An alligator in the Rio Grande? KSAT crew shares experience on exclusive ride along with Border Patrol in Eagle Pass

The Rio Grande stretches for hundreds of miles between Texas and Mexico.

In the Del Rio sector, which covers a 245-mile stretch of the border, Border Patrol agents travel up and down watching for signs of smuggling and illegal crossings.

Thousands of migrants crossed into Eagle Pass over the span of several days in December 2023.

Chief Patrol Agent Robert Danley said the agents on boat patrol played a big role.

“When we had the large number of folks crossing, it was constant rescues two, three a day some days,” he said.

In June, KSAT reporter Daniela Ibarra and photojournalist Adam Barraza were invited to ride along with a boat patrol.

The roughly 45-minute long ride covered around 12 miles of the border.

“It was an experience that not everybody gets to see,” Barraza said. “It’s not just a straight river. It’s curves in and waves and there’s bushes and there’s everything and there’s you know, plant life.”

Before boarding the boats, Border Patrol agents gave KSAT a safety briefing and a rundown of what to do if agents came across something of concern.

“We didn’t see anything,” said Ibarra. “But if [the agents] had to do their jobs, I mean, they were going to have to do their jobs.”

“I was prepared for anything and I was ready for anything,” added Barraza.

A stark contrast

On the ride along, KSAT saw several families on the Mexico side enjoying picnics, playing in the river, and fishing.

On the Texas side, KSAT only saw one man who Border Patrol agents identified as a local rancher.

Near Shelby Park, shipping containers and silver razor wire sat on the edge of the U.S. border.

Across the river in Piedras Negras, there are colorful murals and a perch for people to look at the U.S.

Sights and sounds

The Border Patrol airboat is loud. Everyone on board has to wear headsets to try and communicate.

It moves quickly and agents know when to weave through currents and around rocks in the water.

“I also did not expect to get hit in the face with bugs as much as we did,” Ibarra said.

“Yeah. I’m glad, I’m glad we all had glasses,” said Barraza.

At points in the river, agents said the river is shallow and ankle-deep and in other spots it can get several feet deep.

An alligator in the water?

Before boarding the boat, the Border Patrol agents warned KSAT about danger that could be lurking in the Rio Grande.

They told our crew an alligator had been in the river for years. They said it was someone’s pet that ended up in the Rio Grande.

One agent said he had seen — and heard it — the week before our boat ride.

Agents told our crews they would stop if they saw it, but the alligator didn’t make an appearance.

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