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General Information

Aerial view of Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Copyright: - Texas State Parks & Historical Sites
Aerial view of Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Description - Matagorda Island State Park and Wildlife Management Area, in Calhoun County, is separated from the mainland by San Antonio and Espíritu Santo bays and is one of the barrier islands that borders the Gulf to protect the mainland from the great tides and strong wave action of the open ocean. The park and wildlife management area occupy about 43,893 total acres; the park area is approximately 7,325 acres. Under a cooperative agreement between the US Department of the Interior and the State of Texas approved in 1983, the entire area of public lands is managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. (The southwestern tip of the island, consisting of approximately 11,500 acres, is operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.)

Matagorda Island did not exist until about 5000 years ago, but it is rich in history. Prehistoric and the much later Karankawa Indians used the island until they were driven off by European settlers. Often six feet tall, carrying giant bows, and covered with dirt and alligator grease to repel mosquitoes, the Karankawas appeared fierce and imposing to the Europeans. Historical highlights include visits by Cabeza de Vaca, René Robert Suer de La Salle, and Jean Lafitte. The island featured prominently in the growth of Texas in the 1800s. Traces of the past activity can be found at the civil war trenches, an abandoned Air Force base, 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.

The park is open 7 days a week year-round.

Attractions - The Matagorda Island State Parks offers visitors a large variety of attractions. Whether you enjoy land based and or waters based activities, or if you wish to study the natural history of the area; the park caters adequately for each desire.

For nature enthusiasts, nineteen species listed by federal or state government as threatened or endangered are found here, including whooping crane, peregrine falcon, brown pelican, Ridley sea turtle, and horned lizard. The island marshes are important nursery areas for shrimp, oyster, blue crab, and many species of sportfish, such as red drum, spotted sea trout, tarpon, shark, mackerel, and southern flounder. Very few amphibians are found on Matagorda Island. The most common ones include leopard frog, bullfrog, and gulf coast toad. Over 30 species of reptiles occur on the island. The largest is the American alligator. Of the 19 species of snakes, the most frequently encountered include western diamondback rattlesnake, speckled king snake, and western coachwhip. More than 300 species of birds use the island, many during spring and fall migrations. Barrier islands do not support large numbers of mammals; the most common are white-tailed deer, coyote, raccoon, badger, and jackrabbit. The most common marine mammal is the bottle nosed porpoise.

Facilities include primitive camping on the Beach Campground, which is a two-mile stretch of Gulf beach, 3.5 miles from the boat dock, is serviced by the island shuttle and has covered picnic tables; the Army Hole Campground, on the bay a few yards from the boat dock, has shaded picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, and an outdoor, cold-water shower.

There is a group barracks (capacity 14) with 4 bedrooms, 14 bunks, 2 bathrooms (1 with shower), a partial kitchen with a refrigerator); a second group barracks (also referred to as a Group Visitor Center - capacity 8; rented only when larger group barracks is full) has 8 bunks in one large room with a kitchen (no refrigerator); (both barracks are reserved for Friday or Saturday nights only); linens are not provided. The park also has 3 boat ramps in Port O'Connor; a boat dock on the island; and 38 miles of beach front and 32 miles of paved, shell roadway for hiking, mountain biking, and bicycling. There is no electricity, drinking water, telephone, or concession on the island.

Recreation - Activities include camping, hiking, bicycling, surfing, swimming, beach combing, bird watching, nature study, fishing, a passenger ferry, on-island shuttle and scheduled tours. Additionally, staff-conducted historical and natural history programs are available. Please contact the park for a current schedule or to set up a group program. There are island tour(s) given by park staff and a discount is offered to holders of a Texas Conservation Passport. Tour fees apply.

Climate - Matagorda Island State Park is located at an elevation of 0-22 feet. Temperatures within the park range from an average January minimum of 46 degrees and an average July maximum of 91 degrees. The average rainfall is 43.2 inches. Current weather conditions can vary from day to day. For more details, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

Location - Matagorda Island State Park is situated within the Gulf Coast region of Texas. The headquarters is in Port O'Connor at the intersection of 16th Street and Maples. The only access is by boat; the Matagorda Ferry is a 50-foot, aluminum-hull boat certified to transport 49 passengers that operates on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There is a fee, and surfboards and bicycles are allowed on the ferry which departs from Port O'Connor. There is a shuttle fee charged to visitors who bring their own boat; the shuttle fee is included in the visitors' ferry fee. Contact the park for ferry schedule/use detail.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Filed By: Jeffrey D. Johnson (San Antonio, TX)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Take the time to get to know this jewel. I spent most of my boyhood on and around "Matagorda Island" This is a great place to take your children exploring. Teach them to baitcast, crab with line and fish head, alligator watch, Intercostal shipping, how to spot a sharks tooth on the beach and sandollar hunting all are great low impact stress reducing activities. Nights are dark (with mosquitoes) and with a slight wind great for winter 'skeeter free stargazing. This is a magical part of Texas and should be enjoyed at a slow pace, Please leave jet ski's at home. Bring Lots of water and plenty of sunscreen, even well tanned sportsmen can be fried from the dune/surk reflections. Avoid mid day summer heat, It is really nice to arrive around 5PM on a summer afternoon and spend the night and enjoy cool of the morning before seeking shelter around noon at a local restaurant. I am more familiar with the northern end of the Island close to the Colorado river. If you have a boat go upstream about 17 miles to the cooling area of the South Texas Nuclear project, Beautiful Pecan and Oak Trees calm water and great water skiing. There is an old creek lined with rusting derilict barges, Crab Lake, great fishing floundering in the full moon and alligator spotting. Great part of Texas full of gracious friendly people. Just pack up and GO!

Filed By: Eddie Monte (Austin, TX)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Four the past five years not including my next upcoming spring camping trip to the island have made the trip out to Matagorda island for a week of camping and fishing on the beach. That was just to let the reader now how credible this information is. The toughest part is the weather, atleast in the spring, it can get get chilly at night, very windy and tends to rain atleast once or twice while we're there. Not a place for mama's boys unless you have some comfortable camping equipment, which of course comes at a highr price, to high for a college kid. There's a restaurant in Port O' Connor run by a cajun couple from LA, she makes the best fried shrimp po' boys. However, don't walk by the kitchen, you'll lose your appetite. Also, if you need a room. go to the Tarpon Inn and tell them my buddy Emmett sent you. Food in town is limited and expensive so stop at the super walmart in Victoria. That's all I can think of now, be headin that way the last week of March. Good luck.

More Information

Contact Information:
Matagorda Island State Park, P O Box 117, 16th Street and Maples , Port O'Connor, TX, 77982, Phone: 361-983-2215

Additional Information:
Gulf Coast - The Gulf Coast region is a nearly level, slowly drained plain less than 150 feet in elevation, dissected by streams and rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. This region offers some excellent recreation attractions, most of them centered around the waters of the Gulf.
Texas State Parks - Texas State Parks occupy more than 500,000 acres of pristine ecosystems, historical sites and facilities. The state parks, state natural areas and state historic sites are scattered throughout Texas.

Campground Reservations - Reserve your campground online here with reserveamerica.com
Texas State Parks - Official Agency Website


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