Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail for paddlers
by Natalie Wiest
I am representing Houston Canoe Club on the Bolivar Nature Tourism council to establish a Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail. If all goes well, this could even be incorporated into a Texas Coastal Recreational park of national park status, but that is way down the road. For those of you who may be landowners on the peninsula, please note this does not involve land acquisition, rather it bands together existing recreational sites and increases their public profile. Signage, improved access points, and some capital improvements on existing properties are the focus. As in all projects of this type there are a large number of interested parties at the table. Houston Audubon is one of the leaders, with the National Park Service helping put together proposals that may attract funding from the Restore Act (BP oil spill $). I list several of those organizations at the end of this note.
Of particular interest to us paddlers is the multitude of sites available to access coastal marshes and beaches on both beach and bay sides of the peninsula. Ever on the lookout for new and interesting places to paddle, this has piqued my interest. I have paddled from several of these spots already, but many more as yet unexplored ones are surfacing. From the ferry landing itself (I have put boat in the water from beach just north of there, but beware the tangles of monofilament fishing line and sand burs en route) the whole way east to the highway 124 high bridge over the intracoastal waterway there is a lot to see and do.
The Gulf side has many open beaches that provide direct water access, beginning at the public boat ramp at the north jetty. For more public beach access points, see here. Note that state highway 87 is not maintained east of the turn to highway 124 northbound. The road is drivable for some distance but you can’t get very far toward Sabine Pass. McFadden Wildlife Management area owns a lot of that coastal property inaccessible by road. There is great potential here for overnight trips via sea kayaks, but I will save that exploration for another day. Be sure to take your mosquito repellant along if you are even thinking of camping overnight.
Some access points you may not be aware of are at Frenchtown Road which goes north from the ferry landing area and Horseshoe Marsh, accessible from the 7th Street, loop 108 bridge. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a nice boat ramp for trailered boats, and very usable for kayaks or canoes, at Yacht Basin Road. This is the Lauderdale ramp, with parking available but no other facilities. It sits just west of Rollover Pass with excellent access to East Galveston Bay and the intracoastal waterway (ICW). I’m intending to paddle from here to explore the north shoreline of the island created by the ICW, but it also provides a starting or ending point for a trip directly across the bay to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to bring your GPS and compass for that one.
Here is what the boat ramp looks like:
Midway along the peninsula and on the bay side is the private boat launch, and great seafood restaurant Stingaree. For $3 you can put a boat in the water from their ramp and paddle north across the ICW to explore the interior of Goat Island and have many unspoiled beaches to yourself. It can be a beginning or ending point for trips east or west. You can travel the ICW or those undeveloped beaches on the north side of the island. Watch out for barges and the push/pull currents and water levels they create.
Back to the business of Bolivar Nature Trail, here is a list of participants and invitees for the planning process: Houston Audubon, National Parks Conservation Association, National Park Service, Galveston Bay Estuary Program, Galveston Bay Foundation, Peninsula Development Coalition, Texas Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Galveston County Road and Bridge, Galveston County Commissioners, Bolivar Chamber of Commerce, Texas Ornithological Society, Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation, Master Naturalists, Galveston County Parks, Texas A&M University Agrilife, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, BP, Conservation Fund, High Island ISD, Crenshaw Elementary School (Bolivar), private citizens, and Houston Canoe Club. It takes a lot of people working together to make this project go. I will keep you informed.
Representing Houston Canoe Club
|The author, Natalie Wiest