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History

Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park is a few miles southwest of Mission. This area along the Rio Grande is rich with history.

Spanish settlement

Grove of trees
Ebony trees

Spaniards first settled this land in the 1740s. They granted large tracts of land, called porciones, to certain individuals in 1767. The area of this park was once part of Jose Antonio Zamora’s Porcion 50.

Over time, the land grants split, and small towns formed along the Rio Grande. A small settlement known as Las Nuevas was abandoned in the late 1930s when the Bentsen family purchased over 3,000 acres of what used to be Porcion 50.

The Bentsens developed over 2,000 acres north of the present-day park. The family preserved the area that is now the park because of its beautiful ebony trees.

Park donation

The Bentsen family donated 586.9 acres of Porcion 50 to the Texas Parks Board for $1 in 1944. The contract stipulated that the land was “solely for Public Park Purposes and shall be maintained, operated, known and designated as Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.” The park opened in 1962.

Learn more: Download Refuge on the Rio Grande: A Regional History of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park | PDF.