“If you love camping on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or hours of fishing in the sunshine, then one of our parks is the place for you!”
I.B Magee Beach Park: 361-749-6117
Padre Balli Park: 361-949-8121
Nueces County Coastal Parks
It is speculated that the earliest explorers to reach the area were Europeans in 1519, under the leadership of Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda, though no records exist of his expedition. The first attempt at colonization was lead by the Frenchman, Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle in 1685, with the Spanish following in 1689, lead by Alonso De Leon. The Corpus Christi Bay area largely remained unexplored until 1747, when Joaquin Prudencio de Orobio y Basterra led an expedition down to the Mouth of the Nueces River. No settlements at the mouth of the River were ever realized or succeeded until the 1760's when attempts by Spanish ranchers to settle the area to graze their cattle. But by 1812, after a Native American uprising, the colonies were abandoned as the people fled the area, seeking safety in the Rio Grande Valley area . Attempts to colonize the area around the mouth of the Nueces River were not pursued again until the 1830's.
Nueces County was carved out of San Patricio County in 1846, which at that time spanned from west of the Rio Grande, to the east of the Gulf of Mexico and included the entire area south of what is now Bexar County. Corpus Christi, which is the county seat, was also incorporated in the same year. Despite this, population in the County was still very small, a mere 689 people according to the first census in the county in 1850.
The area saw much action during the Civil War as a center for Confederate commerce, and in 1874, the main sea channel was dredged to a depth of eight feet to accommodate large steam powered seafaring vessels. Cattle raised in the area were either shipped to ports in New Orleans or Havana, or overland to Kansas, were they were then transported to the eastern part of the country.
Also during the 1870's construction began on the first railroad lines extending to Laredo from Corpus Christi. A second followed that was completed in 1886 and extended to San Antonio from Corpus Christi.
In 1926, the Port of Corpus Christi was opened. It was funded by the State with taxes collected from seven adjacent counties, which paid for the construction of breakwaters, jetties and other ancillary improvements. In 1935, the channel was deepened to thirty-five (35) feet to allow for larger vessels.
Following the port development, Nueces County saw the construction of U.S. Highway 77 (oriented northsouth) and State Highways 44 (oriented east-west) and 286 (oriented north-south) during the 1930's and 40's, which gave farmers, a booming business started in the mid-1880's, better access to markets.
The military importance of the area has been recognized since the Mexican War era and in March of 1941, the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi was established as an aviation training facility. Due to this infusion, the county population has grown from 22,807 people in 1920 to 165,471 in 1950, to 237,544 in 1970, to 313,645 in 2000. Current census data comprises a section later in this report.
Nueces County Coastal Parks properties are steeped with history which extends from the Karankawa Indians, the first inhabitants and islanders, to the Spaniards and ultimately early
American settlers. The native Indian people were hunterfisher- gatherers attracted to this coastal region due to the same rich and abundant wildlife and fisheries resources that also attracted the Spanish and ultimately the Anglo American settlers.
The Mustang Island area started its growth and modernization in the late 1800's and early 1900's as the Gulf Pass in Port Aransas provided a major shipping and commercial waterway and port to the region. For almost its entire existence, Padre Island has been wilderness. The first permanent settlement on the island was established around 1804 near the island's southern tip by a Spanish priest named Padre Nicolas Balli. In 1847, John V. Singer shipwrecked on the island caught in a storm and washed ashore on Padre Balli's Island. Singer was the older brother of Merritt Singer, who invented the Singer sewing machine. The Singer homestead was on the site of Balli's old ranch. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Texas officials invited Singer to move off the island. They considered him, a Yankee, a security risk living close to Brazos Santiago Pass. The family moved to Flour Bluff, where other Union sympathizers were sitting out the war. About the time the Singers left, another family moved in. At the beginning of the war, a Baptist preacher from Alabama, Carey Curry, and family settled 17 miles below Corpus Christi Pass, on North Padre Island. Their place was called the Curry Settlement or "The Settlement." In 1874, a beef packing house was built next to a channel at Corpus Christi Pass. This part of the pass became known as Packery Channel. Men at the Settlement worked at the packing house. After the "packery" closed and Pat Dunn began his ranch, families at the Settlement drifted Away.
Patrick Dunn was born in Corpus Christi in 1858 and began working with cattle on the open range as a teenager with his brother. In the 1870's, Dunn decided, along with his brother, to establish a ranch on Padre Island. Those cattle sent to market were herded across the Laguna Madre near the present location of the JFK causeway. In 1907, Dunn built a two-story house on Packery Channel using drift lumber found on the beaches. In 1916 a hurricane demolished the house and Dunn replaced it with a smaller house, which was reportedly still standing as of 1971. The old Dunn camp house is located immediately adjacent to the Packery Channel Nature Preserve Site. A registered archeological site and Karankawa Indian midden is located adjacent to the Packery Channel Nature Park.
The I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park and Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas has been maintained as an RV park and campground since the 1960's. The Caldwell Pier was named after "Horace Caldwell" who served as a Nueces County Commissioner from 1945 to 1960. The pier is located on the south side of the County's I.B.. Magee Jr. Beach Park in Port Aransas. The pier extends 1,240 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The I.B.. Magee Jr. Beach Park, was originally called Holiday Beach Park and was developed in 1952. The park was re-named I.B.. Magee Jr. Beach Park in memory of L B. Magee Jr. who was widely known for his community support. Magee lived near the park where he could keep an eye on the park. He was an avid outdoorsman, offshore fisherman.
At the southernmost County Park location is the Padre Balli Park and Bob Hall Pier. The park was first developed in 1949 on land deeded by the Balli family. In 1961, Hurricane Carla destroyed the first Bob Hall Pier which was named for a Nueces County Commissioner of that era. It was original ly only 600 ft. long. In 1962 it was expanded to 1200 ft. and then reduced to half that size with Hurricane Beulah in 1968.
The County extended the pier 127 ft. in 1968. Corpus Christi Pass was once the main pass from Corpus Christi Bay to the Gulf, but it was very different from Packery Channel. Corpus Christi Pass was about a mile wide, ran southeast to northwest, and was about seven to eight feet deep. Lake Padre is a remnant of the pass.
Packery Channel was one channel through Corpus Christi Pass. After the Corpus Christi Ship Channel was opened in the 1920's, it disrupted the flow of water through Corpus Christi Pass and it began to silt up. Some of the more recent ventures from the early 1800's to the early 1900's included these meat packing facilities, canneries, bird taxidermy facilities, and a yellow-fever quarantine station for the City of Corpus Christi.
The original Packery Channel Park was first developed in 1950 near the location of the old meat packing plants. In 2009-10 the park was expanded with a new theme as a "Nature Park".
Take a Tour
Padre Balli Park and Bob Hall Pier- The County park is a mixed-use beachfront, fishing pier, event pavilion, and
RV/Camping park with the Gulf of Mexico to the east, the TPWD Mustang Island State Park to the north, the Padre Island National Seashore to the south, and the Laguna Madre and residential waterfront subdivision to the west.
I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park and Horace Caldwell Pier - This County park is a mixed-use beachfront and RV/camping park and fishing pier which has the Gulf of Mexico to the east, the Port Aransas gulf pass and jetty system to the north, a residential area and undeveloped dune grasslands and interdunal wetlands to the west, and beachfront residential and open beaches to the south.
Packerv Channel Nature Park - The County park is a nature-based and low impact recreational area and preserve surrounded by Mollie Beatti Habitat Area (Federal Preserve) and shallow bay area/gulf pass to the north, a residential area to the east, a highway and Padre-Isles residential water front to the south, and undeveloped grasslands to the west.
Lighthouse Lakes Park - This City of Aransas Pass park involves a partnership with the County and is a waterfront beach, kayak launch and camping/ fishing park. The Aransas Channel and Lighthouse Lakes marsh and Kayak/paddle craft marsh are located to the north, the Redfish Bay Causeway Hwy 36 and causeway Marinas and Sailboat Channel to the west, and Redfish Bay Causeway and undeveloped Aransas Channel waterfront to the south.
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