Hidalgo: Hidalgo Pumphouse Heritage and Discovery Park/ World Birding Center
Photo by Valerie D. Bates
PUMP IT UP!
The Hidalgo Pumphouse, built for commercial-scale irrigation in 1909, drew water from the Rio Grande and channeled it to thousands of crop-laden acres nearby. The pumphouse, operated first by steam before coal and electricity followed, performed its duties until 1983 when an all-electric pumphouse was installed downstream.
Today, the Hidalgo Pumphouse has been restored as a museum and its surrounding grounds serve as one of the World Birding Center sites. Visitors may tour the pumphouse and marvel at the enormous machinery that once powered the pumps. Interpretive text and images explain the pumphouse system in terms easy to understand. The network of smokestacks, pumps, gates, intake pipes, and boilers were originally built alongside the Rio Grande but a flood in 1933 changed the river's course by about a half-mile, leaving the pumphouse high and dry. Engineers dug a channel from the river's new course back to the pumphouse in order for the water to reach the intake pipes.
Today, the lake-like channel makes an ideal habitat for spotting some of the Valley's subtropical birds; or for enjoying something that requires perhaps a little less energy—like an afternoon nap.