Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) is a National Seashore located on Padre Island off the coast of South Texas. In contrast to South Padre Island (well known for its beaches and vacationing college students), PAIS is located on North Padre Island and consists of a long beach where nature is preserved. Primitive camping is available there and most of the beach is only accessible to four wheel drive vehicles.
North Padre Island is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. The National Seashore is long with of Gulf beach. The Park hosts a variety of pristine beach, dune, and tidal flat environments, including the Laguna Madre on its west coast, a famous spot for windsurfing. It is located in parts of Kleberg, Kenedy, and Willacy counties, with Kenedy County having the majority of its land area.
The acronym PAIS is the standard National Park Service acronym using either the first four letters of the park's name, or the first two letters of the first and second word in the name. The most commonly used acronym outside of the National Park Service usage is to use the first letter of each word, as in PINS.
A program to re-establish a nesting beach for Kemp's Ridley sea turtles on Padre Island was begun in 1978. In 1992, the first two turtles from the program returned to Padre Island beach to lay their eggs. The number of Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nests on Padre Island has increased ever since with 28 being found in 2005. Park rangers at PINS are involved in an effort to help this endangered species. In the summer, visitors can witness the release of newborn turtles.
On September, 2007, Corpus Christi, Texas wildlife officials found a record of 128 Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests on Texas beaches, including 81 on North Padre Island (Padre Island National Seashore) and 4 on Mustang Island. Wildlife officials released 10,594 Kemp's ridleys hatchlings along the Texas coast this year. The turtles are endangered due to shrimpers' nets and they are popular in Mexico as boot material and food.
The best time to see the multitude of the park's bird migrants is during either early spring or fall and winter when thousands spend the winter there or migrate through. During the summer the most common birds are shore and marshbirds as well as some raptors and songbirds. The most common birds on the Gulf beach of the park during the year are willet, sanderling, black skimmer, great blue heron, cormorant, (mainly the double crested cormorant, cattle egret, black-bellied plover, laughing gull, brown pelican, reddish egret, and five species of terns, including the least tern, caspian tern, black tern, sandwich tern, and the royal tern). The two periodically appearing birds nesting on the park's shores are the least tern and the piping plover.
Another good area for birds is Bird Island Basin, on the Laguna Madre side of the park. This area may be periodically dry during the summer or during periods of extended drought, but when wet a variety of marsh birds may be seen here including black-necked stilts, roseate spoonbills, great egrets, ibis, and many others.
A study by the park, started in 1994, to analyze the origin of debris, titled the PINS Marine Debris Point Source Investigation. The park began collecting data in 1998 to catalogue and remove debris from of beach. Currently the park has collected over 1,000 days of data for the project, covering a collective area of over of shoreline surveyed. This study is one of the first long-term and comprehensive marine debris research projects started within the United States. From its result the vast majority of the debris is traced to the commercial shrimping industry while approximately 14% comes from the offshore oil and gas industry.