In the early 1800s Padre Jose Nicolas Balli received portions of the island in a land grant from Mexico and began to raise cattle, horses, and mules at his settlement which he named Rancho Santa Cruz. In the early 1900 most of the island was under the control of the National Park Service and was closed to the public. In 1962 new access to the island was opened up and the city of South Padre began to grow. Today the beaches are lined with condos and hotels, like the Best Western that we stayed in.
People come from all around the country, and sometimes even further, to enjoy the beaches of South Padre. Many retired people spend the entire winters in the area living in trailers and mobile homes while young people invade the beaches for spring break.
Fortunately we were there the week before spring break so the beaches were calm and peaceful. I spent my mornings walking up and down the beach looking at shells and anything else that was washed ashore during high tide. On a couple of occasions I found starfish on the beach. I was worried that they would not survive marooned out on the sand but a local woman told me that they would probably survive and would wash back out to see when the tide came back in that night.
Stranded jellyfish are not so lucky. Each night new jellyfish would wash up on the shore and each morning the gulls would eat their favorite parts for breakfast, leaving the dead gelatinous bodies to litter the sand.