Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

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This 70-sq-mile federal preserve, northwest of Port Isabel, has recorded more bird species sightings (400 and counting) than any other national wildlife refuge. You're almost guaranteed to see something interesting, whether endemic species or migratory itinerants. There are 70 miles of hiking trails and bike routes, resident ocelots and alligators, and just enough infrastructure to choose between comfortable and adventurous. Or you can sit in one of the many bird blinds all day long and tick the boxes on your checklist.

The landscapes – wetlands, thorn brush, trees and grasses – offer something for everything with feathers.

The roads to the refuge are not well marked. From Harlingen or Los Fresnos, catch TX 510 east until it forks, then turn left onto Buena Vista Dr and drive 35 rough miles to the refuge visitor center.