The King Ranch outside of Kingsville welcomes visitors, but the best way to see the most storied ranch in Texas is by guided tour
The King Ranch outside of Kingsville welcomes visitors, but the only way to see the most storied ranch in Texas is by guided tour. Private vehicles are not allowed on the largest cattle ranch in the world.
Founded in 1853 by Richard King, the ranch grew to 825,000 acres in Texas, plus additional holdings around the world. Born in New York, King built a successful steamboat business on the Rio Grande. During the Civil War, he made a fortune smuggling Confederate cotton into Mexico.
Needing experienced ranch hands to run his empire, King brought the residents of an entire Mexican village to his ranch. Descendants of these original 150 immigrants, called kinenos, or "King's men," still live and work on the ranch.
Over the years, the ranch made many significant advances in agriculture. For instance, the workers bred Santa Gertrudis cattle, a breed especially suited to the South Texas plains. The only Texas thoroughbred horse to win the Triple Crown, Assault, was born and raised on the ranch.
You can get a more complete history of the ranch by taking the guided historical and agricultural tour. For less than $10, guests get a 90-minute tour of the ranch headquarters. Air-conditioned buses leave the visitors' center three times a day. You get to see a lot of cows, a few horses, and plenty of wildlife from deer to caracara, a black-and-white member of the falcon family.
In order to meet its tight schedule, the tour doesn't stop at any of the interesting sites, such as Assault's grave, the cattle barns, or the historic commissary building. The bus simply drives past the grand house where King and his family once lived. My tour included a special stop at the old weaver's cottage where Alberto "Lolo" Trevino (pictured) told us about growing up on the ranch. Tickets for the tours are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and often sell out.
If you have more time and money, the ranch hands will arrange a personal special-interest tour that can last from four hours to all day. Reservations for these tours must be made in advance.
Besides raising livestock, the ranch includes large sections of diverse habitat that attracts an abundance of native wildlife. The area is also on a major bird migratory route.
The ranch offers tours to view the wildlife and bird-watch suitable for any budget or time constraints. For as little as $23 and 3½ hours, a visitor can see an incredible of amount of wildlife. Reservations are required. Special group tours can also be arranged.
The King Ranch's main gate is off TX 141 on the west side of Kingsville. The ranch also operates a museum and saddle shop in downtown Kingsville. For more information on the tours, call 361/592-8055 or go to www.king-ranch.com.
1,024th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.