Rio History: Treasure Hunting on South Padre Island

Special to the PRESS

Several readers have written (emailed) to ask me questions about metal detecting on South Padre Island.
Sharon Steele asks, “Do you offer any treasure hunting as a guide and what is the cost if you do?”

“Juggler” asks:
“Hi, I had a question concerning treasure hunting on South Padre Island. Is the use of metal detectors allowed in the public beach areas? Are there areas (other than private property) where metal detectors are not allowed?”
“Thanks for your help in providing me with this information.”

The following was my reply:

Due to time restraints presented by my various business ventures, I do not conduct guided hunts at this time, though I will offer organized trips to area beaches later this summer.

My favorite place to hunt is along the surf at Isla Blanca Park. This beach is a very popular destination for surfers and families. It’s not uncommon to see lovers walking hand in hand or a grandmother sitting in the backwash of the low tide watching her brood at play in the gentle surf. There are several volleyball nets strung near the snack bars and umbrellas or beach chairs are rented on a daily basis. An area such as this, with its high volume of traffic, is the sort of spot the professional treasure hunter will naturally gravitate to. It is seldom that a person with a good detector will walk away empty handed.

At this time, I do offer metal detector rentals and will happily point treasure hunters to productive beach sites that are within walking distance of the major hotels.

As for tours to some of the Civil War or other historical sites, one must first consider the following: I and my close associates have spent many hours poring over ancient manuscripts and more than a few dollars acquiring the old newspapers, documents, maps and other journals needed in researching the location of these hard to find sites.

Most of the good spots for artifacts are on private property or are located in remote areas. Many property owners are reluctant to permit hunting on their land for a variety of reasons including the fact that many amateurs do not leave the ground in the same condition they found it in. City folk have a tendency to leave gates open, and littering knows no social bounds. Any negotiations may take years before a ranch owner will trust you to be allowed on his or her property.

In treasure hunting circles most hunters will willingly share site locations, but the key word here is SHARE. Say that my friend Bill Biecker, resident of McAllen, shares knowledge of a productive site near Roma. I in turn, tell him of hunting near the mouth of the Rio Grande and locating old Clarksville. We may visit both sites together or individually. But both of us adhere to the unwritten rule of treasure hunters, using discretion in revealing these sites. Otherwise, before long, there will be nothing for us to hunt.

A partial list of  good research material that reveals the location of old battlefields, railroads, trails and early Spanish land grants includes:

Wild Horse Desert by Brian Robertson. New Santander Press Edinburg, Texas 1985 (Winner of the T.R. Fehranbach Award)

Padre Island by the Writers Round Table of Corpus Christi Texas, Naylor Company of San Antonio, 1951
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas by J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, Jenkins Publishing Austin Texas, 1953

Padre Island: Treasure Capital of the World by Mahon, Texian Press Waco, 1961
Uriah Lott, by J.L. Allhands, Naylor Company of San Antonio, 1949

The Port of Brownsville: A History by Henry Ferguson, Springman-King Press of Brownsville Texas 1976
Most of these are now out of print but the fun in doing the research is in finding the material first! The library in Port Isabel has many of these volumes in their reference section and copies may also be found at used bookstores, online auction houses and at really good estate sales. Though my personal library has at least one or more of the above, I still included these on my permanent want list as there is always a market for the obscure.

Good luck and happy hunting!

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