BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Cradled in a bend of the Rio Grande, not far from where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico, thrives a vestige of what was once a vast palm forest.

The 527-acre Sabal Palm Sanctuary is owned by the National Audubon Society and managed by Gorgas Science Foundation. Within the tract stands the historic Rabb Plantation home built in 1891, which is nestled amidst the critically endangered 32-acre legacy of native palm forest that once extended some 80 miles upriver encompassing approximately 40,000 acres.

Romey Swanson is Director of Conservation Strategy for Audubon Texas, and the organization is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the unique site.

“I think it is one of the most wonderful places in Texas. I think of it as a living museum with the relic gallery sabal palm forest,” said Swanson.

As you stroll the serene palm-shrouded paths of the sanctuary, you are taken back in time where primordial palm forest once stretched for miles along banks of the Rio Grande.

The iconic sub-tropical palm grove and surrounding environs are home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife from colorful Red-crowned parrots to rare ringed kingfishers.

Ecotourism is a huge boost to the Rio Grande Valley bringing in more than $400 million annually, and Sabal Palm Sanctuary is a prime attraction for visitors.

“And it is because of these beautiful gems of property, these beautiful gems of wildlife and vegetation that we have that exist nowhere else in the United States,” said Swanson.

Sabal Palm Sanctuary is open to the public six days a week from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is closed only on Wednesdays.

Swanson added, “You don’t necessarily advocate for anything unless you know it, and you don’t advocate for it passionately unless you love it, and if you come out here you are likely to fall in love with the site.”