1. Has the lighthouse ever been moved? No, but the hill was formed around it when dirt was moved away from the site in the early 50s.
2. How many steps to the top of the lighthouse? 75 winding stairs including 3 short ladders.
3. When was the name changed from Point Isabel to Port Isabel? In 1927, when the Town of Port Isabel was incorporated.
4. Why is it called “Port” Isabel? The 30 ft. bluffs on the bank of the Laguna Madre Bay made it a natural port.
5. Why was it called “Point” Isabel? The shape of the land formed a point into the Laguna Madre Bay.
6. What about the “Isabel” part of the name? From Queen Isabella of Spain.
7. Does the light in the lighthouse still work? The original lens is no longer in the lighthouse, but there is an ornamental light installed for non navigational purposes.
8. What was the shipwrecked fleet of 1554 carrying? They were on their way back to Spain with their treasure of silver and gold.
9. Where was Flota de Plata (the Silver Fleet) discovered? It was discovered off the shores of Port Mansfield, 30 miles north of Port Isabel.
10. How many survived the wreck? Three hundred made it to the beach, but only two lived to tell the tale.
11. What happened to the other 298? The two survivors say the 298 were victims of local Indians and the harsh elements.
12. Where is the Lighthouse’s original lens? No one knows. It was removed in 1863 by the Confederate Army and hidden.
13. What are the porpoises all over town? The Porpoise Pachanga. Nearly two dozen of them were painted by local artists and can be found displayed all around Port Isabel.
14. Are there any ghost stories about the old museum building and the Lighthouse? Yes, inquire within!
15. Who painted the fish mural on the front of the Champion Building? A local one armed artist painted a representation of species found near Port Isabel in the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
16. Do sharks swim in the bay? Yes, they do. Bull, black tip, lemon, hammerheads, spinners and many other varieties live in the waters of the Laguna Madre.
17. Where is a good place to eat? They are all good! From seafood, Mexican food, Italian food, buffets, Chinese and American, Port Isabel has great food and great service.
18. Can people walk over the causeway? No, pedestrian traffic is prohibited.
19. What is the oldest building in Port Isabel besides the lighthouse? The Champion building, built in 1899.
20. When was the Lighthouse Keepers cottage built? The original was built in 1850. Present day keepers cottage was built from the original plans in 1994.
21. When was the causeway built? 1974.
22. How tall is the lighthouse? 72 feet from the top of the hill to the top of the cupola.
23. When was the first causeway built? 1952.
24. What’s the biggest fish caught in the Laguna Madre Bay? Depends on the fisherman you ask. Sharks up to 400 lbs. have been caught in the bay.
25. Do dolphins swim in the Laguna Madre Bay? Yes, it is the exclusive playground of the bottlenose dolphin.
26. Can I swim with the dolphins? While you may swim in the Laguna Madre and the dolphins are swimming there also, interaction in the water with them is not advisable.
27. Can people get married at the top of the lighthouse? Couples get engaged, renew vows and get married at the top of the lighthouse! Contact the Port Isabel Museums for details.
28. Were there really cannibals here? The local Karankawas practiced a form of cannibalism. Ashes of their elders were consumed in a beverage.
29. Is there an elevator to the top of the lighthouse? No elevator to the top. While the first elevator was invented the same year the lighthouse was built, no consideration was made for the tourist 100 years later.
30 How long is the causeway? 2.6 miles, the longest bridge in the state of Texas.
31. How tall is the causeway? 88 ft. at the highest point.
32. How far is Mexico? The Tamaulipas bordertown of Matamoros is just 25 miles from Port Isabel.
33. Why does the water go up and down? Tides.
34. What are the best months to visit Port Isabel? Locals think they are all good months! But you may want to try April, May, October and September.
35. Did pirates ever come to Port Isabel? Famed pirate, Jean LaFitte was rumored to have visited. Many other lesser known pirates have also rowed ashore.
36. When was Port Isabel founded? The earliest records reflect a date of 1770.
37. When was the last time it snowed in Port Isabel? Christmas 2004.
38. Are there whales in the Gulf of Mexico near Port Isabel? Several varieties call this part of the Gulf their home. There is a record of a whale that washed up on the SPI beach in the 1800s.
39. How deep is the Laguna Madre? The average depth is 2.5 feet.
40. What is the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway? The GIWW was dredged in the 1930s to offer sea going ships shelter between the barrier islands and the mainland. It starts here and ends on the east coast.
41. How old is the swing bridge? It was installed in 1952.
42. What kind of pelicans are in Port Isabel? Brown Pelicans and in the winter months, White and Brown.
43. What is the average mean temperature in Port Isabel? 74 degrees.
44. Does the wind ever quit blowing? Yes it does, briefly before changing directions. Average speed is 13 mph.
45. What is a shrimp? Well, it’s not very big, it’s a shrimp. They are crustacean shellfish similar to prawn and quite tasty when properly prepared.
46. What are some of the other names Port Isabel was known as? El Fronton (1770 – 1846), Point Isabel and sometimes just Isabel (1846 – 1927).
47. Where is the “port”? It’s on Port Road. The Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District is one of 12 deep water ports in Texas.
48. Who built the lighthouse? John Garey of Brownsville was awarded the contract. Started in December 1851, completed in March 1853.
49. Where are the 30 ft. bluffs Point Isabel was known for? They were removed and used for fill in the mid 1920s.
50. Where was Ft. Polk? Where the Port Isabel Lighthouse is located.
51. When was the Lighthouse decommissioned? In 1905.
52. How much did it cost to build the Lighthouse? $15,000 to build the Point Isabel lighthouse and the Brazos Santiago Lighthouse.
53. What is a skow sloop? A specially designed sail powered fishing vessel. Its shallow keel allowed access to the fish laden waters of the Laguna Madre.
54. Where were the wireless towers? In the southern portion of Port Isabel near South Shore Drive.
55. How did people get to South Padre Island before the bridge was built? In very low tides it was possible to walk across before the GIWW was dredged. The most common method was by ferry boat.
56. Where were the railroad docks? On the south side of Railroad Ave. in front of the Champion building.
57. How much did it cost to take a ferry boat to South Padre Island? It cost about $2.00 to take your car the Laguna Madre Bay.
58. Who was Don Chencho? Owned the title of the most photographed person in Port Isabel. He died in the 1950s at 117 years old. He had helped to construct the lighthouse as a youth and later served the community as an aquadore.
59. Where was the railroad depot? In front of the railroad tracks on Railroad Ave. near the present day Port Isabel Press offices.
60. What do you do with the rain water you catch in the barrels at the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage? They are ornamental, but the original played an important role as fresh water was very important to daily life at the coast.
61. Were there manatees here? One was captured here in 1911.
62. What’s the name of the trees on the grounds of the Lighthouse? Mesquite and palm.
63. How were the steps inside the Lighthouse built? They were cast and installed in pieces.
64. How many lighthouses were originally built in the state of Texas? Sixteen.
65. Who owns the lighthouse? The State of Texas. The City of Port Isabel operates and staffs the lighthouse.
66. Does Brazos Santiago lighthouse still exist? It was destroyed by fire in 1944.
67. Why was the lighthouse decommissioned? Lessening navigational needs.
68. What year did the town become incorporated? 1927.
69. Who named the city streets? The daughters of Manatou and Garcia, two important founding families. Street names in the original city plan were selected in the 1880s.
70. What happened to the shrimping industry? Regulation, fuel cost, importation, shrimp farms and other factors have slowed the industry.
71. When was the replica of the keeper’s cottage built? 1996, at a cost of $320,000.
72. What happened to “Lady Bea”? It was scrapped, but the namesake lives on as a bay shrimper on the grounds of the Treasures of the Gulf Museum.
73. How far could ships see the Lighthouse light from sea? Approximately 16 nautical miles.
74. Why are the stairs in the lighthouse curved? Because the inside of the lighthouse is curved.
75. Why is the town called Port Isabel and the school district called Point Isabel Independent School District? Because the school district was formed before the town was incorporated in 1927.
76. Why were the railroad tracks built 1/2 mile into the bay? So goods could be loaded and unloaded from ships and railroad cars.
77. Has the lighthouse appearance ever been altered? Changes were made to the top of it in 1880. The lantern room was raised and the catwalk was increased from 16″ to its present day width.
78. What is the most interesting bird sighted in the Port Isabel area? The Mangrove Warbler, found on Long Island and in South Bay.
79. Where are the best places to bird in Port Isabel? One of the best spots accessible to the public is between the Port Isabel Historic Museum and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum on Railroad Ave.
80. How big is the Lighthouse State Historic Site Park? 0.9 acres.
81. What kind of fish are in the Laguna Madre Bay? A wide variety including trout, redfish, snook, flounder, croaker, drum, mangrove snapper and many more.
82. What is the rarest kind of fish in the bay? Sawfish were caught in the bay and the last one sighted was in 1974.
83. What is the biggest fish in the bay? The one got away.
84. How big is the Laguna Madre Bay? A hyper saline estuary bay system, the Laguna Madre Bay is the only lagoon in the world saltier than the ocean, accounts for ¾ of Texas seagrass habitat and is about 130 miles long.
85. What is the rarest bird sighting in Port Isabel? Mangrove Cuckoo.
86. Do butterflies migrate through Port Isabel? Yes. The best place to view them at is between the Port Isabel Historic Museum and and Treasures of the Gulf Museum.
87. What is that laughing sound I sometimes hear up in the sky? That is our resident Laughing Gull.
88. Did the original lens in the lighthouse move? Yes, it rotated. The keeper put blackout shades in the part that faced Port Isabel.
89. What is the elevation at the lighthouse? 15 ft. above sea level.
90. Is Port Isabel an island? A portion of Port Isabel is an island that is separated from the mainland by the Port Isabel Side Channel.
91. How did the locals used to get their fresh water? Aguadores would bring a full barrel of water pulled by a donkey to exchange for your empty one for 10¢.
92. What was the worst hurricane to hit Port Isabel? The unnamed storm of September 1933 left only the top of the lighthouse visible.
93. Historically, what other industries besides fishing was Port Isabel known for? Ranching and salt gathering.
94. Who had the first ranch at Port Isabel? Don Rafael Garcia in 1827 as part of a Spanish land grant.
95. Are there shipwrecks in the bay? Several have met their fate in the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre Bay. When the waters are clear, one can be spotted just off the QIC near the high point of the bridge, just look to the south for the darker waters.
96. Have any presidents visited Port Isabel? Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Warren G. Hardin.
97. Was the Port Isabel Lighthouse ever damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War? No, but Confederates attempted to blow it up with TNT and gunpowder. They only succeeded in cracking it and damaging the top slightly.
98. Are those pink flamingos we see near Port Isabel? They are Roseate Spoonbills.
99. What is the oldest grave stone in the Port Isabel Cemetery? Hard to tell exactly, but some date back before the 1900s by settlers from Ireland, Italy, England, Germany, Spain and France.
100. What kind of porpoises are the Porpoise Pachanga? They are actually Spinner Dolphins.
101. Need to know more? Visit the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce, housed in the Keeper’s Cottage, the Port Isabel Museums, the Treasures of the Gulf Museum and the Port Isabel Historic Museum.