For “Travel Tuesday”, let's go to Matagorda.
Which is in the Texas Gulf Coast region. “Home to some of the best beaches in America, the Texas Gulf Coast region draws millions of visitors to this Texas playground. Stretching some 350 miles from South Padre Island & the Rio Grande Valley, all the way to Beaumont & the Louisiana border, this region is renowned for its wildlife & natural beauty, as well as the home of America's space program. Discover the Beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast Region.”
Matagorda County, Texas
“Whether your vacation plans include non-stop activities and fun or you prefer a place to unwind and relax, Matagorda County is your perfect destination.
Situated where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, Matagorda County is home to miles of glistening, sandy beaches, pristine waters, world-class fishing, and diverse wildlife. In fact, if you like being in and around the water, you may never run out of things to do. From sailing in the Gulf, canoeing down the Colorado, to fresh and saltwater fishing, swimming and surfing, you won't find a better place for family fun.
Matagorda County is known as the "Birding Capital of North America." With over 300 different feathered species- including migrating and resident songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl-bird lovers come from all over the country to look for their favorites or to spot an elusive rare bird. Matagorda's Mad Island Marsh was selected by the Audubon Society for their prestigious annual Christmas Bird Count and has been a repeat winner over the last 15 years.
Matagorda County is more than just nature, though. It's dotted with seaside villages and historic towns, each with its own story and ambience - pure, small-town Texas with big city amenities. You can shop till you drop for unique gifts, clothing, books, art and antiques. When you're ready for dinner, the hardest part will be deciding which top-notch restaurant to choose. Not surprisingly, you will find locally-caught seafood on almost every menu. Authentic Tex-Mex is another regional specialty.
Located just 60 miles southwest of Houston, and a short drive from Austin and San Antonio, it's no wonder the Houston Press named Matagorda County the "Best Weekend Getaway".
Wherever you go in Matagorda County, and whatever adventure you choose, you'll encounter nature at its best and Texas hospitality at its warmest.”
Top 10 Things to Do and See
“Whether your ideal vacation means getting close to nature, great shopping or just relaxing on the beach, Matagorda County offers many activities for the whole family.
1. Spend a day at the Matagorda Bay Nature Park. This 1,600-acre nature preserve sits along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Colorado River. The park offers miles of pristine beaches, gulf and river fishing from public piers, guided nature trails and prime birding opportunities. For general park information, call 1-800-776-5272, ext. 4740.
Matagorda County is known as the Birding Capital of North America
2. Passionate about birds and conservation? Hike along the Great Texas Birding Trail. The trail provides many observation sites to view diverse bird populations and their nesting areas, feeding grounds and migratory paths. Detailed Birding Trail maps are provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife. You can also find birding maps at the Matagorda Birding and Nature Center.
3. Shop Bay City's Market Day, around the downtown Courthouse Square, on the 3rd Saturday of every month from March through December. Featuring over 100 vendors, you'll find handmade crafts and jewelry, antiques, and hand-crafted edibles such as cinnamon-roasted pecans, pickles and salsas.
4. Go Fish! With over 50 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico and hundreds of miles of waterfront along creeks, rivers and bays, Matagorda is a fisherman's paradise. Cast your line from the beach or wade in to catch redfish and trout, plentiful year-round. Other in-shore species include catfish, mullet, black drum, snook and whiting. If deep-sea fishing is your passion, fish the Gulf for grouper, red snapper, amberjack, kingfish and shark.
5. Golfers of all levels will find a challenging course at the Rio Colorado Golf Course. Rio is an 18-hole public course featuring a championship layout built along the Colorado River. Golfers can also sharpen their game at the Palacios Golf Course, a 9-hole public facility. For more information and reservations, call the Rio Colorado Golf Course at (979) 244-2955. Call the Palacios Golf Course at (361) 972-5947.
6. For a relaxing day of shopping, Matagorda County offers a great selection of stores. Hot-spots include Palacios' Main Street, Bay City's Historic Downtown Square and the village of Matagorda.
7. Take a cruise on R.V. Karma and learn about the exciting natural world around you. The Karma is a 57-foot teaching and research vessel, offering students of all ages a rare opportunity to explore the Gulf Coast's natural environment. Public cruises are offered on the first Saturday of each month. Call 361-825-3460 for more information and reservations.
8. Paddle a kayak down the Colorado River or weave through the saltwater marshes along the Gulf. Whichever path you choose, you'll enjoy a relaxing way to experience the water and its surrounding wildlife.
9. The past comes alive at the Matagorda County Museum. Exhibits include artifacts from the Karankawa Indians, cannon from 17th-century French explorer LaSalle's ship La Belle and more. The Children's Museum on the lower level features a recreation of an early 20th-century Texas town where kids can "shop" at an old-fashioned general store, dress up in period costume, and interact with the past.
10. Take in one of the many fun festivals that attract both locals and visitors: the Matagorda County Fair and Livestock Show, Palacios Carnival, Bay City Rice Festival and many more all year long.”
Restoration of Halfmoon Reef in Matagorda Bay, Texas
“In the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, Halfmoon Reef was a major feature in Matagorda Bay, providing a rich supply of commercially harvested oysters and habitat to a wide range of estuarine life. It was also a factor in navigation. Just 13 years after Texas had joined the Union in 1845, a major lighthouse was erected by the US Government to mark the Reef.
Matagorda Bay has undergone many changes since Civil War times, including diverted river inflows, changes in the watershed and flow regulation, navigation channels, and perhaps the most significant, dredging of oyster shell for construction materials. Late in the 20th century Halfmoon Reef had essentially ceased to exist, although there is still an Aid to Navigation marking the location where the original pre-Civil War lighthouse once stood.
The Nature Conservancy has major restoration programs in many parts of the world. They have found that as much as 85% of the world’s oyster reefs have been completely lost and that oyster reefs are even more endangered than seagrasses, coral reefs and mangroves. Working with state resource agencies, The Nature Conservancy identified Halfmoon Reef as a prime candidate for restoration.”
Half Moon Reef.
Restoring oyster reefs can restore the delicate balance of nature in the Gulf of Mexico.
Boat and device used to measure hydrologic cycles in an oyster reef restoration area. Courtesy of Mark Dumesnil
“While oysters are one of the most delicious bivalves around, they are, more importantly, the unsung heroes of the Gulf of Mexico. They play a vital role in protecting our shorelines and the health of our oceans, and contribute tremendously to the economic vitality of the five states whose future is intertwined with that of the Gulf: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. That’s why in the spring of 2013, The Nature Conservancy will be working to restore Half Moon Reef, a once-massive underwater oyster colony in the heart of Matagorda Bay, which is one of the most productive fisheries for blue crabs, oysters and shrimp in Texas.
One thing is certain: Keeping the Gulf healthy is paramount for both nature and people. The Lone Star State has more than 3,000 shoreline miles of Gulf Coast bays, lagoons and estuaries, and nearly one-quarter of Texas’ population lives along the Gulf Coast. Literally millions of people across the state and around the country rely on the Gulf of Mexico. Consider this:
- The Gulf supports one of the country's largest recreation and tourism industries—to the tune of $20 billion a year and more than 600,000 jobs.
- It produces 90 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas production and supports more than 55,000 U.S. petroleum workers.
- It produces more than a third of the seafood Americans eat, including more than 80 percent of our shrimp and 60 percent of our oysters.
- The Gulf is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
Moreover, the Texas coast provides critical stopover and nesting sites for threatened and endangered birds, sand dunes where endangered sea turtles nest and some of the most important fish and shellfish nursery habitat in the Gulf.” More at: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/texas/explore/half-moon-reef.xml
Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse
“The Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse still welcomes visitors to Port Lavaca. However, having been moved ashore from its perch above the waters of Matagorda Bay, it now performs that function for travelers entering Port Lavaca from the east on Highway 35, rather than for mariners arriving from the gulf.
After Matagorda Island Lighthouse began guiding traffic into Matagorda Bay in 1852, requests were made for additional lights to mark channels and obstacles in the bay itself. Complying with the demands, the Lighthouse Board successfully petitioned Congress in 1854 for funds to construct a light on the southern tip of Halfmoon Reef, a shoal on the eastern side of Matagorda Bay. Two years passed before the plans, which called for the construction of a screwpile lighthouse, were finalized. The lighthouse would consist of a wooden, hexagonal structure, sixteen feet on a side, surmounted by a lantern room and supported by seven, twenty-five-foot iron piles. On one end, the piles had threads, two feet in diameter, which facilitated screwing the piles into the shoal to a depth of nine feet.
The piles arrived at Matagorda Bay early in 1858, having been shipped to Galveston from Baltimore aboard the same vessel that carried the cast iron extensions for the Matagorda and Bolivar Point Lighthouses. The Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse was completed by July 1, when it began operation. A fixed, white light produced by a sixth-order Fresnel lens shone from the lantern room. However, mariners claimed that as they sailed in the gulf along the Matagorda Peninsula dunes would periodically obscure Halfmoon Reef Light, creating a flashing signature like that of the nearby Matagorda Island Lighthouse. To eliminate the confusion, a ruby red glass chimney was used in the oil lamp, changing the characteristic of Halfmoon Reef Light to red.
The station’s light was extinguished during the Civil War, but unlike other Texas lighthouses, Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse was not dismantled or damaged during the conflict. Although the war ended in 1865, the lighthouse did not return to service until February 20, 1868. The reestablishment of coastal lights and those marking major ports took precedence over bay lights.
Surrounded by water, the lighthouse was an isolated island for its keepers. Perhaps that was why twice the lighthouse had the unique distinction of having a keeper and an assistant who were husband and wife. A few children were raised at the lighthouse, but the fear of having a child unknowingly fall into the water, prompted several wives to keep a residence on land. One keeper, Stephen Hill, had a daughter named Sadie who was prone to sleepwalking. After Sadie had been discovered taking a nighttime stroll dangerously near the edge of the lighthouse, her parents decided that something had to be done. Their solution was to tie a string between Sadie’s big toe and her sister’s big toe each night before retiring. The string brought an end to Sadie’s nocturnal adventures, though probably at the expense of several sound nights of sleep for her sister.
Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse suffered little damaged in the 1875 hurricane that devastated Indianola and destroyed the East Shoal and West Shoal screwpile lighthouses at the entrance to Pass Cavallo, killing all four of their keepers. The hurricane of 1886 caused moderate damage to the lighthouse, and as traffic in Matagorda Bay had declined, the Lighthouse Board decided to discontinue the light, rather than make the necessary repairs. Fortunately, the lighthouse was retained as a daymark, for when vessel traffic to and from Port Lavaca experienced an increase around the turn of the century, the light was returned to service in 1902, but before this could be done extensive renovations were necessary. All the metalwork was scaled and painted. All the woodwork was renewed. A new galvanized iron roof was put on the lighthouse. An oil room with a brick floor was built along with a storeroom and coal room, and a new landing ladder was put up. A fixed, fourth-order lens was used to produce a red light that went into service on September 15, 1902. A few years later, the lens was replaced by a more modest lens lantern just a few years later.
In 1911, a schooner arrived at the lighthouse loaded with construction materials. Over the next several days, a work crew lived aboard the schooner while they added a roof with a steeper pitch to the lighthouse. This modification, carried out to address persistent leaks reported at the station, can be noted by comparing the top two historical pictures at right.
The following story, entitled “Disappearance of Keeper of Lighthouse on Half Moon Reef in Bay Mystifies Texans,” appeared in the December 27, 1934 edition of the Daily Tribune.
PALACIOS, Dec. 27.—A baffling mystery of the sea Wednesday night confronted officers of this Gulf coast town as they searched for H. O. Welch, 36, keeper of the light on forlorn Half Moon Reef—a desolate rocky place in the bay.A follow-up story, printed two days later, announced that the keeper's body had washed ashore near Port O'Connor, twelve miles from Halfmoon Reef. Authorities ruled it an accidental death, believing Welch must have fallen from the lighthouse and drowned.
Welch was last seen when boatmen took him to the crescent-shaped reef on Friday, December 13. That night he made his last entry in the lighthouse log. It read:
“Lamp lighted at 6 p. m. All is well.”
Three days later when the alternate lightkeeper went to relieve Welch the beacon was darkened and there was no trace of Welch on the barren reef.
The missing lightkeeper’s watch, money and personal effects were inside the lighthouse. Apparently, investigators said, Welch had prepared for bed but did not retire for the bed bore no evidence of having been in use.
The beacon light had consumed the oil and wick and was extinguished when relief reached the reef. Authorities said the light was an old fashioned type that burned for 24 hours without refilling.
Half Moon Reef is two miles from the mainland and a strong undertow swirls around the bay, desolate spot. Because of the undertow, officers said, it would have been practically impossible for Welch to swim to the mainland if he had sought to do so. Welch was marooned on the reef without a boat. Coast guardsman and aviators Wednesday searched for marsh-like mainland for miles in quest of the missing lightkeeper.
Earl R. Allen of Palacios, brother of the missing man and other relatives have kept a vigil along the shore for the lightkeeper.
“I can’t understand it,” Allen told friends. “He seems to have just vanished from the reef.”
In 1935, the position of assistant keeper was eliminated and not longer thereafter an eight-day lantern was installed in the lighthouse, permitting the remaining keeper, Mike Nelson, to live ashore. Besides calling at the lighthouse once a week or so, the keeper was given the additional responsibility for several other lighted beacons on the bay.
Given its exposed location, the lighthouse managed to weather several violent storms remarkably well. However, in 1942, its luck changed, when a hurricane tore the walkway from the lighthouse and left it sagging on its pilings. The Coast Guard decided to sell the structure rather than repair it. Bill Bauer and Henry Smith purchased the lighthouse, which they planned to use as quarters for the night watchman at their Point Comfort dredging business. Bill Bauer frequently visited the lighthouse as a boy with his father, who would transport shellfish harvested by local fishermen from the station to shore.
Aboard a 124-foot barge with a lifting crane and 34-foot steel beams, Henry Smith and a work crew set out to retrieve the lighthouse. As they were preparing the lighthouse for the move, military personnel arrived in a motorboat and ordered them to leave the area before the planned bombing practice set to begin in a half hour. The movers, however, were not willing to leave the lighthouse, and the bombing had to be delayed while the structure was salvaged.
In the early 1960s, Pat Riojas II was a truck driver for Bauer Dredging, and he and his family actually lived in the lighthouse, located just inside the Bauer fence line.
In 1978, thirty-six years after purchasing the lighthouse, Bauer donated it to the Calhoun County Historical Commission for use as a museum and supplied a sizable trust fund for maintaining the structure. The lighthouse was transported across the Matagorda Causeway, and then restored the following year as an Eagle Scout service project. In 1985, the lighthouse was placed atop its present piers, the encompassing porch was added, three flag poles were erected, and a Texas Historical Marker was unveiled at the site by Mr. and Mrs. Bauer, the generous donors of the lighthouse and the namesakes of the nearby community center. Today, the lighthouse sits alongside Highway 35, adjacent to Port Lavaca's Bauer Community Center.” From: http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=155
Sand, Sun and Adventure at Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Texas
“A special place awaits you where the lower Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Texas, is a great place to relax at the beach and explore hundreds of acres of coastal marshes and dunes. It is also one of the best birding sites in the nation.
The 1,600-acre park is a unique, environmentally significant property being carefully preserved and developed by LCRA, a conservation and reclamation district created by the Texas Legislature.
What's there to see and do? Play in the warm waters of the gulf, hunt seashells along 22 miles of beach, go fishing, or visit the natural science center. Three piers extend over the river channel and a fourth pier extends over the Gulf of Mexico.
Tent camping is allowed on the beach and an RV park is on the river channel.”
On This Day:
World Trade Center bombed, Feb 26, 1993:
“At 12:18 p.m., a terrorist bomb explodes in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, leaving a crater 60 feet wide and causing the collapse of several steel-reinforced concrete floors in the vicinity of the blast. Although the terrorist bomb failed to critically damage the main structure of the skyscrapers, six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. The World Trade Center itself suffered more than $500 million in damage. After the attack, authorities evacuated 50,000 people from the buildings, hundreds of whom were suffering from smoke inhalation. The evacuation lasted the whole afternoon.
An informant later identified a group of Serbians in New York as the culprits. However, when the FBI conducted surveillance of the gang they found not terrorists but jewel thieves, putting an end to a major diamond-laundering operation.
Fortunately, investigators at the bomb scene found a section of a van frame that had been at the center of the blast. The van's vehicle identification number was still visible, leading detectives to the Ryder Rental Agency in Jersey City, New Jersey. Their records indicated that Mohammed Salameh had rented the van and reported it stolen on February 25.
Salameh was already in the FBI's database as a potential terrorist, so agents knew that they had probably found their man. Salameh compounded his mistake by insisting that Ryder return his $400 deposit. When he returned to collect it, the FBI arrested him. A search of his home and records led to two other suspects.”
Misty and I went to get Jay, and we had our walk down there. Jay joined us with Maddie, so both dogs enjoyed sniffing around, and had the company of a pug who was wandering around. Then it started to rain, so the pug ran home, and we came up here.
Jay and I started to take the plywood panel down in the garage which backs onto the south end of living room where the 220v. is. We are going to have to tie into that 220v when the new heater arrives. Unfortunately, the contractors had installed that plywood with a nail gun, so it was difficult to remove, even with a '”cat’s paw”.
Then Jay’s boss came to pick Jay up, so that didn’t get finished.
Later, Chris, another SPCA volunteer called to say that Arlo had been adopted out of our cat habitat at Petco, and asked if I want Miss Priss to go spend some time in the habitat with Arlo’s brother, Arty. So I put Miss Priss in her carrier and off we went with Chris.
It was Chris’ turn to care for the habitat, so I put Prissy in with Art, while we were tending the habitat. If they had shown any animosity, I would be bringing Miss Priss home. But they got along great. When Arlo was here, he was in Miss Priss’ territory, and she domineered him. I am sure she knows that she was in Arty’s territory now, so she won’t have that attitude. This picture is just one quarter of her temporary home, she and Arty have the run of three more sections, and they chased back and forth having a great old time.
This is bittersweet for me, as I know she will probably be adopted from there, so it was her last time here at home yesterday.