Port Lavaca is the seat of Calhoun County in southern Texas about 110 kilometers northeast of Corpus Christi. Located on the northeastern shores of Lavaca Bay across the Bay from the city of Port Lavaca, Port Lavaca-Point Comfort is protected from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Island. In 2000, Port Lavaca was home to just over 12 thousand people.
Port Lavaca-Point Comfort is home to several aluminum and chemical plants, and a deep-water ship channel through Matagorda Peninsula and Bay allows ocean-going vessels to travel to the harbor from the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing and duck hunting contribute to the Port Lavaca economy, and oil and gas wells are also important.
Matagorda Bay has been used as a seaport for over three centuries. French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, brought three ships into the Bay in 1685. Modern explorers discovered the remains of one of the ships, the La Belle, in 1990.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Paleo-American groups inhabited the area for thousands of years. Before Europeans arrived, the indigenous Karankawa peoples occupied an area from Galveston to Corpus Christi, stretching inland for over 200 kilometers. By the 1860s, few of the indigenous peoples remained, and some historians think they may have migrated to Mexico.
By 1840, there was a well-established port on the southwest shores of the Bay at Indianola on the site of today's Calhoun, Texas. It was considered the best harbor on Texas' Gulf of Mexico port during the 1800s, with busy piers, businesses, and warehouses. While the town contributed to the development of the Texas colony, it was abandoned after being devastated by two hurricanes in the latter 19th Century.
Port Lavaca was a busy commercial fishing port in the early 20th Century, but it served few cargo ships. When the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway was extended to Matagorda Bay in 1942, Port Lavaca finally had access to the many channels of the United States' inland waterways.
Attracted by the easy barge shipping on the Intracoastal Waterway, Alcoa constructed a large plant at Point Comfort in 1948, and Union Carbide soon followed with a plant in 1954.
In the early 1960s, Port Lavaca began construction of facilities to serve the large ocean-going vessels that served the growing industrial area at Point Comfort. The first ships arrived at the new port in 1965. Protective jetties in the Gulf of Mexico and on the federal Matagorda Ship Channel were also completed that year, and the channel was dredged to a depth of 11 meters.
In 1981, Formosa Plastics Corporation opened a facility at Port Lavaca-Point Comfort that has continued to grow. Today, it is a world-class facility. Since the early 1980s, BP Chemical (now INEOS) has become an important customer for Port Lavaca-Point Comfort.
Over the last two decades, the Port Lavaca-Point Comfort port authority has worked with chemical manufacturers in the area to build state-of-the-art cargo-handling facilities.
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