This lake’s seemingly endless supply of salt—estimated at four million tons—has been harvested for centuries by Native Americans and later by Spanish explorers and settlers, who utilized it for personal use and trade. Traveled by traders and harvesters, a well-worn route known as the salt trail crossed the Rio Grande at an ancient ford at the present-day site of Los Ebanos Ferry.
In 1798, La Sal del Rey and nearby La Sal Vieja were granted to Spanish army Capt. Juan Jose Ballí, father of Rosa Hinojosa de Ballí, who became known as the first “cattle queen” of Texas. The lake was named La Sal del Rey, or “the King’s Salt,” to honor the King of Spain, who held the mineral rights and received a 20-percent tax on all harvests. In 1866, disputes over rights to the salt deposit spurred a Texas constitutional amendment that granted mineral rights to the landowner instead of the government.
To access the lake, follow the mile-long trail from the small parking lot off U.S. 186. La Sal del Rey is open for hiking and wildlife viewing from sunrise to sunset, and guided tours can be requested through the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.