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Texas | Trips | Drives

Route 77: “The Padre Road”

Victoria, Texas to the Rio Grande Valley

Seven Bridges, Five Rivers, Two Creeks and
One Interesting Drive

By Ken Rudine

Route 77 Cafe, US Highway 77

Sign in Riviera
If the road had colors, they would be turquoise and terra cotta

Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Editor’s Note:
Ken “Mr. Third Coast” Rudine spends his year alternating between Houston and Port Aransas and is as familiar with highway 77 as most people are with their route to work.

While photographing the unusual drawbridge at Rio Hondo, Texas, it occurred to Ken that due to modern construction, the bridges along route 77 are now seamlessly incorporated into the highway infrastructure. To add to his already extensive coverage of Coastal and South Texas on Texas Escapes, Ken made a point of stopping at each river (and notable creek) between Brownsville and Victoria. Inspired by the “Mother Road” of Route 66, Ken has designated this portion of Highway 77 “The Padre Road.” Pulling on and off the high-speed highway and finding snake-free vantage points isn’t the easiest way to spend a trip, so our thanks go out to Ken for sharing what we ourselves have missed. Without the attention to detail, the trip might just be considered “water under the bridge(s).”

The photos provided are a sampling of what might be encountered between Victoria and Brownsville, and the trip is not meant to be a step-by-step itinerary. Clicking on the links of the towns in the article will provide a more in-depth look at the towns along the route. - Editor

US Highway 77 South sign
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Highway 77

Crossing the Red River north of Gainesville, Texas, Highway 77 arrives 565 miles later at the State Travel Information station in Harlingen; a building that sits in the shade of the six flags that have flown over Texas.

The first 360 miles of Highway 77 from crossing the Red River north of Gainesville to Victoria is much like any other road in Texas. But leaving Victoria en route to the Rio Grande Valley, the landscape becomes distinctly coastal for the remaining 230 miles.

The portion of Route 77 I call “The Padre Road” is the last 80 miles and if one looks closely enough, there are glimpses of every era in Texas history, from the original Spanish land grants to the present.

Six Flags of Texas, Halingen, Texas
The Familiar Six Flags of Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

The Towns

Taking the drive down Route 77 from North to South, you will encounter the following towns:
Victoria*, McFaddin, Refugio*, Woodsboro, Sinton*, Odem, Robstown, Driscoll, Bishop, Kingsville*, Ricardo, Riviera, Sarita, Raymondville*, Harlingen

Continue the drive to the Mexican border and visit:
Combes, LaFeria, San Benito, Rancho Viejo, Olmito and Brownsville*

* Asterisks denote county seats

Victoria County Courthouse clocktower through the atrium, Victoria Texas
Victoria County Courthouse in Victoria.
TE photo
Victoria Hotels

Green Jay @ Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
A Green Jay
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge,
East of Harlingen
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, December 2007
Harlingen Hotels

Historic Brownsville Museum Southern Pacific Railroad Depot Brownsville Texas
The restored Southern Pacific Railroad Depot in Brownsville
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2007
Brownsville Hotels

The Rivers

If one begins from Victoria, the seven rivers and creeks crossed by The Padre Road would be the Guadalupe River, the San Antonio River, Coleto Creek, the Mission River, the Aransas River, the Nueces River and finally Los Olmos Creek.

If one begins at Robstown, only Los Olmos creek, a few miles south of the starting point will be crossed. The other six creek and five rivers are more frequently-spaced between Victoria and the highway turnoff for Corpus Christi. That trip in itself would provide ample adventure for another memorable Sunday drive.

If the trip is extended from Houston, then three more rivers would be added to the itinerary. These would be the Brazos at Richmond, the San Bernard near Kendleton and the Colorado at Wharton.

Guadalupe River, Texas crossing US Highway 77
The Guadalupe River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Coleto Creek, Texas crossing US Highway 77
Coleto Creek
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

San Antonio River, Texas,  crossing US Highway 77
The San Antonio River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Mission River , Texas,  crossing US Highway 77
Mission River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Aransas River , Texas,  crossing US Highway 77
The Aransas River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Nueces River , Texas,  crossing US Highway 77
The Nueces River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008

Los Olmos Creek , Texas,  crossing US Highway 77
Los Olmos Creek
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, March 2008
More Texas Rivers

US Highway 77, Texas fruit stand
One of the timeless fruit stands (northbound) on Route 77
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine

Palm lined US 77, Texas
The palm-lined southern section of Route 77
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine

Highway 77 - Book Hotel Here:
Victoria Hotels
Kingsville Hotels
Raymondville Hotels
Harlingen Hotels
Brownsville Hotels
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