Port O'Connor Paddling Trail

The Port O'Connor Paddling Trail consists of six shorter trails along 40 miles of trail. The Port O'Connor Paddling Trail consists of a series of six interconnecting trails navigating 40 miles of trail along the shores of Espiritu Santo and Matagorda Bays and through their boundary saltwater marsh Mules Slough/Fish Pond. The Trail offers opportunities to paddle several hours, all day, or several days as well as opportunities to bird, fish and relax. The main spine trail, called the Matagorda Island Trail terminates near the picnic area on Matagorda Island that is managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Wildlife Management Area.


Getting There

Map showing Port O'Connor Paddling Trail location on the coast just east of Houston

From Houston:

  1. Take Hwy 59 south toward Victoria
  2. Just before you get to Victoria, take Loop 175 (south)
  3. Travel approximately 7 miles to Hwy 185
  4. Proceed southeast on Hwy 185 for approximately 26 miles to Seadrift
  5. Continue on Hwy 185 east for 15 miles to Port O'Connor

From San Antonio:

  1. Take Hwy 87 east to Victoria
  2. In Victoria, follow Hwy 87 until it intersects with Hwy 185
  3. Take Hwy 185 southeast for approximately 26 miles to Seadrift
  4. Continue on Hwy 185 east for 15 miles to Port O'Connor

Access Sites:

Little Jetties - corner of S Washington & Commerce StreetsLittle Jetties trail kiosk
Latitude: 28.444772°N     Longitude: -96.402161°W
The Little Jetties site is located on public right of way where Washington Street dead-ends into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A small parking lot is available.  The closest public restroom is located at Kingfisher Park on Park Street.

Directions once in Port O’Connor:

  1. Continue east on Hwy 185 / Adams Street to S 2nd Street.
  2. Hwy 185 turns right at S 2nd Street; make the turn right.
  3. Continue on Hwy 185 / S 2nd Street for 4 blocks.
  4. Turn left on Commerce Street.
  5. The Little Jetties put-in is at the intersection of Commerce Street and Washington Street and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIW).
  6. The Pass Cavallo Trail heads east around the south jetty (GIW 1). Marker #1 of the Matagorda Island Trail is 1.1 miles west in the GIW at Fisherman’s Cut.

The Fishing Center – 303 W Water Street at corner of S 13th
Phone 361-983-4440
Latitude 28° 26.318' N     Longitude, 96° 24.841' W

The Fishing Center is a privately owned boat ramp and bait stand offering a ramp and parking. Fishing supplies, snacks and drinks, and ice are available for purchase. A restroom is available in the store. The Fishing Center offers the closest access to Marker #1 at Fisherman's Cut (0.9 miles closer than Little Jetties) which provides access to the 'Back Bay' system.

Directions once in Port O’Connor:

  1. Turn right on S 16th Street (at Speedy Stop Convenience Store).
  2. After several blocks, turn left on Maple Street, then right on 15th Street.
  3. The Fishing Center is located at the corner of 15th Street, Water Street, and the GIW.
  4. To get to Marker #1, paddle across the GIW and enter Fisherman’s Cut.

Paddler on Port O'Connor Paddling Trail16th Street Launch
Latitude: 28.437706°N    Longitude: -96.417198°W

16th Street dead ends to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and offers the closet free launch site to Marker #1 at Fisherman's Cut, providing access to the 'Back Bay' system. Several parking sites are available on the street at the TPWD Coastal Fisheries office (418 S 16th Street). Private property is on the left side of the street. Park in the small area on the right side only. The site has no amenities. When launching be cautious of the concrete rubble both at water’s edge and submerged—it presents a hazard to you and your kayak.  It is worth your time to examine the launch from the sea wall near the boat house on the left (east) side to see their location before launching.

Directions once in Port O’Connor:

  1. Turn right at 16th Street --at Speedy Stop Convenience Store.
  2. The launch site is four blocks on 16th Street, next to the TPWD Coastal Fisheries office.
  3. Marker #1 is about 200 yards east (left) on the GIW in Fishermen’s’ Cut.

For those paddling the Matagorda Island Trail to the Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area there is primitive campsite available, but there is no automobile access to Matagorda Island.

Distance from nearest major cities:

  • Dallas - 340 miles
  • San Antonio - 158 miles
  • Corpus Christi - 96 miles
  • Houston - 147 miles
  • Victoria - 47 miles
  • Austin - 169 miles

Maps

GPS coordinatesView Global Positioning System (GPS) points for Port O'Connor Paddling Trail (including photo of trail markers)



Trail Description and Landmarks

Paddling Time: estimate 1-2 miles/hour on each trail (depending on water levels, wind speed, and paddler's skill level)
Trail Length: variable (see below)
Trail includes 6 smaller round-trip loop trails of varying length:

  • Matagorda Island Trail: ~25 miles
  • Pass Cavallo/J-hook Trail: ~11 miles
  • Barroom Bay Trail: ~8 miles
  • Mules Slough Trail: ~13 miles
  • Fish Pond Trail: ~16 miles
  • Big Pocket Trail: ~17 miles

The paddling trails wind through several bayous and across open water giving you opportunities to paddle several hours, all day, or several days depending on the route you choose. Regardless of your route, the trails are interconnected. The Matagorda Island Trail eventually ends at the campground at Matagorda Island, and because of the distance, a roundtrip to the island in one day is not recommended. Camping is available at the campground.

Safety

Wear your lifejacket, and take plenty of sunscreen and insect repellant. Plan your trip to make sure you have plenty of water. Watch for faster moving powerboats and oyster reefs that can damage your kayak. Check the tides before you depart, since some trails may not be floatable at low tides, and always know the local weather forecast. Wind is the biggest potential hazard as the trail is subject to periodic strong winds: southerly in the spring and summer and northerly in the winter and spring. The weather can change rapidly, especially from strong northers in Fall through Spring, so pay attention to the forecast. Current tidal conditions and forecasts are available at: http://tidesonline.noaa.gov/geographic.html. Generally speaking, tides above 1’ will allow you to paddle throughout the Paddling Trail, and those below 0.0’ may require you to pull your kayak across occasional shallow spots. The area is also popular with waterfowl hunters.

NOTE: Motorboat activity is high on portions of this trail. Use caution at all times, especially between Marker 2 and Marker  3 of the Matagorda Island Trail.

Matagorda Island

The main paddling trail ends at Matagorda Island. The 56,688-acre island is a Wildlife Management Area that is cooperatively managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The island is approximately 38 miles long and from one to four miles wide.

Use of the picnic area near paddling sign #35 is permissible for day-use as long as you stay in the campground area. While there are picnic tables at the site, there is no water or restrooms. If you choose to camp overnight or you want to hike, bike or tour the island for any reason, you must possess either a Limited Public Use Permit or an Annual Public Hunting Permit. The permits can be purchased at any place that sells hunting or fishing licenses. For questions about rules governing use of the island, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 979-244-7697.

Wildlife and Ecology

The small islands that border the trail and Matagorda Island support a wide variety of shore and migratory birds and 19 federally listed threatened or endangered species. The small islands that border the trail and Matagorda Island support a wide variety of shorebirds and migratory birds, including pelicans, herons, egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, ducks, Sandhill Cranes, grebes, loons, gulls, terns, willets, curlews, and plovers. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is spotted along the trail, and a large heard of whitetail deer can sometimes be seen on Matagorda Island, along with the occasional alligator. The area is known for producing redfish, speckled trout, drum and other popular fish. Trout and large redfish are commonly caught all year long.

Conservation

Coastal waters and their associated bays, estuaries, and wetlands are mixing zones for fresh and saltwater. These areas not only enhance water quality by assimilating domestic waste and controlling erosion but they also provide invaluable habitat for juvenile shell and game fish (or finfish) during their early life stages. These areas also support various municipal and industrial facilities and support diverse fish and wildlife, fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities which positively affect Texas' economy. Freshwater inflows must be maintained in order to produce balanced salinity levels. Conservation of our bays and estuaries can be furthered through efforts to preserve and restore wetlands and seagrasses to reduce erosion, filter pollutants and improve water quality. Conservation of these areas ensures that the natural heritage of Texas is protected for future generations.

Respect Private Property

While many coastal paddling trails are adjacent to public lands, some are adjacent to private property. Respect private property by not trespassing or littering and keeping noise levels down. Use of private land adjacent to the water without permission of the landowner can be considered trespassing. Under Texas Penal Code (30.05), criminal trespass occurs when one enters property after receiving notice not to enter. Notice includes verbal notice, a fence, sign(s), purple paint on posts or trees, or the visible presence of crops grown for human consumption.

Events & Attractions

See TPWD Calendar for Paddling Events

Port O'Connor, Texas (POC for short) is a small fishing village on the Texas Coast a little more than half-way between Houston and Corpus Christi and south of Victoria. It is often known as the "Best Kept Secret on the Gulf Coast" for its relaxing, laid-back atmosphere, and numerous fishing and boating venues.

Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce website lists places to eat and stay as well as fishing, hunting, and shuttle services: http://portoconnorchamber.com/.

Paddlers launching onto the Port O'Connor Paddling Trail

Kingfisher Park offers a family friendly sandy beach with picnic facilities, restrooms, a beach shower, and a fishing pier. The park provides access to the beach for swimming, fishing, paddling, and wind surfing. Located at the intersection of Park Avenue and Monroe Street.

Boggy Bayou Park offers excellent wade and kayak fishing, paddling and birding opportunities. It is located at the northern end on N 3rd Street at W Taylor Avenue. Boggy Bayou provides a shallow and protected lake that is an excellent location for beginning paddlers.

Powderhorn Ranch State Park and Wildlife Management Area is coming soon. It includes 17000 acres of undeveloped ranch land with 6 miles of frontage to Matagorda Bay. See: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releases/?req=20140821a.

Little Jetties offers excellent fishing and birding. It is located at the corner of S Washington and Commerce Streets.

Sunday Beach is located on Matagorda Island and is accessible by private boat or kayak; see paddling trail description.

Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area occupies 7325 acres (29.64 km) on the northeastern end of the island.

The remainder of Matagorda Island is devoted to wildlife refuge operated by US Fish and Wildlife as part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge, including Matagorda Island, is the winter home of the endangered Whooping Crane.

Matagorda Island Lighthouse has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of The Interior.

Note: Matagorda Island is accessible only by boat. See the POC Chamber web site for a listing of private shuttle services

Annual Town Events and Festivals:
  • Early May- Crawfish Boil at Kingfisher Park
  • May – Warriors Weekend
  • Independence Day Weekend –Fireworks at Kingfisher Park
  • December – Parade of Boats on the GIW
    For detailed information on town events see the Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce website at www.poroconnorchamber.com

Partnership

This trail was made possible through a partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, POC Chamber of Commerce, Calhoun County, West Side Calhoun County Navigation District, and the San Antonio Bay Partnership.

Rentals & Shuttles

Dolphin Kayak and Water Sports

Offers kayak rental and guide services
1408 W. Adams St (Highway 185)
Port O'Connor, Texas 77982
(936) 553-1521, alan@dolphinkayak.net, www.dolphinkayak.net

R&R Guide Service

Capt. Jim Reed offers Kayak Transportation, Matagorda Island Shuttles, Bay Fishing Charters, Island Shuttles, Birding; Bay Cruises.
(361) 648-5688 or (361) 648-5877, jimrreed3@gmail.com

Local Shuttles to Matagorda Island

The Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce website maintains an up-to-date list of shuttle services: http://portoconnorchamber.com

Austin Canoe and Kayak

Rent kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards by the day to take anywhere you want, when you want. Locations in Austin, Houston and the San Marcos/New Braunfels area. For more information, visit http://www.austinkayak.com/rentals

REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.)

Rent kayaks, canoes, paddles, and PFDs (personal flotation devices) 7 days a week at your nearest REI co-op.
For the closest Texas store, visit http://www.rei.com/FindStores?state=TX&radius=900

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