Kingsville and the Ranches
Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy first successfully combined their talents in the early 19th century, as steamboat captains running cargo up and down rivers, first in Florida and Alabama and later on the Rio Grande River.
In the 1850s, the partners combined their organizational and mercantile abilities with the traditions and skills of the vaqueros to tame and find profit in the vast Wild Horse Desert, near Baffin Bay, between Corpus Christi Bay and the Rio Grande Valley – the Cowboy Coast. They bought land where they could find water. They started with longhorns, the open range and cattle drives.
The Vaquero became the Cowboy. You will encounter Kingsvillians who are 5th generation Kinenos (King Ranch people).
The World-Famous King Ranch
Captain King’s widow, Henrietta M. King and son-in-law, Robert J. Kleberg, took the wild ranch and developed a diversified agribusiness. The ranch at Kingsville once contained more than one million acres, with even larger international holdings.
Around 1900, Mrs. King and Mr. Kleberg invested in the technology that enabled access to deep underground fresh water.
Water is what brought the railroad and built the town – established in 1904. The county, named for Mr. Kleberg’s father, was established in 1913.
The King Ranch later introduced new breeds of cattle, developed world-recognized quarter horses, and protected and introduced wildlife and grasses.
Today, you can take historical, agricultural, wildlife, birding, and special-interest tours of the ranch most days of the year, either guided, regularly-scheduled tours or by reservation.
Kingsville Historic Downtown District
Kingsville’s railroad depot and town center are located where an artesian well was dug. We have the restored 1904 Train Depot Museum and Visitors Center, displaying artifacts of the heyday of the train; the King Ranch Museum, in a nearby renovated industrial building, offering insights into the everyday and the extraordinary aspects of South Texas ranch life; and many quaint shops and restaurants along Kleberg Avenue. These include the flagship store of the worldwide Internet and catalog business, the King Ranch Saddle Shop, an operation that grew out of the necessity of the King Ranch Commissary providing supplies and tack for virtually everyone from Corpus Christi to the Valley for generations. Unlike online or in a glossy catalog, here you can see, feel and smell the quality western ranch-style furniture; men’s and women’s western wear; leather boots, wallets and briefcases; jewelry; and hunting and other outdoor gear. Many other shops complement those offerings in goods, services, and dining - providing he experience of the Kingsville Historic Downtown District, a Texas Main Street program.
There are several eateries that offer tasty, varied and affordable dining choices – and oh, the desserts! Enjoy a meal, take home gifts, and share experiences that are unique and authentic – just like the legendary place.
There are myriad other eateries near Kingsville offering a wide variety of mouth-watering South Texas dining: Hot Patooties to very old school BBQ.
Texas A & M University-Kingsville
In addition to carving a town out of the brush, the ranch and town folks created a college that has become Texas A & M University-Kingsville, with a comprehensive program of academics and a storied athletic heritage. Once again, Kingsville produced the unique and authentic: the South Texas Archives and the Conner Museum collect, preserve, and celebrate the natural history and heritage of the region. There are programs for natural gas engineering, wildlife research, citrus farming, ranch management, and even venomous snakes!
Baffin Bay and the Cowboy Coast
Baffin Bay is an extension of the Laguna Madre, the body of water that separates Padre Island from the mainland. It has miles of shoreline that are the boundaries of the legendaryKing and Kenedy ranches. It has very salty water due to its low freshwater inflow and high evaporation. It is the haunt of state record fish and the fishing guides who pursue them.
The Bay’s unique characteristics make it a draw for visitors. The convergence of shallows of fresh and salt water surrounded by vast grasslands and savanna make it a birders’ bonanza for native and migrant upland, wading and shorebirds. The entire Cowboy Coast, surrounding Kingsville from Bishop to Sarita, is a birding hotspot.
Baffin Bay also offers two unique bay front Cowboy Coast seafood eateries that attract folks from all over: Baffin Bay Café and Kings Inn.
US Navy and the Cowboy Coast
During World War II, the Navy took up residence on the Cowboy Coast. Given the wide-open spaces, access to the open air over the Gulf of Mexico and the balmy year-round weather, the Navy trains jet pilots at Naval Air Station Kingsville.
Events and Happenings
There are many annual and individual events throughout the year, sponsored by the university, Kingsville Tourism and community groups, the King Ranch, and the Navy. They include the long-running King Ranch - Ranch Hand Breakfast on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the La Posada Parade on the first Saturday in December, the Junior Livestock Show in January, Fourth of July celebration, collegiate sports, regional high school sports tournaments, symphony and choral concerts, fishing tournaments, hunting and wildlife events, and more. Come for an event and stay over.
Call the Kingsville Visitor’s Center at 800.333.5032 or visit www.kingsvilletexas.com.