A fifty-mile stretch of U.S. 77 cuts through Kenedy Ranch lands to the south of Sarita and recalls the once prevalent isolation of the South Texas plains. Extending through the flat, dry coastal prairies labeled by the Spaniards as El Desierto de los Muertos, or “the Desert of the Dead,” the curveless highway follows a route established in 1821 that connected Matamoros on the Rio Grande to San Patricio and Goliad north of the Nueces River. In 1904, this road was paralleled by the new alignment of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway.
The rest area, designed for the Texas Department of Transportation, celebrates this solitary road by integrating the transportation, ranching, and natural heritage of the region. Located in a narrow median, the linear-plan brick pavilions with low-pitched gables take their cue from the forty railroad depots that once dotted the adjacent 160-mile-long rail line. A modular structural system, ornamented with branding medallions of historic ranches of the area, is also in harmony with the site. Its bent-pipe trusses springing from brick piers appear to intertwine with the groves of tangled oaks that shelter the grounds, enticing visitation by weary travelers.