Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park Review & Rating

Texas Outside Rating: 6.8

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park Website
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Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park Overview:

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, in Mission, is known worldwide as a hot spot for birding where you can glimpse hundreds of bird species as well as other South Texas wildlife like bobcats and javalinas.  Over 325 species of birds, including Plain Chachalaca and Green Jays, have been spotted in the Park and it is one of the best places in the United States to observe birds and wildlife most commonly found in Northern Mexico. 

The Park has over 760 acres of rare riparian woodland and native gardens and it’s surrounded by 1900 acres of protected native habitat.  To protect and preserve the integrity of the Park, cars are not allowed – you can walk, bike, or take the tram around the Park. The Park is home to a visitor’s center, hiking and nature trails, a gift and coffee shop, primitive campground, meeting facilities, and lots of bird observation areas.  The Park serves as the headquarters of the World Birding Center.

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Amenities and Fun Things To Do:

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park has six to eight sites that are available for tent camping only.  All of the sites are clustered together under the trees.  Each site has a picnic table, lantern pole, and fire ring.  Water is available and restrooms and showers are nearby.

Just outside the State Park (a two minute walk) is one of the best RV parks in Texas – Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort.  This top ranked Park has outstanding full hook-up sites, a very friendly and outgoing staff, plenty of daily activities to keep you busy and lots of amenities like free bikes and kayaks, ATV and pontoon boat tours, pool tables, clubhouse, woodworking shop, swimming pool, and more.  Read our review of Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort to learn more. 

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is primarily for bird watching and outside of that there isn’t a lot to do.  The Park does have:

  • A free tram that will take you around the Park and drop you off or pick you up at any of the bird observation points or trails
  • Bikes for rent to cruise around the Park in search for birds
  • A well done two story Hawk Observation tower where you can witness amazing hawk migrations
  • Several bird observation points with benches, swings, or blinds
  • A small exhibit and interpretive center
  • Hiking trails
  • Binoculars for rent
  • Fishing in one of the resacas
  • Picnic area and an open group shelter area
  • Gift shop and coffee bar
  • Multi-media and meeting rooms

Throughout the year Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park has a wide variety of interpretive programs including bird walks, butterfly walks, creatures of the night, undiscovered Bentsen, and more. 

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A Typical Texas Outsider Day:

We discovered this Park when we were camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort just outside the Park.  We aren't birders but we did have an easy ride through the Park with a stop at the Nature Center and the Hawk Observation tower.  

The rest of the time when we were here we had fun on an ATV ride, golfing at a couple of the local courses, a good meal at Republic of the Rio Grande, and we really enjoy all of the amenities at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort.

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Cool Nearby Activities:

If you’re a nature lover, about a mile from the Park is the National Butterfly Center which is where you can experience the beauty, drama, and emotion of wild butterflies.  On over 100 acres you’ll see incredible numbers of kaleidoscopically colored wild butterflies.  Thousands of plants that butterflies need for nectar and caterpillar growth have created a butterfly paradise that sustains large populations of hundreds of species of wild butterflies.

McAllen and all of its sister cities are home to a wide variety of things to do from good restaurants to world class shopping to arts and theater to museums and zoos.  If you like golf, there are several good courses in the area – here is a link to our reviews of some of the best golf courses in the Rio Grande Valley.

For sun, surf, and good times then head to South Padre Island which is about 90 minutes away.  Read this Vacation on South Padre Island to learn about all the fun things to do on the Island.

Campground Information

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Additional Pictures of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

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Texas Outside Campground Rating System

Texas Outside uses a tough rating scale and it’s difficult for a campground to get a “10”.  Each park is rated on:

  • Scenic Beauty: a campground that is flat with no trees or character gets a “1” and hills, lots of trees, beautiful lake site, and lush ground cover gets a “10”
  • Park Condition:  the cleaner, well kept, and maintained campgrounds receive high scores
  • Amenities: we are looking for lots of amenities like restrooms, dump stations, playgrounds, boat ramps, shelters, concession stand, rental toys, and more.
  • Campsites:  low scores are given for sites that are right next to each other (good for getting to know your neighbors, but not what we’re looking for when we’re camping); have no lantern holder, no water or electricity, no fire pit, no grill, or no picnic table (or it’s rotten wood); have no trees and no view; the ground cover is crushed rock (my bare feet hate that stuff!); and they require a lot of work to get your rig level.
  • Things To Do: Bonus points are given for campgrounds that offer lots of fun things to do at the park or very nearby – this includes: biking, hiking, climbing, boating, entertainment, golf, swimming, fishing, volleyball, horseshoes, and more