Matagorda Bay at Jensen Point
|Location||Central Texas Gulf Coast|
|River sources||Colorado River (Texas), Lavaca River|
|Ocean/sea sources||Gulf of Mexico|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Settlements||Port Lavaca, Texas|
Matagorda Bay ( // (
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.
An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.
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.
The bay's shore, especially near the Colorado River delta, provides a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. The wildlife serves as a basis for the birding and fishing tourism, and is an essential component of the production of seafood, specifically shrimp and blue crab, which are the specialties of the area. The fertile land near the bay is ideal for farming, especially for the propagation of rice.
The term shrimp is used to refer to some decapod crustaceans, although the exact animals covered can vary. Used broadly, shrimp may cover any of the groups with elongated bodies and a primarily swimming mode of locomotion – most commonly Caridea and Dendrobranchiata. In some fields, however, the term is used more narrowly and may be restricted to Caridea, to smaller species of either group or to only the marine species. Under the broader definition, shrimp may be synonymous with prawn, covering stalk-eyed swimming crustaceans with long narrow muscular tails (abdomens), long whiskers (antennae), and slender legs. Any small crustacean which resembles a shrimp tends to be called one. They swim forward by paddling with swimmerets on the underside of their abdomens, although their escape response is typically repeated flicks with the tail driving them backwards very quickly. Crabs and lobsters have strong walking legs, whereas shrimp have thin, fragile legs which they use primarily for perching.
Callinectes sapidus, the Blue Crab, Atlantic Blue Crab, or regionally as the Chesapeake blue crab, is a species of crab native to the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and introduced internationally.
Early European records suggest that the bay and the surrounding area went by the names Espíritu Santo and Costa y Bahía de San Bernardo. Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda's map from the late 1510s appears to be the first documentation of the bay. In 1685, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle established the colony of Fort St. Louis along the bay's shore after missing the entrance to the Mississippi River.Half of the colonists were killed by disease, and the other half, save for five children, were killed by Karankawa Indians. It was afterward referred to as a "lost colony." The Indians kept the children until they were rescued by the Spanish during the Alonso De León and Domingo Terán de los Ríos expeditions near the bay. In 1722 Spanish built a fort, Presidio La Bahia, and Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga on the site of Fort Saint Louis.
Alonso Álvarez de Pineda was a Spanish Conquistador and cartographer who was first documented in Texas history. In 1519 he led several expeditions to map the western coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico, from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Pánuco River, just north of Veracruz. Ponce de León had previously mapped parts of Florida, which he believed to be an island. Antón de Alaminos' exploration eliminated the western areas as being the site of the passage, leaving the land between the Pánuco River and Florida to be mapped.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was a 17th century French explorer and fur trader in North America. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He is best known for an early 1682 expedition in which he canoed the lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.
The French colonization of Texas began with the establishment of a fort in present-day southeastern Texas. It was established in 1685 near Arenosa Creek and Matagorda Bay by explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle. He intended to found the colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but inaccurate maps and navigational errors caused his ships to anchor instead 400 miles (640 km) to the west, off the coast of Texas. The colony survived until 1688. The present-day town of Inez is near the fort's site.
The port of Linnville was established on Matagorda Bay in 1831, and served as a main port for the Republic of Texas. The Great Comanche Raid of 1840 destroyed the town and forced the inhabitants to flee to the nearby Labbacca, which would later become known as Port Lavaca.Lavaca or la vaca, Spanish for cow, was founded in the wake of the Comanche Raid in 1841. It replaced Linnville as the main port on Matagorda Bay. However, the sandbar-heavy Lavaca Bay caused some navigational problems for ships. As a result, Lavaca was surpassed by Indianola as the main port on Matagorda Bay in the 1850s, even though the sandbars were dredged later in the decade. Indianola had been founded in 1846 as a landing place for German immigrants. It rapidly developed into a major seaport, and became the second largest in the state (after Galveston) by the 1860s. The two ports, and strategic control of Matagorda Bay in particular, became important during the American Civil War. Control of the bay shifted between the Union and Confederate forces several times. The Union presence in the area ended in June 1864. After the war, Indianola continued its growth, and had a population of 5,000 in the 1870s. A hurricane in 1875 caused massive damage to the city. It was rebuilt on a smaller scale shortly thereafter, but a second and more intense hurricane made landfall in 1886 (the fifth most intense in U.S. history), causing even greater destruction. The following year, Indianola was completely abandoned. Although Lavaca was also significantly affected by the hurricanes, it survived as a port, and again became the largest on the bay. It continues to hold this distinction today. It was renamed Port Lavaca in the late 19th Century. Palacios was established around 1901, and Port O'Connor was founded on the bay in 1909.
Linnville, Texas was a town in the Republic of Texas, in what is now Calhoun County. It was founded in 1831 and destroyed in the Great Raid of 1840.
The Republic of Texas was a sovereign state in North America that existed from March 2, 1836, to February 19, 1846. It was bordered by Mexico to the west and southwest, the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, the two U.S. states of Louisiana and Arkansas to the east and northeast, and United States territories encompassing parts of the current U.S. states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico to the north and west. The citizens of the republic were known as Texians.
The Great Raid of 1840 was the largest raid ever mounted by Native Americans on white cities in what is now the United States. It followed the Council House Fight, in which Republic of Texas officials attempted to capture and take prisoner 33 Comanche chiefs who had come to negotiate a peace treaty, killing them together with two dozen of their family and followers. The Comanche tribe was supposed to have brought white hostages as their part of the negotiations but only brought one young girl. Arguments and fighting then broke out among the Texians and Comanches. The Texas Officials were determined to force the Comanche to release all white captives among them. To avenge what the Comanche viewed as a bitter betrayal by the Texans, the Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump raised a huge war party of many of the bands of the Comanche, and raided deep into white-settled areas of Southeast Texas.
Before 1900, East Matagorda Bay was a free flowing extension, which formed the eastern segment of Matagorda Bay. Flooding and drainage issues caused by the Colorado River, which at the time emptied into the bay, precipitated a massive dredging campaign in the 1920s. Flooding was not remedied by the dredging, as sediment deposited in the bay and formed a tidal marsh that grew at 500 acres (2.0 km2) a year. As a result, local citizens decided to change the course of the Colorado River in 1934 to bypass Matagorda Bay into the Gulf of Mexico, the dredging from this project causing the split and forming the isolated East Matagorda Bay. In 1992, the river was diverted back to the bay.
East Matagorda Bay, off Matagorda County on the Texas coast, is enclosed by the Matagorda Peninsula and the tidal flats at the mouth of the Colorado River. Its only true opening to the Gulf of Mexico is through Brown Cedar Cut, near the north end of the peninsula.
The Colorado River is an 862-mile (1,387 km) long river in the U.S. state of Texas. It is the 18th longest river in the United States and the longest river with both its source and its mouth within Texas.
A tidal marsh is a marsh found along rivers, coasts and estuaries which floods and drains by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary, sea or ocean. Tidal marshes experience many overlapping persistent cycles, including diurnal and semi-diurnal tides, day-night temperature fluctuations, spring-neap tides, seasonal vegetation growth and decay, upland runoff, decadal climate variations, and centennial to millennial trends in sea level and climate. They are also impacted by transient disturbances such as hurricanes, floods, storms, and upland fires.
The shoreline of the bay is included in the Texas Coastal Plain. At the eastern end, near the Colorado River delta, there is a swampy terrain, with an abundance of wetlands and tidal marshes. Extended coastal prairies supporting native grasses, can be found throughout the area. 2 meters (6.6 ft) deep, and covers approximately 1,093 square kilometers (422 sq mi). It is the third largest estuarine system in Texas behind Galveston Bay and Laguna Madre. The main extensions include: Lavaca Bay, which extends westward to the mouth of the Lavaca River; Tres Palacios Bay, which extends northeast to the mouth of the Tres Palacios River and East Matagorda Bay, which is nearly isolated from the system by the Colorado River delta. Other inlets include Turtle Bay, Carancahua Bay, Keller Bay, and Cox Bay.On average, the Matagorda Bay system is
A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is inundated by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.
Prairies are ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the steppe of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Lands typically referred to as "prairie" tend to be in North America. The term encompasses the area referred to as the Interior Lowlands of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which includes all of the Great Plains as well as the wetter, hillier land to the east.
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.
Every second, approximately 150 cubic meters (40,000 U.S. gal) of water flows into the bay. The exchange with the Gulf of Mexico occurs at Pass Cavallo, Matagorda Ship Channel, Greens Bayou, the Colorado River Delta Complex and Brown Cedar Cut. As a result of the seawater exchange, the bay's salinity is 19 parts per thousand (ppt), which is lower than the seawater average of 35 ppt. This difference is caused by the large number of creeks and rivers that flow into the system, largely from the drainage basins of the Colorado and Lavaca Rivers.
A wide variety of wildlife can be found in and around Matagorda Bay. The Mad Island-Oyster Lake conservation area, located on the eastern shore of Matagorda Bay, is a habitat for over 300 species of birds including songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. More species of birds were found in the area than any other in the nation during the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count from 2000 to 2002. Other fauna located along the bay include bobcats, white-tailed deer, river otters, Texas horned lizards, reddish egret, white-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon, the piping ploverand alligators.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the following fish have been caught in the bay: striped bass, gafftopsail catfish, Atlantic croaker, black drum, red drum, southern flounder, barred grunt, hake, skipjack herring, crevalle jack, ladyfish, Gulf menhaden, pigfish, smooth puffer, sand seatrout, spotted seatrout, blacktip shark, gray snapper, southern stingray, Gulf toadfish and tripletail. The bay serves as a nursery for finfish, shrimp and crabs.
The Matagorda Bay system is a renowned fishing location in the region, due to its status as a nutrient-rich estuary. The mainstays of the settlements on the bay include seafood processing, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.Commercial fishermen specialize in oyster, blue crab, and shrimp. Port Lavaca is the national leader in the processing of shrimp, and passed four million tons of seafood through its port in 1985 alone. Palacios houses the largest blue crab processing plant in the United States, and is home to the only individually quick frozen shrimp plant in Texas. Recreational fishing also contributes to the local economies via tourism. Tourists often flock to the Port Lavaca State Fishing Pier, which is a major point of interest for fishermen. Other activities for visitors include hunting, oyster roasts, beach combing and birding.
Several manufacturing complexes have been erected along the bay, which employ local residents. The Aluminum Company of America, Union Carbide, Du Pont, and Formosa Plastics all established plants in Point Comfort.The South Texas Nuclear Generating Station is found in nearby Bay City. Petroleum and natural gas were discovered in the bay in the 1930s. Maize, cotton, soybeans, turf, and rice grow well around the bay, especially in the fertile delta region.
Matagorda County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 36,702. Its county seat is Bay City, not to be confused with the larger Baytown in Harris and Chambers Counties. Matagorda County is named for the canebrakes that once grew along the coast.
Calhoun County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 21,381. Its county seat is Port Lavaca. The county is named for John Caldwell Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States.
Port Lavaca is a city in Calhoun County, located in the U.S. state of Texas. The population was 12,248 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Calhoun County and part of the Victoria, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area. Port Lavaca is 130 miles (210 km) southwest of Houston.
Palacios is a city in Matagorda County, Texas, United States. The population was 5,153 at the 2000 census.
Indianola is a ghost town located on Matagorda Bay in Calhoun County, Texas, United States. The community, once the county seat of Calhoun County, is a part of the Victoria, Texas, Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 1875, the city had a population of 5,000, but on September 15 of that year, a powerful hurricane struck, killing between 150 and 300 and almost entirely destroying the town. Indianola was rebuilt, only to be wiped out on August 19, 1886, by another intense hurricane, which was followed by a fire. Indianola was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1963, marker number 2642.
Lavaca Bay is a northwestern extension of the Matagorda Bay system found mostly in Calhoun County, Texas, United States. The ports of Port Lavaca and Point Comfort have been established on the bay, and are the main areas of human habitation. Linnville was located on the bay until its abandonment after the Great Raid of 1840, and the major port of Indianola was found near the confluence with the main Matagorda Bay, until the town's final destruction following the massive hurricane of 1886. Smaller communities include Olivia, Alamo Beach and Magnolia Beach. Lavaca Bay is approximately 82 miles (130 km) northeast of Corpus Christi, about 121 miles (190 km) southwest of Houston, and 145 miles (230 km) southeast of San Antonio.
Aransas Bay is a bay on the Texas gulf coast, approximately 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Corpus Christi, and 173 miles (278 km) south of San Antonio. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by San José Island. Aransas Pass is the most direct navigable outlet into the Gulf of Mexico from the bay. The cities of Aransas Pass and Port Aransas are located at the southern end, and Rockport is found on the central western shore. The bay is oriented laterally northeast-southwest, and is extended by Redfish Bay to the southwest, Copano Bay to the west, Saint Charles Bay to the north, and Mesquite Bay to the northeast. Aransas Bay is part of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Corpus Christi Bay is a scenic semi-tropical bay on the Texas coast found in San Patricio and Nueces counties, next to the major city of Corpus Christi. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by Mustang Island, and is fed by the Nueces River and Oso Creek from its western and southern extensions, Nueces Bay and Oso Bay. The bay is located approximately 136 miles (219 km) south of San Antonio, and 179 miles (288 km) southwest of Houston.
San Antonio Bay is a bay on the Texas Gulf coast situated between Matagorda and Aransas Bay. It consists mainly of the combined waters of the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers, and is located at the mouth of the Guadalupe River, about 55 miles (89 km) northeast of Corpus Christi and 130 miles (209 km) southeast of San Antonio. It is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Island, leaving only relatively small and distant outlets to the Gulf for little mixing of bay and Gulf waters. The remoteness of the bay has prevented the establishment of major ports as seen on Aransas and Corpus Christi Bay, to the south.
Copano Bay is a northwestern extension of Aransas Bay, west of Rockport, Texas in Refugio and Aransas counties. It is supplied with seawater from the Gulf of Mexico via Aransas Bay, and fed freshwater from the Aransas River, Mission River and Copano Creek. As an estuary, the bay is home to a diverse ecosystem consisting of various birds including the endangered whooping crane, and numerous finfish including the redfish as well as shellfish such as oysters. It is classified as a nursery for shrimp, which prohibits production from the bay. Copano Bay is also a historic location for human usage and settlement that dates back to the 18th century, beginning with the historic port of El Copano and the 19th century settlements of St. Mary's of Aransas and Copano. The present-day towns of Bayside, Copano Village and Holiday Beach were all founded in the 20th century. Oil and natural gas are pumped from below the bay's surface, and contribute to the livelihood of the local economies. Recently, areas around the bay were affected by Hurricane Harvey which crossed over the bay as a Category 3 hurricane.
Green Lake is a natural tidal lake in Calhoun County, Texas, on the Guadalupe River flood basin. Known for its greenish waters, from which its name derives, the lake is located 12 miles (19 km) west of Port Lavaca and 22 miles (35 km) south of Victoria on the Gulf Coastal Plain. Despite being less than 3 miles (4.8 km) from the coast of San Antonio Bay, its waters are fresh. It is the largest natural freshwater lake entirely in Texas, covering an area of approximately 10,000 acres (40 km²).
Nueces Bay is a northwestern extension of Corpus Christi Bay in the San Patricio and Nueces counties of Texas. The bay is fed by the Nueces River, forming a natural estuary, which renders it ecologically and economically vital to the surrounding area. It serves as a habitat for the propagation of fish and shellfish, which sustain diverse species of birds and other wildlife. The bay is threatened by pollution from the heavy industry on its southern shore, which prevents oyster farming. Petrochemical production and oil are important to the surrounding economies of the major settlements of Corpus Christi and Portland, found on the eastern shore and connected by the Nueces Bay Causeway at the bay's confluence with Corpus Christi Bay.
The Port of Port Lavaca – Point Comfort, or simply the Port of Port Lavaca, is a seaport along the shores of Matagorda Bay, Texas. It includes terminals at both Port Lavaca and Point Comfort, Texas. These terminals are connected to the Gulf of Mexico through the Matagorda Ship Channel and by rail via the Point Comfort and Northern Railway which connects to the Union Pacific Railroad.
Tres Palacios Bay is a northeastern extension of Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast in Matagorda County. It is fed by the Tres Palacios River. The city of Palacios is located on its shores. A channel that connects Palacios to the Intracoastal Waterway has been dredged through the bay.
The Laguna Madre is a long, shallow, hypersaline lagoon along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Nueces, Kenedy, Kleberg, Willacy and Cameron Counties in Texas, United States. It is separated by the roughly 20-mile (32 km) long Saltillo Flats land bridge into Upper and Lower lagoons. The two are joined by the Intracoastal Waterway, which has been dredged through the lagoon. Cumulatively, Laguna Madre is approximately 130 miles (209 km) long, the length of Padre Island. The main extensions include Baffin Bay in Upper Laguna Madre, Red Fish Bay just below the Saltillo Flats, and South Bay near the Mexican border.
Carancahua Bay is a northern extension of Matagorda Bay located in Jackson and Matagorda counties in Texas, United States. It is oriented from the southeast to the northwest but meanders as it reaches the north to the confluence with Carancahua Creek. Generally slender, it is only about 1 mile (1.6 km) in width north of its circular mouth.
East Bay also known as East Galveston Bay, is the eastern extension of Galveston Bay found in Chambers County, Texas. The bay is oriented northeast to southwest, and is approximately five miles wide and twenty miles in length. It covers the area north of the entire Bolivar Peninsula, and south of mainland Texas, including the small community of Smith Point at the western extreme. The bay's one extension is Rollover Bay, which is found to the extreme east near the town of Gilchrist.
Guadalupe Bay is a slender inlet of San Antonio Bay in Calhoun County, Texas, United States, near the settlements of Seadrift and Long Mott. It is fed by the Guadalupe River, and is the site of the river's two mouths.
The Halfmoon Reef Light is one of the many screw-pile type lighthouses built on the Texas Gulf Coast, but the only one that still stands. To distinguish it from the nearby Matagorda Island Light it was given a red glass chimney to be used with the oil lantern to give it its red beam. Though originally constructed on the bay, the current resting place for the light is on Port Lavaca, alongside Highway 35.