Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore


Clean-up Safety Guidelines


While clean-ups perform an important service for the National Seashore, they are not as important as being safe and maintaining one's good health. There is no bit of trash so important that one need risk injury to remove it. Park staff can always remove the item later. With that in mind, the National Seashore passes on the following safety guidelines compiled from years of experience in beach clean-ups.

  • Apply sun screen and wear hats and light clothing. Be wary of heat stress. If you feel faint or sick, rest for a few minutes or stop for the day. Drink plenty of water. Avoid sodas, which will only increase your thirst.
  • Do not pickup anything that looks like medical waste (i.e. pill bottles, needles, syringes, etc.) Mark it (with yellow caution tape tied to a stick, if provided) and notify a park employee of its location. It will be removed later.
  • Do not approach sealed containers (buckets, drums, etc.) which could contain hazardous substances. Do not trust the labeling on any container; often the contents of a container are not what is supposed to be inside. Contact a park employee for its removal.
  • Because they are often fragile or broken and their insides are coated with chemicals, do not pick up fluorescent light bulbs. Mark them as you do medical wastes and contact a park employee.
  • Be cautious when picking up trash near the vegetation line. Rattlesnakes sometimes hide under objects or in open buckets. Restrict trash pick-up to the beach and do not go into vegetated areas.
  • Use caution when picking up objects, such as broken plastic bottles, with sharp edges. If you are cut notify a park employee as soon as possible. First aid is available at the Visitors Center.
  • Keep an eye out for vehicles on the beach. If cleaning as a group in an area of high traffic, such as the first few miles of South Beach, it is always a good idea to have one or two people who do not pick up trash but concentrate on watching for approaching traffic.
  • Do not pick up lumber. Not only only does it contain splinters, but sometimes rusty nails as well. The park staff will pick them up.
  • Do not pick up natural items such as sea whip, sargassum, driftwood, broken shells, etc. These are part of the natural process of the island, which the National Seashore is dedicated to protecting. Be wary of jellyfish and man of war, which can sting.
  • Do not overload bags. Fill them only enough that they can be lifted to shoulder height with moderate effort. Leave enough room in each bag that a knot can be tied in its top. More bags can be obtained from the park staff. Ask the park's point of contact for your clean-up whether you should leave the bags next to the dunes or place them in a dumpster.
  • Remember to tell the park's point of contact for your clean-up how many bags of trash you or your group picked up and where the bags were left so they can be picked up later. Ask about certificates to document your community service.

Padre Island National Seashore wishes to thank you for contributing your time and effort to help restore the seashore to its natural beauty.

Sea Turtle Protection


There may be times when eggs, nesting turtles, hatchlings, and stranded turtles could be directly vulnerable to all activities taking place along the beach including both oil and gas and recreational traffic.  Visitors are permitted to operate their vehicles along most of the Gulf beachfront at PAIS, with driving occurring from the water’s edge to the dunes. 

In the areas where beach driving is permitted, sea turtles that nest and hatchlings that emerge from undetected nests cross at least one vehicular roadway and hence could be vulnerable to crushing from vehicles.  No nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or eggs have been documented as struck or killed by vehicles at PAIS. 

Currently the NPS removes all sea turtle eggs that are located from the beach and transfers them to the incubation facility at PAIS.  Hatching success is usually elevated substantially for eggs that are transferred to this facility rather than left on the beach to hatch.  The NPS also protects nesting turtles while they are on the beach and removes stranded turtles for rehabilitation or study.

As a beneficial side effect, trained observers and oil and gas vehicle operators provide additional observations and assist the NPS with its efforts to detect, investigate, monitor, and protect nesting sea turtles, nests, hatchlings, and stranded turtles. To reduce the direct impacts that could occur from crushing or covering of nests or turtles, many mitigation measures have been created and are applied to all oil and gas operators.   These measures include:

·        Having all drivers of oil and gas equipment attend a sea turtle awareness training class held by the NPS.

·        Convoying all large trucks during the sea turtle nesting season.

·        Having an NPS patroller conduct a morning patrol before large vehicles can traverse the beach.

·        Establishing a “Protected Season” to provide additional protection to Kemp’s ridleys sea turtles, nests, and hatchlings during the peak nesting season.

There has been vehicle traffic, from both visitors and heavy equipment operators, on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline for over fifty years with no documented case of a crushing of a nesting sea turtle within the park.


The National Seashore's small museum contains several natural, cultural, and archival collections. Unfortunately, almost all are in storage and unavailable for public viewing. To remedy the situation, as many artifacts and specimens as possible will be displayed here and in the park's virtual museum, so that the public can enjoy and study the collections.


Padre Island National Seashore volunteers can perform a variety of duties. Some of these include assisting the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Division with sea turtle patrols during nesting season, staffing the information desk at the Visitors Center, providing interpretive and educational programs for school groups and the public, working with the Facility Management Division, serving as campground hosts, assisting the Resource Management Division with field work and office tasks, or picking up marine debris along the shoreline. Other duties are available depending upon the volunteer's interests and skills and the park's needs.

A limited number of RV spots with hook-ups are available for volunteers who work at least 30 hours per week per person. Volunteers wishing to occupy a RV spot are asked to commit to at least one month of volunteer service. These volunteers may be reimbursed for propane use. No stipends are available nor mileage reimbursements. 

For more information regarding Padre Island National Seashore’s VIP Program, please contact the Park Volunteer Coordinator at (361) 949-8068.


Cooperating Association

The National Seashore's cooperating association is Western National Parks Association, which is a non-profit organization. All proceeds are returned to more than 63 affiliated parks in eleven western states to fund educational, scientific, and research programs not supported by taxes.

At the Malaquite Visitors Center, WNPA operates a small bookstore carrying postcards, magnets, posters, bookmarks, and a wide variety of books on local history, birds, sea turtles, other local wildlife, and much more.

For more information contact the park's WNPA representative at (361) 949-8068 or [email protected]

Please follow this link to the WNPA website.

Shoreline Trash

Just as the sometimes overwhelming abundance of seaweed on the beaches mystifies many people, the overwhelming abundance of trash at other times gives rise to a great deal of consternation, bewilderment, and, regrettably, anger. Most visitors to the Seashore come here to experience the beautiful sun-drenched beaches and leave with pleasant memories of a wonderful vacation. However, some are not so lucky and find their way here at times when the beach is covered with a seemingly endless river of trash then leave wondering "Where does all this trash come from and why is no one doing anything about it?"

Several thousand years ago the currents in the Gulf of Mexico brought the sand, sargassum, and driftwood that formed the island. Today the currents continue to bring natural objects, but they also bring anything that is thrown or emptied into the Gulf: bottles, hypodermic needles, light bulbs, lumber, oil, etc. An international treaty has been enacted to limit the dumping of wastes into the Gulf, but this treaty can be violated and enforcement may be difficult. In addition, many items may not have been thrown directly into the Gulf. Debris can wash down from far within the interior of a country by traveling from sewer to stream to river to the open sea.

Since 1988, park researchers have collected data on the types and quantities of trash that washes onto park beaches. Beginning in 1994, park researchers initiated the PINS Marine Debris Point Source Investigation. This labor intensive research project has required daily cataloging and removal of 43 debris items from 16 miles of shoreline within Padre Island National Seashore.

To date, park scientists have obtained over 1,000 days of marine debris data from the Point Source Investigation, collectively covering a survey area of over 16,800 miles of shoreline. This study represents one of the first long-term comprehensive, marine debris research projects initiated in the United States.

This study has shown that the vast majority of the trash can be traced to the commercial shrimping industry while approx. 14% comes from the offshore oil and gas industry. In addition, 94% of the oil and tar found on the beach can be traced to man-made sources such as oil spills, engine lube oil, and tanker washings.

With over 65 miles of shoreline, keeping the beaches clean would be an immense task for any organization. While the Padre Island National Seashore staff does the best it can to keep as much of the shore as clean as possible, we must often rely on the assistance of the environmentally-conscious volunteer groups from the general public. The National Seashore also participates in statewide beach clean-ups and the Adopt-a-Beach program. We also rely on "grass roots" participation by visitors and always have a ready supply of garbage bags available at the Visitors Center for those who want to pitch in on an individual basis.

A major problem confronting the National Seashore is that most of the park's shoreline is accessible only by four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles. Although the park does have 4WD vehicles of its own, most are SUV's or ATV's and the park has very few 4WD vehicles designed for hauling substantial amounts of material. If you have a 4WD vehicle and would like to learn more about how you can help, please visit our 4WD clean-up page.

Learn more about shoreline trash by clicking on the following links:

The Environmental Protection Agency

The Clean Beaches Organization

If you would like to learn more about how you can help, contact the Padre Island National Seashore Visitor Center at (361) 949-8068

Environmental Factors

The average rainfall is 37 inches. The warm climate is characterized both by periods of drought and periods of heavy rain. Prevailing southeasterly winds averaging 12 miles per hour, but which can normally range between 5 and 25 mph, bring salt spray and moisture laden air from the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes sometimes inundate the island with saltwater and can cut washover channels from the Gulf to the Laguna Madre in less than a day or two.

Padre Island's location in the northwest corner means that the southeasterly winds prevailing in the Gulf blow many objects, both natural and artificial, onto its shore as well as creating longshore currents which can bring much material for good or bad. Probably the most serious damage to the National Seashore's environment is done by trash, which washes onto the beaches from offshore. The trash comes from a variety of sources including the shrimping industry, offshore natural gas platforms, and washing out of rivers and streams surrounding the Gulf. Much of the trash is either plastic or styrofoam.