Deep in the heart of southern Texas is land where only the wildest animals used to roam, but the birth of the American cattle ranching industry took place here at King Ranch, just outside of what is now Kingsville, TX.
The ranch, one of the largest in the world today, is just west of Route 77 and about an hour southwest of Corpus Christi. King Ranch at Kingsville is the mother ranch of several smaller Florida ranches and, at one time, several overseas. King Ranch recently sold off the last of its overseas properties, including almost 1 million acres in the Australian Outback. Today, King Ranch is still a lead exporter of beef and leather goods to all parts of the world.
A visit to the ranch can be done year-round, but I suggest a fall trip, as, right now, the temperatures are already reaching into the high 90s and it isn't even summer yet. The $7 guided tour is given on an air-conditioned tour bus on the hour from 9am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and 12 to 5pm on Sunday.
Upon reaching the visitor center, request to see the movie on the history of King Ranch. It tells of how Captain Richard King bought the land in 1853, expanded it to reach the size of the state of Rhode Island, and produced the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle with the help of early Mexican immigrants.
The tour then takes visitors through some of the land where different breeds of cattle roam and horses are born and bred. They even have claim to a former Kentucky Derby winner who is buried on the property. There is no way to see the entire breadth of ranch property, but the castle-style main house and outbuildings modeled after the Alamo are highlights of the tour. The ranch is a huge supporter of wildlife conservation efforts, and they provided guided nature tours as well. It is not uncommon to see deer, jackrabbits, prairie dogs, and wild peacocks on the tour.
King Ranch is still owned by descendents of the King and Kleburg families and is often host to celebrities and dignitaries who visit the southern Texas area.
King Ranch is a must-see stop if you are anywhere near the Corpus Christi area. There are no restaurants on the property, and the only access is by guided tour because ranch-hands and family live and work within the grounds. They are even their own independent school district and have a small borough of houses for the cowboys who work the ranch and their families. A small gift shop has snacks and gifts for purchase, but the King Ranch Museum and the King Ranch Saddle Shop are full of history, memorabilia, and items to purchase and are conveniently located in the nearby town of Kingsville. For more information, visit www.king-ranch.com