South Padre Island History

South Padre Island has a romantic history that has followed many courses. The Spanish explorer Alonso de Pineda named Island Isla Blanca or “White Island.”  He first noted the Island in 1519.  South Padre’s first settlement was in 1804 and was founded by Padre Nicholas Balli, a missionary priest.  The initial land grant was made at the time by King Charles IV of Spain.  History indicates that the Karankawa Indians were the original natives here.  Pirates were roaming the area in the early 1800s, including Jean Lafitte, who possibly buried bounty on South Padre Island.  The shipwrecked Winger family made the Island their home for 14 years in the mid 1800s.  In 1964 the Port Mansfield Ship Channel was completed and this separated South Padre Island from its northern portion.  A point of interest here is that the Island is actually a barrier reef protecting the east coast of Texas.  This reef has provided Texas with one of the most beautiful bays in the country.  The new bridge, the Queen Isabella Causeway was completed in 1974 and was built to high-tech standards to withstand the winds of a force 5 hurricane.  Local year-round residents currently total 1,100.