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Tour of Houston Ship Channel – A Tourist Attaction!

Posted: March 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

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Houston Ship Channel

Throughout the years when we have had out of town guests who have never previously been to this part of the country, we have introduced them to the Houston Ship Channel as a tourist attraction.

Every one of our guests has walked away from that experience not only better informed about one of the busiest ports in the nation but have been amazed at what they have been able to see on that free ninety-minute tour.

Houston Ship Channel Photo

Houston Ship Channel Photo

The Houston Ship Channel is the busiest port in the United States by the measurement of foreign tonnage and only ranks second to Louisiana by way of the overall capacity of things shipped in and out of the country.

In the entire world, Houston ranks as the 16th largest port. When one considers that this channel is 50 miles inland from Galveston Bay, it is incredible!

Allen Brothers

Houston, Texas may have eventually been developed but were it not for Augustus and John Allen who came to Galveston, Texas from New York in 1831; we probably would not have become the 4th largest city in the United States quite as rapidly.

Discovering Buffalo Bayou and the White Oak Bayous that converge in what is now called Houston, these influential people decided that this would be an excellent place to live.

Following the Battle of San Jacinto in which Texas won independence from Mexico, they purchased 6,000 acres in 1836 on the southern banks of Buffalo Bayou.

Naming the settlement Houston, after a hero of the Battle of San Jacinto (General Sam Houston), the Allen Brothers started advertising Houston as a great place to live in newspapers of other far-flung cities.

Large Ships and Barges seen in Houston Ship Channel

Large Ships and Barges viewed in the Houston Ship Channel

Sam Houston would become the first President of the Republic of Texas.

They even advertised it as a port city. Yes, a ship could navigate the waterways from Galveston to Houston, but indeed not a large boat and not without encountering many obstacles. A valid port city that was yet to become a reality.

Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Before this deadliest of all natural disasters to hit the mainland of the United States, Galveston was the biggest city in Texas with a thriving seaport.

Lots of activity in the Houston Ship Channel

Lots of activity in the Houston Ship Channel

When the hurricane also called the “Storm of the Century” slammed into this city situated on the Gulf of Mexico on September 8, 1900, about twenty percent of all the residents were instantly killed. An estimated 8,000 people were lost that day!

There was no way to possibly take care of that number of bodies other than burning them on piers. It must have been such a horrific experience, and just about every family who had lived there was greatly affected.

The genesis of Houston becoming a port city was furthered along by this disaster of significant proportions. But vital work still needed to be done to make it become a successfully functioning port city.

From the Allen Brothers to Today

While some goods were shipped via the Buffalo Bayou waterway between Galveston and Houston back in 1836, to have expanded to become the major port city that it is today took much time and effort.

Ship in Houston Ship Channel

Ship in Houston Ship Channel

Dredging out of Buffalo Bayou as well as the Bay of Galveston was started in earnest to accommodate ever larger shipping vessels and continues even to this day. According to post information that I have found, the dimensions of the Houston Ship Channel are as follows…..50 miles ( 80 km ) long by 530 feet ( 160 m ) wide by 45 feet ( 14 m ) deep.

View from tour boat in Houston Ship Channel

View from a tour boat in Houston Ship Channel

Some artificial islands have been created from all that continual dredging to keep the waterways functional.  The islands offer shelter to seabirds and other life in the marshlands.

The boat tours are operated by the Port of Houston Authority.  Getting to see some of the large cargo vessels that cross the oceans is a real treat.

A running commentary while aboard the air-conditioned boat enlightens one as to historical facts and figures. Anyone interested in hearing the history of this region and how all of this has come to pass will learn much on these tours. Gazing at ships arriving from all points of the globe is fascinating.

Dining at the Houston Ship Channel

The first time that I took the Houston Ship Channel tour was many years ago as a part of a group tour. We ended up eating at Shanghai Red’s, which overlooked the Turning Basin of the Houston Ship Channel.

Restaurants viewed from the turning basin in Houston Ship Channel

Restaurants viewed from the turning basin in Houston Ship Channel

The large windows of Brady’s Landing (the restaurant next door to the now torn down Shanghai Red’s) offer an unobstructed view while one can savor a bite of lunch or dinner. Diners can watch International cargo vessels turning around to head out to sea.

More History

Also found on the Houston Ship Channel is the San Jacinto Monument.  The USS Texas Battleship is also berthed at that site. One can tour both icons of Texas history if enough time is allowed.

Boat from which we toured the Houston Ship Channel

Boat from which we toured the Houston Ship Channel

Visitors will see smokestacks from petroleum refining companies. They will also view massive cargo ships that cross the oceans to unload many automobiles and other goods.  Visiting the Houston Ship Channel as a tourist attraction should be on everyone’s list.


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