Monday, February 23, 2009


Matagorda, Texas

Leaving Goose Island

I've been away from the computer for a few days, following the call of grandchildren. Now, I am here to finish up Goose Island and move on to other interesting places. I want to apologize to my one faithful reader from Walsenberg, Co. for not having anything new for you to read. I haven't a clue who you are, but I do appreciate the fact that you are making an effort to follow my ramblings. I smile when I see that you have shown up on my blog.

The last morning at Goose Island was slow and peaceful. We delayed as long as possible before we had to start getting old "Trusty" in travel mode. But, grandchildren were calling and we had places to go and people to see before we could head home.

We pulled out of Goose Island State Park and headed toward Houston. I had been reading about the history of Matagorda and since we were in the general vicinity I thought we should go there. It wasn't a lengthy detour, and it was well worth the few extra hours that it took to get to our final destination.

Great Blue Heron beside road leading to Matagorda Beach

Matagorda is a small, coastal town packed full of Texas history that dates all the way back to the time of French explorer La Salle who sailed into Matagorda Bay in 1685. One of his four ships was grabbed by pirates and another sank. LaSalle was left with just two ships and a number of would-be settlers. One ship was sent back to France with many of the original passengers. That left him with just one ship and that last ship, the La Belle, sank in Matagorda Bay. LaSalle took a few men and went in search of help and supplies and was eventually murdered by his own men. The remainder of his small party who stayed behind on the coast were killed by the Karankawa Indians. The Karankawa were unusually tall (some say at least seven feet tall) nomadic indians who moved along the Texas coastal regions. They were heavily tattoed on their naked bodies and had their lips and nipples pierced with long pieces of sharpened wood . They smeared their bodies with alligator fat to protect themselves from insects and practiced cannibalism. Such was the fate of the few of the Lasalle party who stayed behind.

More than 300 years later, the LaBelle was discovered seven miles off shore in just twelve feet of water. What a find! The recovery of the ship was covered by PBS's Nova. It was remarkably well preserved by the Matagorda Bay silt and many of it's artifacts are in museums in small towns along the Texas coast. The museum in Matagorda has one of the ships ornate bronze cannons.

Matagorda was one of Stephen F. Austin's three original colonies and was at one time the third largest city in Texas, with a population of around 1,500. It was named the seat of the county government, and Austin had great hope for this city with it's great location on the Gulf of Mexico; however, repeated hurricanes and tropical storms continued to lash at the town and destroy what had been built. So, in 1984 residents of Matagorda County voted to move the county seat to Bay City just north of Matagorda. Today, it is a community of about 600-1000 residents that serves as a getaway for fishermen and people with weekend homes on the road that leads to the beautiful Matagorda County Beach.

The road from Matagorda to the beach ends in a beautiful park that has just recently been constructed. The park houses a nice, spacious welcome center, shelters for picnics and clean bathrooms. The beach itself is beautiful, clean and uncluttered. There are very few beach house on the beach itself which makes the beach more special. Actually, most of the "beach houses" are located along the road to the beach along the Colorado River. The Colorado River empties into the gulf right here in Matagorda and is a haven for fishermen. Most all of the houses along the Colorado have lighted piers on the river so you can play on the beach (which is just minutes away) all day and fish all night. Many of the houses are available as rentals. Now, that's just heaven on earth!

My plan is to rent a couple or three of those houses for a family vacation. I think it would be the perfect place to take young children and teenagers, especially those who love to fish (and I have more than a few). We could even use old "Trusty" because camping is allowed on the beach. (That may just be tent camping, gotta check on that.) Sounds like a plan to me. Gotta start saving my quarters!

Matagorda County is also one of the greatest places in all of North America for birding. It consistently rates #1 in the National Audubon Society's Christmas bird count. I'm thinking there's lots to do in Matagorda that I haven't done. Gotta get back down there.

1 comment:

  1. 0 comments on this one? How sad. Now you'll have one, LK.

    Although we celebrated my fifth birthday in Markham, a small town about eight miles from Bay City, we moved there as soon as my parents could find a place.

    I lived in Bay City throughout my school years, until I left for The University in Austin, while my parents remained in Bay City until I was twenty-four, when they also moved to Austin.

    Let us say that I 'lived' in Bay City at least from 1941 until either 1954 or 1958, depending on your point of view, and Bay City was the county seat during those years.

    I think someone misled you about the 1984 date, or perhaps like me, you experienced the "dyslexic fingers". which often happens in my life.

    And now I have it! It was not deception, it was the dyslexic fingers that altered the date!

    Handbook of Texas Online indicates that the citizens voted in 1894, while Bay City was still in the conceptual stages.

    Willie C