Port Aransas & Mustang Island, Texas
Port Aransas (/əˈrænzəs/ ə-RAN-zəs) is a city in Nueces County, Texas, United States. This city is 180 miles southeast of San Antonio. The population was 2,904 at the 2020 census. Port Aransas is the only established town on Mustang Island. It is located north of Padre Island and is one of the longest barrier islands along the Texas coast. Corpus Christi Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, the Lydia Ann Ship Channel, and the Corpus Christi Ship Channel make up the surrounding waters.
Pirates of Port Aransas
Port Aransas was a location of pirates in the early 19th century. From about 1800 to the early 1820s, the Gulf Coast was a haunt of pirate ships searching for riches. Capt. Jean Lafitte and his buccaneers spent time on the Texas coast; Galveston owed its start to him, and Mustang Island was one of his favorite haunts. Capt. Jean Lafitte used Mustang Island as a place to make camp, and according to legend, a place to hide his treasure.
Local lore tells of pirate treasure buried in Port Aransas. The treasure chest is supposedly marked by a Spanish silver dagger. The dagger is believed to be laid on its side with a silver spike driven through the hilt, securing the location.?
1916 Texas Hurricane
Transportation to and from Port Aransas
A United States Census taken in 1925 showed 250 people living on the island, and a population of 300 by 1931. A toll road was opened in 1931 between the town of Aransas Pass and the ferry landing of Port Aransas. Before the toll road, a driver bought a ticket, loaded the vehicle onto a flatbed or train, and used the wooden planks inside the rails when the train was not on a scheduled run. With the advent of the toll road, drivers could simply pay a toll and drive on a wooded plank structure built next to the rail tracks. After the railroad closed in 1947, it was used only to transport automobiles until 1960, when the state built a modern road to Harbor Island from Corpus Christi and the ferry landing.
Port Aransas during World War II
During World War II, an artillery gun turret was erected by the United States Army and maintained throughout the war, on a high dune just off Cotter St. across from the UT campus, and is now part of the UT properties. It was placed to protect the pass from sightings of German U-boats. Blackouts were called on all the island during nighttime hours, no fires on the beach or car lights, and house windows could not show light and had to be covered with heavy curtains, blankets, or wood.
The Farley Boat and Port Aransas
In the early 20th century, tarpon fishing began to attract anglers and tourists from across America to Port Aransas. Because of the choppy waters around Port Aransas, though, access to the Gulf Coast was restricted. The boats of the day were not designed to handle the rough Gulf Coast waters and storms in the early 20th century wiped out the existing charter fleet.
To meet the needs of anglers coming from across the country to fish for tarpon, the Farley family began building the Farley boat. In 1915, Charles Frederick ("Fred") Farley and his son established Farley and Son, Boat Builders, in Port Aransas. The Farley boats were designed to meet the needs of anglers and fishing guides. They were designed with low sides and a high bow to fight the choppy waves. The Farley boats were also designed with low cabins that allowed fishing in every direction.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Port Aransas and while Congress was debating his Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, he fished for tarpon. He hired Barney Farley, the famous fishing guide and brother of Fred Farley.
The president brought his own 35-foot (11 m) fishing boat and Barney Farley agreed to take the president out on the boat. After an unsuccessful outing, Barney Farley convinced the president to fish from a Farley boat, but his nephew, Don Farley, would take him. Though he had a successful outing, Don said, "I can't believe he caught so many because of the secret service running around on boats in the water." The president caught so many tarpon that he returned to Port Aransas later that year to again fish with Barney Farley on a Farley boat.
Today, Farley boat planters are located all over the city of Port Aransas, celebrating the history and importance of the Farley boat along the Gulf Coast.
Port Aransas has now become a fishing, beach, and resort village, with summer populations sometimes swelling to 60,000 or more, as well as a college spring-break destination. Every year in April, Port Aransas hosts an event called Sand Fest, which brings thousands of people to Port Aransas to watch sculptors build elaborate sand castles. The event has food vendors, shopping, and live music, as well. All of the money raised from the event goes to the community and local schools.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.1 square miles (31 km2), of which 3.3 square miles (8.5 km2) (27.01%) are covered by water. Port Aransas is located at 27°49′39″N 97°4′20″W (27.827373, –97.072205).
The Port Aransas economy is increasingly focusing on ecotourism. Bird-viewing locations have been established by the city and state agencies. Kayak paddling trails established by the state also contribute to ecotourism. Port Aransas has begun the construction of a natural preservation area that will provide hiking trails and other nature-related tourist activities.
Port Aransas public schools are operated by the Port Aransas Independent School District. H.G. Olsen Elementary School, Brundrett Middle School, and Port Aransas High School serve the city.
Mustang Island is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Texas in the United States. The island is 18 miles (29 km) long, stretching from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas. The island is oriented generally northeast–southwest, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east and south, and Corpus Christi Bay on the north and west. The island's southern end connects by roadway to Padre Island. At the northern end of the island is Port Aransas, beyond which is San José Island. The Aransas Channel, also known as the "Aransas Pass," which separates Mustang Island from San José Island, is protected by jetties extending into the Gulf from each island.
The town of Port Aransas is located at the northern end of the island. Mustang Island State Park encompasses the entire southern third of the island, including 3,955 acres (1,600 ha) and 5 miles (8 km) of beach. The city of Corpus Christi includes the northernmost portion of Padre Island and part of Mustang Island between Port Aransas and the state park.
The island is a popular Spring Break destination for its beaches and is also popular with snowbirds, Northerners and Canadians who spend their winters in warm climates.