Sea, Sand, and Sea Creatures in Corpus Christi, Texas

The marina in Corpus Christi, Texas

To wrap up the winter of 2023, we moved “up north” 145 miles. This time we sat about as close as you can get to the water, on Corpus Christi Bay at an exclusive private club: the US Military. We were at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi for ten days, for our first stay with the navy.

It isn’t quite as fancy as it may sound. Hurricane Harvey did its work here back in 2017. The road to the family camp is riddled with potholes. A lot of “non-essential” (i.e., recreation) facilities such as the marina have been deemed too structurally unstable for repair but have yet to be torn down. We enjoyed watching all the bird life on the fishing pier, but supposedly it was off limits for this same reason. I say “supposedly” because we saw plenty of people walking or fishing from it now and again.

This naval base is very quiet. There are only 140 permanent Navy service people stationed here. It is a training ground for new navy pilots who pass through until they attain their wings. My own nephew, Mike, trained here and didn’t have much good to say about the place. I don’t think it would be particularly exciting for a young service person. There are only a couple of places to eat outside of the military dining facility, and the commissary and base exchange are small. The club, and other spots for socializing, are only open once or twice a week. The base is in need of sprucing up but there doesn’t seem to be the funds for that.

We’re in a different stage of life than my nephew, though, and found it to be perfect for us. We like off-the-wall, quiet places. I enjoyed many walks on the beach in front of our RV and on the long, wide concrete strip on the other side of the fishing pier. That strip stretched for over a mile and we surmised that it was the shipping dock back when ships stopped here. It was also great for bike riding. We rode bikes all over every corner of this small base. On a Saturday morning the empty streets transformed into great bike paths for us.

Many RVer’s don’t like NAS Corpus Christi because of the constant wind, but we were already used to that after our winter in Harlingen. When the wind was more intense, it would stir up the waves and they would crash against the sea wall. Other RV’ers told us they’d seen it kick up higher than this. I think I’m glad we weren’t here for that kind of weather!

The below RV is not ours. We were glad we did not have this front-row spot. The other drawback to being here is that the salt air is detrimental to RV’s and other equipment one may have. This RV was a little too close to the salty sea spray. As it was, Cal was hosing the RV down every three days or so.

In the mornings, grackels would congregate, swooping and landing in a tiny area of the field, then suddenly taking off again.

There was a little cove across the road behind our park. I liked to walk there to see the roseate spoonbills that made the cove their home, and to see what other birds might be hanging out that day. I often saw sandhill cranes in the field behind us as well.

The base was built during World War II and I can imagine it was hopping during that era. Senior officer’s quarters were built fronting the dock and the water. Most are gone; Harvey finished off what was left in 2017. But, amazingly, a handful are still lived in.

A rear admiral lives here. What does it look like inside, I wonder?

There is nothing between this house and the bay except for a small field and the concrete strip.

I was surprised to learn that when these homes were built many officers still had servants. The servant’s quarters were to the side of the garage. I peeked into one that was standing empty. It is truly a remnant of a by-gone era. Not much later, the quarters were turned into a multitude of uses by the officers living in the house.

We were both outside a good portion of every day here and it was relaxing to just forget about the time. Many days we joined a group of friends who gather late afternoon most days for a beer or whatever was in their water bottles. We compared notes with them on other military family camps. Some of these folks fish or golf. We like to see what’s in the area, and they were a good resource for that.

Not far to the east of Corpus Christi, the John F. Memorial Causeway bridge crosses the Laguna Madre to the barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico. A left turn past the bridge leads north to Mustang Island State Park and then up to Port Aransas. The state park is small but I couldn’t miss exploring its beach.

There were many people fishing here on the two rock piers or on the beach. This woman was repeatedly plunging a white PVC pipe into the sand; what was she doing? We had to find out, so we asked and she was happy to tell us.

The device is called a shrimp gun or pump, and she was using it to catch ghost shrimp for fishing bait. They are a tasty treat for pompano and other fish.

In Port Aransas we visited a bird refuge. It was behind a sewage treatment plant – phew! – but there was a nice view of Laguna Madre to see the birds. We even found an alligator hanging out right underneath the viewing platform.

Over the JFK causeway, if you turn right, you end up at Padre Island National Seashore. This is a place that is near and dear to my heart, because it contains happy memories of weekend trips camping on the beach with my best friend years ago. I was happy to see it was still mostly the same unspoiled place it used to be.

Padre Island (not to be confused with South Padre Island to the south; they are not connected) is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. It’s possible to drive 65 miles down the beach, and we probably only drove less than half of it. It’s a relatively young island – about 4500 years old – in a constant state of change. It’s a fragile environment with its exposure to wind, hurricanes, and ocean currents.

When we first drove on to the beach, there was a line up of RV’s camping on the beach. Then, a smattering of tents, which were fewer and fewer as we went on. Finally, a deserted section: perfect!

Pods of pelicans glided silently by.

These birds on the beach are a little different than the sea gulls they were hanging out with. Their black hats and long tail feathers blew in the wind.

I took a wonderfully long walk down the beach, and saw more trash than I would have liked. I passed several lonely flip-flops without their mates when I came upon this. I wish I’d known this was here; I’d have added to the line!

When we were finished visiting the beach, we stopped at the national park museum on the way back. There’s an explanation for the trash: several currents flow in around the Gulf of Mexico. Those currents swirl around and collect debris from ships and fisherpeople, and all the islands and countries that touch its shores. The north and south currents converge and dump not only sand and shells but also trash right on to Shell Beach, further south than where we stopped driving. Several exhibits discussed the effect of this trash on marine life.

They do a big clean-up day at least once a year. There are trash bags outside of the museum so folks can do a pickup if they’d like, and we did see a gentleman walking the beach with one of the yellow bags. Note to self for another time: stop at the museum first. I had been in a hurry to get to the beach, of course.

I hadn’t been to an aquarium in many years, so we made a stop at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. We watched a dolphin show and admired all the tanks of sharks, alligators, corals and fish from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

There were moon jellies in the aquatic nursery:

and I enjoyed watching the flamingos in the jungle area. The one in front inspected us up and down. “Just what are you looking at?” it seemed to say.

This one just wanted to dance. They were fun to watch, or maybe I just enjoyed them because I can’t get this close to shore birds out in the wild.

Near the marina downtown, which is where the picture at the top was taken, was a statue of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a young rising singer who was murdered at a young age in 1995. She was much loved in Texas and many people were here for a look or a picture in front of her memorial.

We were getting ready to say farewell to the Gulf region for now, but one last seafood dinner at Harrison’s landing was in order.

Where do our travels take us from here? That’s for the next post!

Next time – we visit a small Central Texas town

2 thoughts on “Sea, Sand, and Sea Creatures in Corpus Christi, Texas

  1. Sounds like you had time to slow down, relax and enjoy the gulf. Great capture of the flamingo looking right at you. And I really like how, in the first photo, you framed the marina with the arches. Looking forward to your next post! Safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

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