Del Rio is a border city in and the county seat of Val Verde County, Texas. Del Rio is connected with Ciudad Acuña via the Lake Amistad Dam International Crossing and Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge. Del Rio is also home to Laughlin Air Force Base, the busiest pilot training base in the United States Air Force.
As of 2007, Del Rio’s population was approximately 45,000. The city is at an elevation of 999 feet, and has an average annual temperature of 72-degrees with an annual average rainfall of 18 inches.
In a semi-desert locale, Del Rio is an oasis with San Felipe Springs supplying 90 million gallons of pure water per day through creeks and canals which border recreational facilities including parks, municipal swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and facilities for baseball, softball and soccer. Water and a temperate climate make Del Rio a recreational destination, with many modern motels and campgrounds. Sportsmen enjoy hunting, fishing, golf and tennis throughout the year. Local attractions such as Seminole Canyon State Historical Park, the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center,Whitehead Memorial Museum, Laughlin Heritage Museum, George Paul Museum, and Val Verde Winery attract many travelers, as do annual rodeos and fiestas.
Del Rio History
The Spanish established a small settlement south of the Rio Grande in present day Mexico, and some Spaniards settled on what became the United States side of the Rio Grande as early as the 18th century. San Felipe Springs, about seven miles east of the Rio Grande on the U.S. side of the border, produces 90 millions of gallons of water a day. Developers acquired several thousand acres of land adjacent to the springs, and the San Felipe Creek formed by the springs, from the State of Texas in exchange for building a canal system to irrigate the area. The developers sold tracts of land surrounding the canals to recover their investment and show a profit. These investors formed the San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Irrigation Company in 1868. The organization completed construction of a network of irrigation canals in 1871. Residents referred to the slowly developing town as San Felipe Del Rio because local lore said the name came from early Spanish explorers who offered a Mass at the site on St. Philip’s Day, 1635.
In 1883 local residents requested a post office be established. The United States Postal Department shortened “San Felipe del Rio” to “Del Rio” to avoid confusion with San Felipe de Austin. In 1885 Val Verde County was organized and Del Rio became the county seat. The City of Del Rio was incorporated November 15, 1911.
In 1942, the Army Air Corps opened Laughlin Field nine miles east of Del Rio as a training base for the Martin B-26, but it was deactivated in 1945. As the Cold War pressures built, Laughlin Field was rebuilt and renamed Laughlin Air Force Base. It was again used as a home for flying training. In the mid-1950s, the Strategic Air Command noted Laughlin’s remoteness that allowed for secret operations, and opened its strategic reconnaissance program there with the RB-57, a bomber modified for high altitude reconnaissance. SAC soon transitioned to the high altitude U-2 Dragonlady and based all of them in Laughlin AFB. In 1962, it was Laughlin-based U-2s that took the first photographs of land-based nuclear missile sites being constructed in Cuba. This was the photo intelligence that started the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U-2s were relocated to Davis-Monthan AFB near Tucson, AZ in July 1963 and Laughlin's mission transitioned to the Undergraduate Pilot Training mission in the T-37 and T-38 aircraft. Laughlin AFB also provides training in the T-1A Jayhawk and the T-6A Texan II. Laughlin plays a large part in the Del Rio community as the area’s largest employer.
Del Rio Parks and Recreation
Del Rio is home to many exciting opportunities for recreation. Facilities include parks, municipal swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and facilities for baseball, softball and soccer. For more information for parks and recreational opportunities in the area, please visit the below link.
Del Rio is home to many exciting events that are perfect for everyone in the entire family to enjoy. Come participate in Del Rio’s celebrations such as Oktoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis and more. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the fantastic memories you’ll be making here in Del Rio!
Rodeo George Paul Memorial Bull riding Superbull takes place in Del Rio every April. This is the largest bull riding event in the United States, drawing people to participate from all over the country.
Oktoberfest The Del Rio Oktoberfest celebration takes place each September at the Whitehead Memorial Museum. The dinner menu includes traditional German dishes such as bratwurst, weisswurst, sauerkraut, and authentic German beer. An oompah band provides the dancing music, and a silent auction provides plenty of fun for the family.
Veteran’s Day Each year, Del Rio and Laughlin Air Force Base remember their military veterans. The city holds a Veterans Day parade and memorial service. Veterans from the community speak about their experiences; a 21-gun salute honors those who died, while the POW/MIA flag flies for those who never returned.
Cinco de Mayo This victory day inflames patriotism and pride in the hearts of the citizens of Mexico. Here in Del Rio, kinship with Ciudad Acuña inspires merrymaking on this side of the border as well. In the days surrounding Cinco de Mayo, booths at Brown Plaza offer food, crafts, gifts, and fun for everyone.
Diez y Seis September 16 is the anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain. As such, it too commands fireworks and revelry. Ciudad Acuña dresses up in red, white, and green, while Del Rio hosts a carnival with a variety of vendors and activities.
Fiesta de Amistad Fiesta de Amistad promotes the friendship between sister cities Del Rio, Texas, USA, and Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico. The commemoration started as the Good Neighbor Day in 1956 and grew into a weeklong display featuring the only parade in the world that starts in one country and ends in another. Fiesta activities also include a chess tournament, an arts and crafts festival, a bike race, and the Abrazo, a traditional embrace between the mayors of both cities at Amistad Dam.
Del Rio Attractions
Del Rio is the place to be if you like to stay busy! Here you’ll find many attractions including the Val Verde Winery, the Whitehead Memorial Museum, the San Felipe Golf Course and more. Check out the list below for ideas to keep you and your family entertained throughout the year.
Val Verde Winery Val Verde Winery was established in 1883 by Frank Qualia, an Italian immigrant who came to Texas to cultivate land being developed near the Rio Grande. Today, the winery is the full-time occupation of third-generation vintner Thomas Qualia. Qualia remains mindful of the hard work and wisdom that preceded him and holds fast to the promise to give Val Verde wines an excellent variety and quality. Many of his wines have garnered acclaim from wine connoisseurs, particularly his Don Luis Tawny Port, which has won awards from Houston to New York.
2006 marks Val Verde Winery's 123rd year of continuous winemaking. It is the oldest bonded winery in the state of Texas and the only winery operating in Texas from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Val Verde Winery recently received the Land Heritage Award from the Department of Agriculture for single-family ownership of the vineyards for over 110 years
Whitehead Memorial Museum The Whitehead Memorial Museum welcomes your visit when you are in West Texas. Unlike many other museums, the Whitehead Memorial Museum's exhibits are spread throughout several buildings, each in itself of historical significance. The museum is dedicated to serving Del Rio and preserving its local heritage.
Among the attractions are a replica of Judge Roy Bean's Jersey Lilly Saloon; an authentic frontier log cabin; and the Cadena Nativity, recognized by the state of Texas as cultural folk art. The gift shop is located in a former mission. On the grounds are the graves of Judge Bean and his son, Sam.
A special kids' monthly campout features storytelling around a campfire and breakfast. The museum is available for events with full wedding, party, and event coordination.
Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site houses dozens of ancient petroglyphs, some created as long as 4,000 years ago. Fate Bell Shelter in Seminole Canyon contains some of North America's oldest and most secret rock paintings. The Curly Tail Panther site on the Devil's River features a gorgeous panther painting on the wall of another cave, this one visible from the hiking trail.
San Felipe Golf Course Built in the early 1920’s San Felipe Golf Course is a nine-hole course built around three of the largest of the San Felipe Springs.