Palo Alto Battlefield National
1623 Central Boulevard
Brownsville, Texas 78520-8326
Explore Palo Alto Battlefield
On May 8, 1846 troops of the United States and
Mexico clashed on the prairie of Palo Alto. The battle was the first
in a two-year long conflict that changed the map of North America.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site preserves the site of
this notable battle and provides an understanding of the causes,
events, and consequences of the first war between independent
Things to Do
The park visitor center offers an orientation video and exhibits on
the battle of Palo Alto and the U.S.-Mexican War. Visitors may also
browse a book sales area of some 100 titles and obtain pamphlets
about the park and related sites.
Trails & Roads
The Park offers a � mile trail (1 mile round-trip) to an overlook
of the battlefield, where visitor will find interpretive panels.
Those who cannot walk this distance may use an accessible road which
will allow them to enter the trail at a point closer to the
The park offers a 15-minute video program entitled "War on the
Rio Grande" at its interim visitor facility. This historical
overview is available in English and Spanish. Other park activities
occur on an irregular basis, primarily in the winter months.
In the Spring of 1846, all eyes turned toward
events on the Rio Grande.
When a long-brewing territorial dispute
between the United States and Mexico erupted into war, residents of
both nations clamored for details. Battle accounts filled the
columns of the daily papers. Places like Palo Alto and Resaca de la
Palma became household words.
So did the names of dozens of soldiers who
served in these battles and emerged as heroes or celebrities. Caught
in the excitement of the moment, politicians and citizens alike
engaged in fierce debates about the causes, justice, and meaning of
Today, the battle of Palo Alto and the
U.S.-Mexican War have faded from public attention, but remain
important in the history of both nations. In the following pages, we
encourage you to learn more about this conflict and to rediscover
some of the notable people and places that to captured public
attention in the spring of 1846.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site
was created to recognize an important historical event, but it is
also notable for its natural features. Drawn around an expanse of
more than 3,400 acres of undeveloped land, the park boundaries
contain an abundance of plant and animal life, including many
species that are unique to the U.S-Mexico border region.
The defining feature of Palo Alto is the broad
coastal prairie-scene to the 1846 battle between the United States
and Mexico. This coastal plain is carpeted with clumps of
razor-sharp cord grass and other low-lying grasses and flowers. The
field stretches eastward for miles toward the Gulf of Mexico,
interrupted only by scattered trees, yuccas, and prickly-pear
The site, however, also includes other, much
different areas. To the north, south, and west, the open prairie
gives way to dense thickets of mesquite, acacia, and thorny
undergrowth that crown low rises and are believe to have inspired
the name Palo Alto-or tall trees. The park is also criss-crossed by
a series of shallow ravines, known as resacas.
The resacas once formed the bed of the
ever-shifting Rio Grande. Although they remain dry for much of the
year, occasional heavy rains create small pools in these former
river channels and spurs the growth of reedy plants that thrive in
This assortment of habitats also supports a
variety of animal life. Coyotes, jackrabbits, and bobcats roam the
open plain. Javelina, opossums, tortoises and many otheranimals find
refuge in the cover of brush. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and fiddler
crabs can be found in burrows under the ground while dozens of
different kinds of birds, including raptors and tropical species can
be spotted on their perches in tree branches.
The abundance of wildlife makes the Palo Alto
Battlefield an attractive stopping point for nature lovers. Bird
watching has become a particularly popular pastime at the park, with
visitors taking the opportunity to view birds of prey like the
Harris Hawk, Aplomado Falcon as well as colorful species like the
As the park continues to make more of the
battlefield accessible to the public, it seems certain that the site
will lure as many bird watchers and natural enthusiasts in number
that rival those who visit for the historical importance of the
This situation creates an interesting dilemma
in the management of the park. As a unit of the National Park
Service-one of the nation's premier conservation agencies-Palo Alto
is dedicated to appropriately documenting, protecting, and managing
the natural resources on the site.
As a National Historic Site, however, the park
must place an emphasis on the historical importance of the site. Any
activities to manage or restore habitat and wildlife must be planned
carefully, to ensure that well-meaning projects do not have a
negative effect on the historical and archeological features of the
Fortunately, efforts to care for the cultural
and natural resources of the battlefield usually complement each
other. Plans to preserve the battlefield generally support the
preservation of plants and animals that have lived on the site since
the time of the U.S.-Mexican War. Likewise, projects to restore the
landscape to its appearance at the time of the 1846 clash commonly
encourage the park to restore native habitat and species.
These efforts to conserve both the natural and
historical landscapes of the site will ultimately benefit park
visitors. History enthusiasts who visit the park will have an
opportunity to view the terrain and vegetation that influenced the
course of the 1846 battle.
Nature enthusiasts will have an opportunity to
view plants and animals that drew the attention of soldiers more
than 150 years ago. All visitors will find Palo Alto to be a place
of stark beauty--a living monument to the men who fought for their
countries so many years ago.
Page 1 of 1