Falcon International Reservoir

Rio Grande Valley

This 136-sq-mile lake was formed by the Falcon Dam (1953) on the Rio Grande. Although seemingly tranquil, the lake has also suffered from the border tensions: fishing boats have been beset by pirates as recently as 2010, and the area is a known drug smuggling route. Like so much of the region, there's a pervasive sense of desolation.

On the lake's northeast side is the town of Zapata, named for Emiliano Zapata, land reformer and freedom fighter during the Mexican Revolution (1911–17). The original settlement of Zapata was flooded with the construction of the reservoir, and the residents were moved to the current location. Eighteen miles west of Zapata, a scenic overlook off US 83 provides views of an archetypal Western landscape complete with mesas on the horizon.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Rio Grande Valley attractions

1. Falcon State Park

6.63 MILES

The 500-acre Falcon State Park, 3 miles west of US 83 off FM 2098, lines the US side of the lake. The land is mostly covered by cacti and shrubs, but the…

2. Zapata Museum of History

17.75 MILES

Off US 83 between Laredo and McAllen in the small town of Zapata, this museum has historical artifacts and archival photographs of the former town of…

3. Roma Bluffs

20.44 MILES

Three acres of lush nature preserve along the banks of the Rio Grande are one of the World Birding Center properties that dot the border. A lookout on the…