Galveston Island

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Galveston Island
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A map of Galveston Island, a barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States
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Galveston Island
Location Gulf of Mexico
Coordinates 29°17′08″N94°49′38″W / 29.28556°N 94.82722°W / 29.28556; -94.82722
Area64 sq mi (170 km2)
Length27 mi (43 km)
Width3 mi (5 km)
Highest point20 feet (6.1 m)
United States
State Texas
County Galveston County
Largest settlementGalveston(pop. 47,743)
Population48,726 (2010)
Pop. density342.21 /km2 (886.32 /sq mi)

Galveston Island ( /ˈɡælvɪstən/ GAL-vis-tən) is a barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast in the United States, about 50 miles (80.5 km) southeast of Houston. The entire island, with the exception of Jamaica Beach, is within the city limits of the City of Galveston in Galveston County.

Barrier island A coastal dune landform that forms by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast

Barrier islands are coastal landforms and a type of dune system that are exceptionally flat or lumpy areas of sand that form by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast. They usually occur in chains, consisting of anything from a few islands to more than a dozen. They are subject to change during storms and other action, but absorb energy and protect the coastlines and create areas of protected waters where wetlands may flourish. A barrier chain may extend uninterrupted for over a hundred kilometers, excepting the tidal inlets that separate the islands, the longest and widest being Padre Island of Texas. The length and width of barriers and overall morphology of barrier coasts are related to parameters including tidal range, wave energy, sediment supply, sea-level trends, and basement controls. The amount of vegetation on the barrier has a large impact on the height and evolution of the island.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Jamaica Beach, Texas City in Texas, United States

Jamaica Beach is a city in Galveston County, Texas, United States on Galveston Island. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 983.


The island is about 27 miles (43.5 km) long and no more than 3 miles (4.8 km) wide at its widest point. The island is oriented generally northeast-southwest, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east and south, West Bay on the west, and Galveston Bay on the north. The island's main access point from the mainland is the Interstate Highway 45 causeway that crosses West Bay on the northeast side of the island.

Gulf of Mexico An Atlantic Ocean basin extending into southern North America

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

West Bay (Texas) bay in Texas, United States

West Bay, also referred to as West Galveston Bay, is a long inlet of Galveston Bay in Galveston and Brazoria counties that nearly runs the entire length west of Galveston Island.

Galveston Bay

Galveston Bay is the seventh largest estuary in the United States, located along the upper coast of Texas. It is connected to the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by sub-tropic marshes and prairies on the mainland. The water in the bay is a complex mixture of sea water and fresh water which supports a wide variety of marine life. At an average depth of only 6 feet (1.8 m) it is unusually shallow for its size.

The far north end of the island is separated from the Bolivar Peninsula by Galveston Harbor, the entrance to Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. Ferry service is available between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. The southern end of the island is separated from the mainland by San Luis Pass. The San Luis Pass-Vacek Toll Bridge connects the San Luis Pass Road on Galveston Island with the Bluewater Highway that leads south into the town of Surfside Beach.

Houston Ship Channel canal

The Houston Ship Channel, in Houston, Texas, is part of the Port of Houston, one of the US's busiest seaports. The channel is the conduit for ocean-going vessels between Houston-area terminals and the Gulf of Mexico, and it serves an increasing volume of inland barge traffic.

San Luis Pass

San Luis Pass is a strait of water at the south-western end of Galveston Island off the shores of the U.S. state of Texas. It connects the sheltered waters of West Bay to the open Gulf of Mexico. Swimmers and fishermen have been killed in the Pass' treacherous waters, largely due to murky water, uncharted drop-offs, and fast moving currents. The San Luis Pass-Vacek Toll Bridge spans San Luis Pass into Brazoria County.

Surfside Beach, Texas City in Texas, United States

Surfside Beach, also known locally as Surfside, is a city in Brazoria County, Texas, United States, that is situated on the Gulf of Mexico near the city of Freeport. The population was 482 at the 2010 census.

The residents of the island (the nontourists) classify themselves in two ways: born on the island (BOI) and islander by choice (IBC). “BOI” is cited in print from at least 1956 and “IBC” is cited in print from 1975. [1]


All residents are zoned to Ball High School.

Colleges and universities include:

Galveston College

Galveston College (GC) is a community college on Galveston Island in Galveston, Texas.

Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) is an ocean-oriented branch campus of Texas A&M University offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees that are awarded from Texas A&M University in College Station. Students enrolled at Texas A&M University at Galveston, known affectionately as 'Sea Aggies', share the benefits of students attending Texas A&M University (TAMU) campus in College Station. TAMUG is located on Pelican Island, offering benefits for its maritime focused majors.

University of Texas Medical Branch hospital

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is a component of the University of Texas System located in Galveston, Texas, United States, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Downtown Houston. It is an academic health center with 11,000 employees and a medical school that is the oldest in Texas. In February 2019 it had an endowment of $560 million.


At the time of European encounter, Akokisa and Karankawa Indigenous Americans lived and camped on what became known as Galveston Island. Earlier cultures likely used it as well for seasonal fishing and hunting. [2]

Akokisa tribe

The Akokisa were the indigenous tribe that lived on Galveston Bay and the lower Trinity and San Jacinto rivers in Texas, primarily in the present-day Greater Houston area. They are regarded as a band of the Atakapa Indians, closely related to the Atakapa of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Historians believe the island is where Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his small party made a brief stopover in November 1528, during his lengthy and notable survival odyssey. [2]

Jao de la Porta, along with his brother Morin, financed the first settlement by ethnic Europeans on Galveston Island in 1816. [3] Jao de la Porta was born in Portugal of Jewish parentage; he became a trader in Texas. [4] (De la Porta was named supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade and later became a full-time trader). [5]

The privateer Jean Lafitte brought his men and followers from Louisiana to the island, naming his settlement Campeche, after the older settlement on the Yucatan Peninsula. [5] For a few years, the island and the bay were their base for piracy and smuggling in slaves after the United States had ended its international slave trade in 1808. After attacking an American ship, Lafitte was forced in 1821 to leave by the US Navy.

With the advent of Mexican independence in 1821, and the Texas revolution soon after in 1836, the Anglo-American population in the Republic of Texas began to grow rapidly. The island quickly became Texas' primary port and a destination for immigration. Following Texas' annexation by the United States in 1845, the island's population soon surpassed the population of San Antonio. It became the state's major population center, a title it would hold until nearly the end of the 19th century. Galveston for a time before the American Civil War was the largest cotton shipping port in the world and the second-largest port for immigration in the United States. In the mid-19th century, it was a major port of entry for the many Germans who entered the state.

During the Civil War, the Union army seized control of the island from the South for a few months during early 1863. Confederate forces commanded by John B. Magruder expelled them from the island, and the Confederates controlled it for the remainder of the war.

Aerial view of Pelican Island and the northeastern end of Galveston Island Pelican Island Galveston.jpg
Aerial view of Pelican Island and the northeastern end of Galveston Island

On September 8, 1900, the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred at Galveston. In the early evening hours of September 8, the Galveston hurricane of 1900 came ashore, bringing with it a great storm surge that inundated most of Galveston Island and the city of Galveston. As a result, much of the city was destroyed, and at least 6,000 people were killed in a few hours. [6]

Isaac M. Cline, the meteorologist in charge of the local Weather Bureau, lived on Galveston Island. Cline was aware of a storm in the Gulf based on previous reports from Florida. Although weather conditions were relatively calm on September 7, Cline observed the rough seas and the high waves that seemed to become more ominous by the hour. He sent a telegram to Washington, D.C., saying he thought a large part of the city was going to be underwater. He predicted a very heavy loss of life.[ citation needed ]

Houston-Galveston area of Texas, showing Galveston Island, parallel to coast Houston Galveston area towns roadmap.gif
Houston-Galveston area of Texas, showing Galveston Island, parallel to coast

After the hurricane passed, the state and city constructed a seawall around the settled portion of the island. Some houses were raised, and the many new ones to be constructed were built on stilts. Sand dredged from nearby waterways was pumped into the area within the seawall. In time, the elevation of the eastern portion of the island was raised by as much as 17 ft. (5.2m) [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Jean Lafitte French pirate and privateer

Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte". The latter has become the common spelling in the United States, including for places named after him.

Galveston, Texas City in Texas

Galveston is a coastal resort city and port off the southeast coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the American State of Texas. The community of 209.3 square miles (542 km2), with an estimated population of 50,180 in 2015, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston County and second-largest municipality in the county. It is also within the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area at its southern end on the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Galveston County, Texas County in the United States

Galveston County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas, located along the Gulf Coast adjacent to Galveston Bay. As of the 2010 U.S. Decennial Census, the population was 291,309. The county seat is the City of Galveston, founded the following year of 1839, located on Galveston Island; the most populous municipality in the county is League City, a suburb of Houston at the northern end of the county, which surpassed Galveston in population during the early 2000s. The county was founded in 1838.

1900 Galveston hurricane 1900 (Category 4 Atlantic hurricane) which landed at Galveston, Texas

The Great Galveston Hurricane, known regionally as the Great Storm of 1900, was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history, one of the deadliest hurricanes to affect Canada, and the fourth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane overall. The hurricane left between 6,000 and 12,000 fatalities in the United States; the number most cited in official reports is 8,000. Most of these deaths occurred in the vicinity of Galveston after storm surge inundated the entire island with 8 to 12 feet of water. In addition to the number killed, every house in the city sustained damage, with at least 3,636 destroyed. Approximately 10,000 people in the city were left homeless, out of a total population of nearly 38,000. The disaster ended the Golden Era of Galveston, as the hurricane alarmed potential investors, who turned to Houston instead. The Gulf of Mexico shoreline of Galveston island was subsequently raised by 17 ft (5.2 m) and a 10 mi (16 km) seawall erected.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Spanish explorer of the New World

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Karankawa people

The Karankawa were a Native American people concentrated in southern Texas along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. They consisted of several independent seasonal nomadic groups who shared the same language and much of the same culture. The tribe included the groups called the Cujanes, Cocos, Guapites (Coapites), and Copanes. Some of the village names survived to modern day and are the Ebahamo, Emet, Kouyam, Meracouman, Quara, Quinet, and the Toyal villages.

Narváez expedition

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Estevanico was one of the first native Africans to reach the present-day continental United States. He is known as Esteban de Dorantes, Estebanico, and Esteban the Moor, or Mustafa Azemmouri. Enslaved as a youth by the ruling Portuguese, he was sold to a Spanish nobleman and taken in 1527 on the Spanish Narváez expedition to establish a colony in Florida. He was one of four survivors among 300 men who explored the peninsula. By late 1528 the group had been reduced to 80 men, who survived being washed ashore at Galveston Island after an effort to sail homemade crafts across the Gulf of Mexico.

1915 Galveston hurricane Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1915

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Fort Crockett

Fort Crockett is a government reservation on Galveston Island overlooking the Gulf of Mexico originally built as a defense installation to protect the city and harbor of Galveston and to secure the entrance to Galveston Bay, thus protecting the commercial and industrial ports of Galveston and Houston and the extensive oil refineries in the bay area. The facility is now managed by the US NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, and hosts the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Laboratory, the Texas Institute of Oceanography, as well as some university facilities. The area still contains several historical buildings and military fortifications.

João da Porta, along with his older brother Morin, was a Portuguese Jewish merchant important in the early settlement of the Texan coast.

Galveston Island State Park

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History of the Jews in Galveston, Texas

Jews have inhabited the city of Galveston, Texas, for almost two centuries. The first known Jewish immigrant to the Galveston area was Jao de la Porta, who, along with his brother Morin, financed the first settlement by Europeans on Galveston Island in 1816. de la Porta was born in Portugal of Jewish parentage and later became a Jewish Texan trader. In 1818, Jean Laffite appointed de la Porta supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade. When Laffite left Galveston Island in 1820, de la Porta became a full-time trader.

Texas City Dike

The Texas City Dike is a levee located in Texas City, Texas, United States that projects nearly 5 miles (8.0 km) south-east into the mouth of Galveston Bay. It is flanked by the north-eastern tip of Galveston Island and the south-western tip of the Bolivar Peninsula. The dike, one of the area's most beloved and enduring landmarks, was originally designed to reduce the impact of sediment accumulation along the lower Bay.

Effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas

The effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas were crippling and long-lasting. Ike's effects included deaths, widespread damage, and impacts to the price and availability of oil and gas. Hurricane Ike also had a long-term impact on the U.S. economy. Making landfall over Galveston, at 2:10 a.m. CDT on September 13, 2008, Category 2 Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage in Texas, with sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h), a 22 ft storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding. Hit or Miss

History of Galveston, Texas

The History of Galveston, Texas, begins with the archaeological record of Native Americans who used the island. The first European settlements on the island were constructed around 1816. The Port of Galveston was established in 1825 by the Congress of Mexico following its successful revolution from Spain. The city served as the main port for the Texas Navy during the Texas Revolution. Galveston was founded in 1836 by Matthew Sabo and served as the capital of the Republic of Texas. The Battle of Galveston was fought in Galveston Bay during the American Civil War when Confederate forces under Major General John B. Magruder attacked and expelled occupying Union troops from the city.

History of the Galveston Bay Area

For a period of over 7000 years, humans have inhabited the Galveston Bay Area in what is now the United States. Through their history the communities in the region have been influenced by the once competing sister cities of Houston and Galveston, but still have their own distinct history. Though never truly a single, unified community, the histories of the Bay Area communities have had many common threads.


  1. Barry Popik, "BOI (Born On the Island) & IBC (Islander By Choice)", Big Apple blog, 17 August 2008
  2. 1 2 Donald E. Chipman: Malhado Island from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-16. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  4. 1 2
  5. "Galveston: A City on Stilts", Galveston Historic Foundation, Accessed 2009.10.20.
  6. "The 1900 Storm: Tragedy and Triumph: Rebuilding a city" Archived 2010-02-04 at the Wayback Machine ., Galveston Newspapers Inc. Retrieved on December 18, 2007

Further information

Coordinates: 29°13′20″N94°54′32″W / 29.22222°N 94.90889°W / 29.22222; -94.90889