You wont bump into many people in
Matagorda County on the Gulf coast of Texas, but you will find
plenty of birds. Youll see so many, in fact, that this sparsely
populated area, about 80 miles south of Houston, has become a major
travel destination for serious birdwatchers.
Situated smack in
the middle of the Atlantic flyway, the path followed by birds
migrating between Central and South America and the U.S. and
Canada, Matagorda has ranked No. 1 for the last eight years in the
Audubon Societys Christmas Bird Count.
That means there have been more bird species (246 this year, an
all-time record) spotted here in one day eight years in a row than
in any other place in the country.
Everywhere you go
on this coastal prairie, youll see birds. Along highways,
red-tailed hawks; on the beach, white and brown pelicans; in the
coastal marshes, herons; on the river, cormorants; and in the
fields and woods, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and
The first stop
for birders should be the new, 35-acre Matagorda County Birding
Nature Center. Here youll find interpretive trails, butterfly and
hummingbird gardens and a boat dock for river tours. For
information, call (979) 245-3336.
Next stop is the
Nature Conservancys Mad Island Marsh Preserve, on whats left of the
marshlands and upland prairies that once stretched nearly unbroken
along the entire coast. You can see wildflowers all year long as
well as cordgrass, glassworts, bristlegrass, rushes and cattails;
alligators and coyotes as well as brown shrimp, flounder and
speckled trout; and, of course, plenty of birds. Phone: (361)
wont lack for activities in Matagorda, but what else can visitors
do here in the vast expanses of farmland and acres of cattle
country? As a Northeasterner visiting for the first time, I had
enough to see and do to keep me occupied for at least a
This place is
still pretty rustic, despite its proximity to Houston, with only a
few fast-food restaurants cluttering up the highways and a limited
number of strip malls displacing local stores.
into the Best Western, a modest establishment in Bay City, I drove
around the countryside to get a better understanding of rice and
turf farming, check out the shrimp boats crowding the harbors and
admire the herds of Hereford, Angus and Brahmin cattle. There are
also, by the way, a few inns and bed-and-breakfasts (some
commissionable) spotted around the county.
boating are a big draw here. Freebird Kayak and Canoe Adventures is
the outfit to call if youre up for a paddle, either with a guided
tour or on your own. Phone: (979) 863-7926.
Some of the best
adventures in Matagorda County are provided by Day on the Bay
Services, a company operated by Capt. James Arnold, a retired
postman who shrimped, oystered and fished these waters for many
years and now takes people out in commercial fishing
For about $50 an
hour plus the cost of fuel, hell take up to six people for about 30
miles on his bay and estuary tour.
Activities are up
to you and include fishing, hunting, shrimping, birding and
oystering or just plain sightseeing.
You can join one
of his group trips or charter a small motorized vessel. Anything
you want to do, call me, he said, and if I dont do it, Ill tell you
where to find it.
Day on the Bay
pays commission to travel agents. Call (979) 244-6787 or visit www.dayonthebayservices.com.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].