The original Queen Isabella causeway of Port Isabel, Texas, is an enigmatic relic of poor construction that I first noticed while photographing the bay from the south end of South Padre Island. In its current state, it begins from the southeast tip of Port Isabel and extends over the blue water of the bay before terminating abruptly about a half mile later in a precarious ramplike projection that looks like it might have been built for some foolhardy motorcycle stunt. I found almost no Internet resources that even mention the old causeway, let alone provide a thorough history. The most I could find is that it was poorly made in the 1950s, was replaced within twenty years by the new causeway, and is now used as a semi-prohibited pedestrian fishing bridge, although fishermen are strongly discouraged from stepping foot on it because of its disrepair.
I found its mystique hard to resist, and so I ended up spending an entire morning exploring the causeway against my better judgment. And I’d love to say that I came away with a clearer picture (either mental or digital) of its character, but I cannot. That’s the funny thing about exploring a place for the first time in dense fog. There is no big picture. Just a loose map assembled from fragments of limited view.
The entrance gate to the old causeway, a partially ajar chain-link fence decorated with various warning signs, is situated about a half mile from the causeway itself. It is literally at the end of the road, situated on one side by overgrown weeds and on the other by a gated community. There is nowhere to park legally nearby, which I’m sure is quite intentional. I left my vehicle about a half mile up the road in front of an abandoned-looking house, half expecting to find it gone when I returned.
The walkpath to the causeway is a disintegrating road surrounded by a wasteland of sand and cacti and a litany of discarded items. Picture a movie set from Mad Max in thick fog, so imagine that you can see only about fifty feet in any direction. There was no noise other than the distant calls of the shorebirds and the scraping of my shoes as I walked. The landscape is a stark contrast from the affluence of a Port Isabel condominium just outside the entrance. It felt menacing, apocalyptic.
The hike from the entrance gate to the causeway itself was much longer than I’d expected. Eventually I came to another tall chain-link fence with another opened gate, and I found the beginning of the old causeway a short distance thereafter, sitting quietly and neglected, its concrete crumbling and rebar rusting over clean blue seawater as far as I could see into the fog. I took a few pictures from alongside the causeway before building the courage to make my way onto the structure itself. I’ll share more about that experience later. Stay tuned.