Port Lavaca-Calhoun County
Situated on a bluff overlooking Lavaca Bay, Port Lavaca provides an easily accessible coastal retreat to many South Texas' urban areas. Miles of shoreline, Gulf and bay swimming, abundant bait and tackle shops and boat ramps, invite fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts to come and stay awhile. The present site of Port Lavaca was a thriving shipping port, consisting of seven large wharves which extended into deep water to accommodate the barges, brigs, steam ships, and schooners servicing its large import and export trade. Thousands of bales of cotton were shipped annually as were hides, tallow and cattle. Along with shipping, large rendering plants producing tallow and preserving
hides provided the industrial base of the town.
Fittingly, the name of the town, Port Lavaca, is derived from the Spanish word “ lavaca” meaning “cow”. The old section of Port Lavaca, known as Olde Towne is an interesting area to take a stroll. Murals depicting scenes from the 19th
century in Port Lavaca can be found on some of the buildings.
Another point of interest is the Calhoun County Museum, housed in the courthouse annex. The museum is filled with souvenirs of Calhoun County's past. An eight-foot scale model of the town of Indianola as it stood in 1875, is housed in the museum. In addition, an extensive collection of historic photographs has been assembled for viewing, as well as a representative set of early county newspapers.
Half Moon Reef lighthouse once stood on Matagorda Island and was put into operation in 1857. Until the Civil War, the lighthouse served as an aid to navigation to vessels coming in or out of the port towns of Lavaca and Indianola. Confederates took control of the lighthouse in 1861 and extinguished the light for the remainder of the Civil War. The light
was relit in 1868 and was active until 1885. The lighthouse is now located at 2300 Texas 35 behind the Chamber of Commerce.
What remains of the early seaport town of Indianola is one of the famous landmarks in Calhoun County. Initially settled in 1844 by Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels when he brought a colony of German settlers to Indianola. A series of hurricanes permanently destroyed the original community but not without a fight, Indianola withstood the Civil War, including Union shellings, yellow fever epidemics and two hurricanes. The final blow, a hurricane in 1886, completely washed the town
away. Magolia Beach, located in historic Old Indianola, features sailboat rentals, picnic tables, fishing, a boat ramp and restrooms.
Calhoun County abounds with bays. There's Lavaca Bay, Matagorda Bay, Espiritu Santo Bay, San Antonio Bay, and Caranchua Bay. This is the largest and deepest bay system on the Texas Gulf Coast providing excellent bay fishing where you may snag shark, trout, pompano, redfish, gafftops, whiting, croaker, sheepshead, drum, jack crevalle,
spanish mackerel or even the coveted gamefish, the tarpon. The Big Jetties offer a large variety of possible catches due to the incoming and outgoing tide. Unlike many other Texas bays, with little or no tidal movement, the local bays have tidal movement where fishermen can catch fish as they come in from the Gulf or go back to the Gulf.
Lighthouse Beach and Bird Sanctuary RV Park, located at 700 Lighthouse Drive is a city owned and operated facility with 58 campsites. Twenty have water and electricity, the remainder have electricity, water, cable, TV, sewage and phone service available. Restrooms, showers and sheltered picnic areas along with an RV dump station are also on the site. Some sites are on Lighthouse Beach. Park facilities include a nature walkway, bird gazebo, rock groins for fishing, lighted fishing pier, picnic area, and a swimming pool. Constructed of 100% recycled plastic, the 2,200 foot long boardwalk, the Formosa Nature walkway (a dedicated bird sanctuary), is acclaimed across Texas as an “environmental
first.” It is the world's longest boardwalk made entirely of recycled plastic, encircling a federally protected wetland areas and provides access to the Alcoa Bird Tower.
Matagorda Island is one of the barrier island that protects the mainland from the great tides and strong wave action of the open Gulf. It is separated from the main land by San Antonio and Espirito Santo bays. The island offers primitive conditions and solitude with all visitor access being by ferry, charter or private boat. The park at the northeastern end of
the island includes 2 miles of beach which is open to year-round visitation with recreational activities such as picnicking, fishing, hiking, beachwalking, nature study, birding, swimming and primitive camping. Facilities include shaded picnic tables fire rings, pit toilets and outdoor rinsing showers. All food and drinking water must be carried in by the visitor and
it is suggested that sun screen and insect repellent also be brought. Nineteen state or federally listed threatened or endangered species are found on the island. Over 30 species of reptiles occur on the island including the American alligator. Three hundred and twenty (320) species of birds are known to use the island.
The island which is approximately 5,000 years old is rich in history. Historical highlights include visits by Cabeza de Vaca, Rene Robert Sueir de La Salle and Jean Lafitte. The island featured prominently in the growth of Texas in the 1800s. Traces of this past activity can be found at the civil war trenches, an 1852 vintage lighthouse and the now submerged Fort Esperanza. Major storms of the 1800s and 1900s destroyed many area towns and slowed economic growth, but now the area is becoming known as an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.
For more information, call Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce at 361/552-2959 or visit www.portlavacainfo.com.