The Port of Orange is located on the Sabine River in southeast Texas near the State's border with Louisiana. The Port of Orange is about 20 nautical miles (34 kilometers or 21 miles) northeast of Port Arthur across Sabine Lake. The Port of Orange is 146 kilometers (91 miles) east-northeast of the Port of Houston. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 18.6 thousand people in the Port of Orange.
The Port of Orange is a deep-water port connected by canal to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. With Beaumont and Port Arthur, the Port of Orange forms the "Golden Triangle" industrial complex. The Port of Orange is located within an important area producing oil and natural gas. The major industries in the Port of Orange are ship-building, steel fabrication, and the manufacture of cement, paper products, synthetic rubber, and petrochemicals.
Before Europeans came to the future Port of Orange, the Atakapa people inhabited the area. Atakapa is a Choctaw word meaning "people eater." These Gulf coast people practiced cannibalism on their enemies. Calling themselves the Ishak, the Atakapa were devastated by infectious diseases after first contact with Europeans. Survivors joined surrounding tribes like the Caddo and Koasati. In 2006, a group of about 450 people from Louisiana and Texas met as one nation to bring the Atakapa people together after a century and to begin the process to become a federally-recognized tribe.
Reason Green, a boatman on the Sabine River, lent his name to the original Port of Orange settlement called Green Bluff. In 1840, the town was renamed Madison after the American President James Madison. In 1858, it was renamed to Orange to resolve confusion with Madisonville.
By the late 1800s, there were 17 sawmills within the city limits of the Port of Orange, and growth was rapid with the arrival of many immigrants. The county built a courthouse in the Port of Orange in 1898.
In 1914, the harbor for the Port of Orange was dredged so that large ships could enter. During World War I, ship-building was a major contributor to community growth. The Great Depression brought economic stagnation to the Port of Orange which did not subside until World War II when the construction of a US Naval Station and related housing brought a sharp population increase to 60 thousand.
After the war, the population quickly shrank to about 25 thousand. With an abundance of fresh water that would prevent corrosion and easy access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Navy decided to make the Port of Orange one of eight places to store reserve vessels. The US Naval Station was converted to a Reserve base in 1975 and was finally decommissioned in 2008. After World War II, the Port of Orange economy expanded with the appearance of chemical plants. Today, the chemical industry is a major economic sector in the Port of Orange and surrounding area.
In 2005, the Port of Orange was in the path of Hurricane Rita and sustained major damage. Then in 2008, Hurricane Ike brought severe damage to the Port of Orange with a 6.7-meter (22-foot) storm surge that breached the city's levees and caused extreme flooding. Flood reached as much 4.5 meters (15 feet) in areas of the city. As few and 14 homes escaped the storm surge, and three people in Orange County died.
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