the Rio Grande Valley all my life, I, like many others, have never had the chance to visit the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1946, the primary purpose of this refuge was to provide a habitat for wintering waterfowl and migratory birds, particularly the redhead ducks. Over the years, its focus has expanded to include the conservation and management of endangered species and shorebirds.

This wildlife refuge is not just a place, it’s an experience. Renowned as a prominent bird-watching destination, it boasts a greater variety of recorded bird species than any other refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Notably, a rare bird species, the Blue Bunting, has recently been sighted here, drawing bird enthusiasts from far and wide. The Blue Bunting is typically found in brushy thickets and forest edges in various parts of Mexico and Central America, adding a unique and exciting opportunity for bird enthusiasts. A visit to the refuge promises an unpredictable and thrilling encounter with a diverse range of bird species.

But it’s not just about the birds. The refuge is home to the largest population of ocelots in the United States, playing a crucial role in the conservation and recovery efforts for this endangered cat species. Encompassing over 120,000 acres, the refuge offers a section that is open to the public for wildlife-related activities such as wildlife watching, hunting, fishing, photography, and environmental education. So, whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, photographer, or nature lover, there’s something for everyone to explore and enjoy at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Please remember the following information:

  • Some 30 national wildlife refuges charge visitors a nominal entrance fee of generally $3-$5 daily to cover road and facility maintenance. Starting in 2024, all passes will have one signature line for a single passholder. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees, and day use fees for the pass owner and all occupants in a personal vehicle at sites that charge per vehicle. Additionally, the pass owner and up to three additional adults (16 and over) at sites that charge per person are covered. Children ages 15 or under are admitted free. Please note that the visitors center is closed for the summer until September, but you can still visit all year round. However, it’s essential to come prepared. For some the best wildlife viewing is at dawn and dusk, especially considering the South Texas heat.

To ensure your visit to one of the most bio-diverse habitats in South Texas is safe and fun, please keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Check all trail closures under Maps & Resources.
  2. Wear proper clothing and avoid open-toe shoes, as there are plenty of thorns that can cause significant discomfort.
  3. Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
  4. Always observe wildlife from a safe distance.
  5. Bring plenty of water.

Furthermore, before you go, remember to adhere to the following laws and regulations:

  • Driving, biking, or hiking off-road or off-trail is prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a leash.
  • Camping is permitted at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park only.
  • No overnight parking is allowed at any other Refuge location.
  • Do not disturb wildlife, vegetation, or historic objects.
  • Fireworks and campfires are not permitted.
  • Alcohol is not permitted.
  • Observe speed limits of 25 mph or as posted.
  • Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuges must comply with all provisions of state and local law. Firearms may only be discharged in accordance with refuge regulations.

The Wildlife Refuge address is 22688 Buena Vista Rd, Los Fresnos, TX, United States, 78566 and their phone number is (956) 244-2019.
Information and Photos from the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Facebook Page

Federal Recreation Passes | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/service/federal-recreation-passes
Federal Recreation Passes | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/service/federal-recreation-passes
Federal Recreation Passes | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/service/federal-recreation-passes
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge | What We Do – Laws & Regulations | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/laguna-atascosa/what-we-do/laws-regulations