Kingsville To Raymondville: A Wild Horse Desert Turned Ranching Empire
Cattle still reign supreme in Texas, thanks in part to Captain Richard King and his partner Mifflin Kenedy, two of our greatest ranching heritage icons. Both self-made men, King and Kenedy created a ranching dynasty that continues to thrive today.
Kingsville, and the King Ranch Museum, is a good place to begin a tour of the birthplace of American ranching. It’s also where the stretch of coastal grasslands once known as the Wild Horse Desert begins. The museum, the definitive archive of ranching lore and storyteller of the King/Kenedy history, also serves as informative touchstone for your guided tour of the King Ranch.
See herds of Santa Gertrudis and longhorns, and ranch life highlights including the Camphouse, the carriage house, auction arena, the Commissary, and the grand ranch homestead. And don’t miss the King Ranch Saddle Shop for some take-home leathercraft including your own King Ranch saddle. Elsewhere in Kingsville, you’ll have the chance to send a telegraph courtesy of the 1904 Train Museum and its operational telegraph machine (no guarantees you’ll receive a response back).
Down the road in Sarita, the story continues at the Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas where exhibits recount the fascinating legacy of the Kenedy family. The Kenedy dynasty ended with granddaughter Sarita (the town’s namesake) but she left behind the Kenedy fortune as a charitable foundation, once the largest in south Texas. Continuing south on US Highway 77 you’ll get a sense of days past when these vast grasslands were traversed by horseback and wagon. The region is relatively unpopulated even today, including a long stretch across the King Ranch’s Norias Division. Roll the windows down and breathe in the fresh sea air. You can’t see the Gulf of Mexico but it’s near; a mere 25 miles lie between you and the deep blue sea.
Southward still brings you to Raymondville, the southern tip of the Wild Horse Desert and once home to Edward Burleson Raymond, entrepreneur and former King Ranch employee, who sold town lots on behalf the land owner—the King Ranch. Stop and have some lunch then head east to Port Mansfield, once part of the King Ranch known as Red Fish Landing, where reportedly a cowboy could catch all the tasty fish he wanted from horseback. Muse over your full day of cattle history, relax and stick your feet in the water, and let someone else fish for your dinner while you just enjoy sitting on the dock of the bay “until the cows come home.”