Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


Port Isabel boat
Port Isabel boat


Our seafaring heritage is a long one, from the first wooden vessels launched by Spain and France that arrived on our shores to the massive oil tankers that ply our deepwater channels today. Along the way, our Texas mariners endured shipwrecks and hurricanes while our seafaring industries developed and prospered. Seafaring along the Texas coast was once characterized by shallow ports of call, steamships, and trade. Early ports such as Port Isabel, Port O'Connor's Matagorda Island, and Port Lavaca's Halfmoon Reef still boast historic lighthouses that are open to the public and now guide landlubbers through vicarious seafaring adventures.

Before the mid-1800s, Galveston and Valesco, Mexico served as the Gulf's primary seaports and trade for Texas consisted principally of the delivery of goods between Galveston and New Orleans. Ninety-three steamships were among the total 326 vessels that docked in Galveston during 1855, shipping Texas cotton to New Orleans for international passage to Britain. Today, due to the development of our deep-water ports like Houston and Corpus Christi and the dredging of the intracoastal waterway, tonnage of goods shipped-not number of boats-is the measurement of the day. Texas ports contribute a significant portion of the over two billion tons shipped from the U.S. each year, a ponder-worthy fact for our next day off at the beach.

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