The South Texas Salt Lakes are inland saline lakes surrounded by Tamaulipan thornscrub. It is generally thought that these shallow lakes were made naturally, formed by wind action.
At La Sal del Rey, the lake itself (to the high water line) has an area of 975 acres; the entire tract is 5,384 acres.
The area of East Lake to the high water line is 837 acres; this includes the part owned by the refuge as well as the part privately owned. The area of the entire tract is 1,756 acres; that, plus the part of the lake that is privately owned, equals 2,035 acres.
Ecology & Conservation
The management priorities are to protect and provide habitat for migrating, wintering and nesting birds; to provide public use opportunities; and to continue to minimize disturbance.
Research priorities include investigating the relationship of water levels, salinity levels and the food base (brine shrimp and other invertebrates) and researching the role of artesian wells in species diversity. The impact of commercial brine extraction at La Sal del Rey is a research priority. Research on Snowy Plover nesting success is underway.
Both lakes are under refuge management. The management priorities include maintaining these lakes for migrating, wintering, and nesting birds and providing public use opportunities. This is accomplished by erecting fencing, restricting access during breeding, mitigating oil and gas company activities, erecting signage, and issuing special use permits for birding tour groups.
At East Lake, anti-predator fencing is erected to protect colonies of nesting Gull-billed Terns. Least Terns and Snowy Plover also nest there. Access to the lake is minimized during the nesting season.
At La Sal del Rey, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Snowy Plover, and Least Tern nest. Access is also restricted here during the breeding season. An interpretive tour is led by refuge volunteers to this area during the winter months.
The site is of critical importance to other avian species. Specifically, it is a migration stopover point for thousands of Wilson's Phalaropes and Eared Grebes. Hundreds of these birds spend the winter on the lakes, as well. During the winter, hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese often use the lakes for roosting spots.
The lakes were surveyed for shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls and terns weekly or biweekly from 9/25/01 until 2/25/04. Avian production was monitored and quantified in 2002 and 2003. Surveys of nesting shorebirds were completed in 1996, 2002 and 2003 at La Sal del Rey and East Lake. Researchers from Mississippi State University will be completing a second season studying nesting Snowy Plovers in 2004.
No photos are available at the moment
Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Website: Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR
Dugger, B. D., and K. M. Dugger. 2002. Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 628 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Books on the history of the Salt Lakes:
Hawkins, Wallace. El Sal del Rey. 1947. Texas State Historical Association, Austin.
Macmanus, F. E. 1885. La Sal del Rey, or the King's Salt: The Celebrated Texas Salt Lake. Brownsville, Texas.
The Handbook of Texas Online also provides a succinct history of La Sal del Rey.