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Tourist Attractions

Tour of Houston Ship Channel – A Tourist Attaction!

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

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 have 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 actually the busiest port in the United States by the measurement of foreign tonnage and only ranks second to Louisiana by way of overall tonnage 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 amazing to say the least!

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, they 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 seen in 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 certainly not a large ship and not without encountering many obstacles. A true port city…..that was yet to become a reality.

Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Prior to 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 actually becoming a port city was furthered along by this disaster of major proportions. But major 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 actually shipped via the Buffalo Bayou waterway between Galveston and Houston back in 1836, to have expanded to becoming 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 in order to accommodate ever larger shipping vessels and continues even to this day. According to posted 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 tour boat in Houston Ship Channel

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

To be able to board a boat operated by the Port of Houston Authority and be able to see some of the huge cargo vessels that cross the oceans and end up right here in Houston doing business is a real treat.

A running commentary over the public address system while aboard the air-conditioned boat enlightens one as to historic facts and figures. Anyone interested in hearing the history of this region and how all of this has come to pass would be enthralled by what they can learn on these tours all the while gazing at ships coming from all points of the globe.

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

If one has extra time and wishes to watch more huge International cargo vessels on this waterway turning around to make their exit into Galveston Bay destined for parts unknown…the large windows of Brady’s Landing (next door to the now torn down Shanghai Red’s) offer an unobstructed view while one can savor a bite of lunch or dinner.

More History

For people with more time to explore…also found on the Houston Ship Channel is the San Jacinto Monument and the USS Texas Battleship which is berthed at that site. One can tour both icons of Texas history.

Boat from which we toured the Houston Ship Channel

Boat from which we toured the Houston Ship Channel

If you are not familiar with seeing smokestacks from petroleum refining companies and huge cargo ships that cross the oceans to unload countless automobiles and other goods over here…picking up grains and other exports from this country being taken back via the oceans to other home ports, then visiting the Houston Ship Channel as a tourist attraction might just be something you wish to do if ever visiting this part of the country.