Historic Port Isabel Lighthouse Gets Needed Repairs: Scheduled Reopening Date late May / early June

The historic Port Isabel Lighthouse, which has been closed since October 2016 in preparation, begins the re-stuccoing process today (March 1, 2017). A reopening date of late May / early June has been tentatively set.

March 1, 2017. Port Isabel lighthouse begins re-stuccoing.



The Port Isabel Lighthouse has long been a dominant feature at the southern tip of the Texas Gulf Coast. Its heavy brick walls have stood against the elements for more than a century, and for most of that time, its light has been a familiar aid to seafarers.

This area, long known to coastal Barrado Indians, was discovered by the Spanish explorer Pineda in 1519 while on a mapping expedition of the Gulf shores. Spanish control was established here in the late 1700s, as ranchers began moving into the vicinity from Mexico. By the 1830s a small settlement El Fronton de Santa Isabella, served as headquarters for a large Mexican ranch owned by Don Rafael Garcia.

The Point Isabel region passed almost uneventfully through the period of the Texas Republic to statehood, but it gained widespread attention in 1846. In late April, General Zachary Taylor moved his troops into this area north of the Rio Grande when hostilities between the United States and Mexico seemed imminent. Within two weeks war had begun. The opening battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma were fought north of present-day Brownsville. Point Isabel received the wounded form these initial struggles and served as an American supply depot for the duration of the war.

1930s photo of the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse.

The point continued in use after the war to supply two military stations on the Rio Grande–Fort Brown and Ringgold Barracks. Because of the heavy shipping traffic through Brazos Santiago Pass to Point Isabel, a navigational light became a necessity. Land at the point was made available by the War Department, money was authorized by Congress, and construction of a lighthouse was underway by 1851. Two years later, the brick tower had been completed and was topped by a stationary white light that could be seen for almost 16 miles. The Civil War brought armed conflict once again to Point Isabel. Confederate forces held this area in the early stages of the war but gave way in 1863 to Federal troops who were sent to strengthen the blockade on Southern shipping. Both sides used the lighthouse as an observation post. At nearby Palmetto Ranch, Union and Rebel soldiers clashed on May 13, 1865, more than a month after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, in what has since been acknowledged as the last battle of the war.

1940s picture postcard of the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse.In 1866 the lighthouse was repaired and relit. For the next two decades its beacon guided large numbers of commercial vessels to southernmost Texas. The light was extinguished between 1888 and 1894 during negotiations over ownership of the site; when finally reactivated, its years of service were numbered. The lighthouse was abandoned permanently in 1905 after shipping traffic declined. And although the coast was later active with defense measures during the two world wars, the tower at Point Isabel stood a dark watch.
The lighthouse and its associated buildings were donated to the state in 1950 as a historic site by Mr. & Mrs. Lon C. Hill, Jr. and the Port Isabel Realty Company. The State Parks Board remodeled the tower by replacing the iron platform with concrete and by raising the glass dome to provide easier access for visitors. Additional repair work by the Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD Point Isabel Lighthouse Flyer) was completed in 1970. At present, the tower with its mercury-vapor light is marked on sea charts as an aid to navigation. Of sixteen lighthouses constructed along the Texas coast, Port Isabel Lighthouse is the only one now open to the public.
Port Isabel Lighthouse.Upon Re-opening:
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily (weather permitting). Tickets may be purchased in the Lighthouse, the Keepers Cottage (Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center), the Treasures of the Gulf Museum and the Port Isabel Historical Museum.
Admission: Adults ($4.00); Seniors ($3.00); Students with id ($2.00). Last ticket sold 1/2 hour before closing. Children 5 & Under (must be at least 38″ and 4 years old tall to climb the lighthouse): Free.

Lighthouse Reopened

Additional repairs have been made to the stairs leading to the Port Isabel Lighthouse’s lantern room and the lighthouse has been reopened.

Larry Ellis, the city’s Building Inspector has given consent to reopen the tower to the public after a site safety inspection. Texas Parks and Wildlife has consented. With the Tower being reopened, some rule changes will go into effect.

Rules and Regulations

A maximum of 6 people are allowed to the top of the tower at one time.

The outside deck of the tower is closed to the public for safety purposes. Due to constant wear from both the elements and tourist visitations, the handrail on the outside deck is in need of restoration. To ensure public safety, the Museums of Port Isabel has taken the necessary precautions by closing the outside deck. Visitors may climb the tower to the top glass observation area, inside the tower.

Children 12 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult, and under no circumstances are they allowed to ascend or descend unsupervised. (Parents and Guardians are responsible for the supervision of their children)

Children fewer than 38 inches are not allowed to the top of the Lighthouse.

Under no circumstances may children be carried up or down the step. (For safety purposes, visitors must have free use of their hands.)

No pets are allowed to the top of the lighthouse (service animals are the only exception).

No running or jumping on the steps of the Lighthouse.

Horse play will not be tolerated.

Any one caught vandalizing the tower will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

If anyone is in need of assistance while at the top of the tower, they should not hesitate to yell down to the Lighthouse Keeper at the base of the tower.

If any of these rules are not being followed, visitors may be asked to leave.

These rules are being enforced for the public’s safety and well being. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience while touring our 158 year old Point Isabel Lighthouse.

If there are any questions or concerns, please feel free to call the Museums of Port Isabel at (956)-943-7602 or email Gabriel Godines at ggodines@copitx.com.

Thank you,
Gabriel J. Godines

Point Isabel Lighthouse

The Point Isabel Lighthouse is the heart of the Port Isabel experience! Open to the public, daily, weather permitting, a stroll to the top of the 70 ft. tower offers a 16 mile view. The lighthouse was constructed in 1852 as a working beacon for vessels entering the Brazos Santiago Pass. Decommissioned in 1905, the lighthouse is now a primary tourist attraction.

Tickets may be purchased in the Lighthouse, the Keepers Cottage (Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center), the Treasures of the Gulf Museum and the Port Isabel Historical Museum.

Hours of Operation: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weather permitting).
Summer Hours: Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday – Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ticket Information: Individual Site Tickets to the Port Isabel Lighthouse OR the Treasures of the Gulf Museum OR the Port Isabel Historical Museum.
Adults: $3.00; Senior Citizens*: $2.00; Students**: $1.00
Children 4 & Under: Free; Museum Member***: Free.
Combination Site Ticket: to the Port Isabel Lighthouse & Keepers Cottage AND the Treasures of the Gulf Museum AND the Port Isabel Historical Museum.
Adults: $7.00; Senior Citizens*: $5.00; Students**: $2.00
Children 4 & Under: Free; Museum Member***: Free
*Senior Citizens (55 & over); **Students (K – College with ID);
***Museum Member (with Membership Card). Military ID: Free.

Notice: Lighthouse closed for step repair until further notice

The lighthouse will be closed until further notice due to the necessary repairs to a step. Temporary repairs were made earlier in the week, and after further inspection by the City’s Building Department and the Museum Staff it was decided to close the lighthouse pending an inspection by Texas Parks and Wildlife. While the historic lighthouse is an important attraction to Port Isabel, public safety is the utmost concern.

Friday’s showing of CORALINE is still scheduled to start at 8:30 pm! Everybody is invited to attend as Port Isabel kicks of a full schedule of Halloween and Day of the Dead weekend activities.

Thank you for your patience in this matter. For more information call the Museums at 956/943-7602.

Gabriel Godines
Museums of Port Isabel Curator of Education and Programs