Last June I visited the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse in Hidalgo, Texas, a town that lies right on the border of Mexico in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. Reynosa sits just on the other side of the Rio Grande River. Hidalgo was founded in 1852 and was first named Edinburgh, after the birthplace of Hidalgo’s founder. It became the county seat and the name was later changed to Hidalgo, which literally translates to “son of something” or loosely, “gentleman,” because it referred to someone of noble rank. The Hidalgo Pumphouse dates back to 1909, when it was built to service over 40,000 acres of land that needed irrigation, and was in operation until 1983 when a newer pump plant was opened nearby.
I went to visit the Old Pumphouse on a hot Thursday afternoon. It has been converted to a museum, and like the other parts of the lower valley, attracts birds because of the tropical climate, so it also functions as a birding center. I was the only visitor there, so it was quiet and peaceful, and I was surprised by just how beautiful it was. History and nature are two of my favorite things, and being able to combine the two is even better!
The Old Hidalgo Pumphouse is located just past the historic downtown area. When I went, the grounds surrounding it had food trucks and a cute store. When you first enter the museum, there’s a lobby area with an information desk. Admission is free and you can wander through the old pumphouse, which is filled with the old machinery, tools, and a miniature model of the old railroad. It was interesting, especially if you like engineering and that sort of thing, but I was really anxious to get back outside and explore the grounds!
If you exit the pumphouse from the opposite side, it takes you to a beautiful garden with a little stream and a small pavilion. Just beyond that is the border wall. I decided to loop back around towards the parking lot and found the “Old Swimming Hole.”
The large space in front of the pumphouse has been turned into an amphitheater with a projector screen. And behind that is a shady area with a bench and some cute little buckets decorated by kids.
This took me back to the garden area. Beyond that on the south side is the Rio Grande River. Luckily, the border wall provides a gap here, so visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenic outlook. Hopefully this doesn’t change, despite the increase of wall construction along the Rio Grande River.
You can’t tell from this photo, but this was a cute little family. There was a baby duckling swimming in between them!
If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a building with the Texas, Mexico, and U.S. flags. That’s the Customs & Border station at the International Bridge into Mexico. In the photo below, you can see Reynosa in the distance.
I walked back to the parking lot and found some beautiful trees on the lawn.
There is also a 4.5 mile hike & bike trail on the grounds, where you can find even more birds, and I hope I can get back there someday soon to check it out! If you are visiting the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, I would highly recommend taking a couple of hours to explore the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse. And if you stay until the evening, you may even be able to enjoy the food trucks and a movie screening at the amphitheater!