Bolivar Peninsula

Bolivar Peninsula

How long has it been since you drove to Galveston and rode the ferry over to the Bolivar Peninsula? Yes, the area did sustain a lot of damage during Hurricane Ike, but that was 2008 and the parts close to the ferry look normal again.

To Galveston and the Ferry over to the Bolivar Peninsula

To Galveston and the Ferry over to the Bolivar Peninsula

This destination is about 75 miles from my side of town. The Galveston-Bolivar ferry is free and operated by the Texas Department of Transportation. At least one ferry runs 24 hours a day and there are maybe 5 ferries running during peak summer and holiday hours. Most of you local folks rode the ferry as kids; it is still fun to throw bread at the gulls from the back of the boat.

Bolivar Peninsula - This is the area we are going to explore.

Bolivar Peninsula - This is the area we are going to explore.

The satellite map above shows the ferry terminal at the bottom left. The very first road to the northwest goes to the Bolivar Flats for great bird watching. There used to be a little  bridge from that road over to Port Bolivar, but it was never repaired. Now, you have to come back to Hwy 87 and turn left onto 108 right by the lighthouse to get to Port Bolivar. The old Fort and the North Jetty are on the Gulf side of Hwy 87.

Photographer at work 

Photographer at work 

I made two trips over to Bolivar and my fellow passengers included cars, SUVs, tourists, families, dump trucks, giant 18-wheelers, a Home Depot delivery truck and coming back in the late afternoon, a school bus.  

View of the pier at Seawolf Park 

View of the pier at Seawolf Park 

First trip over was almost sunset. Just on the other side of that pier is the end of the Texas City Dike. Seawolf Park was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike. That is where the submarine and other naval ships are exhibited, and you can fish from the piers.

Milt's Dock House

Milt's Dock House

Just past the ferry landing, you can turn off on Hwy 108 to Port Bolivar where you can find this fine establishment. It has yet to be repaired, years after Hurricane Ike. Or maybe, it looked like this before. Hard to know. Every photo I locate on the internet of Milt's Dock House looks pretty much like this.

Shrimp boats at sunset 

Shrimp boats at sunset 

There were several shrimp boats docked around Milt's. Hurricane Ike hit the Bolivar Peninsula full force. Most of the communities a bit further down from here were completely wiped away by the wind, storm surge and and tides.  Surge heights were 16 - 17 feet, carrying massive amounts of debris. 

Tug pushing a barge .... under the dome

Tug pushing a barge .... under the dome

On the far shore from Port Bolivar you can see the refineries at Texas City, just the first of many along the bay leading to the Houston Ship Channel. Everyone knows Texans like to brag, but the Port of Houston is the busiest port in the United States in terms of foreign tonnage, second-busiest in the United States for overall tonnage. It is fascinating to watch the steady procession of ships pass. In fact, I got a new app for my iPad called MarineTraffic that lets me enter in a ship's name and find out what kind of ship it is, its flag, where it is going and other cool information. I have a LOT of ship pictures, so there is an idea for an adventure.

Bolivar Flats with lighthouse  

Bolivar Flats with lighthouse  

The next morning I went back over to look for birds! This is called the Bolivar Flats or Horseshoe Marsh Bird Sanctuary. Here is a Reddish Egret and a Great Egret sharing hunting grounds in front of the Bolivar Lighthouse.  

The lighthouse was built in 1872 and was the beacon at the entrance to Galveston Bay for 61 years. Now there is a big light at the end of the South Jetty, but this structure was once banded black and white, but now it is rusted almost black. During the famous 1900 Galveston Hurricane, 125 residents took shelter in the lighthouse.

Note: If you don't know about the famous 1900 storm, check the link above. Great loss of life and property, and the citizens of Galveston worked to build a seawall to protect the island and raised the entire town 17 feet. So far, so good.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron in the rain

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron in the rain

This guy was on a submerged fence post at Bolivar Flats and did not look to thrilled with posing for a photo. This was taken out of the window of the truck; I did not want to get out in the rain either.

Bunker at Fort Travis 

Bunker at Fort Travis 

Just a bit down Hwy 87 is old Fort Travis. The site as protection for Galveston Bay dates from Republic of Texas times, with the first fort established in 1836. Modern bunkers and batteries were built during the years between the world wars to protect those refineries and petrochemical plants that would fuel the American war machine. Now they look a bit like Aztec ruins.

Close by were the earthworks built by James Long. If you remember your Texas history, Dr. Long left his wife Jane and child at Bolivar Point when he took off for La Bahia to fight the Mexicans. She gave birth to her third daughter in an icy tent in December 1821, unaware her husband had been killed in Mexico. She claimed to be the first English-speaking woman to bear a child in Texas, but that seems to be an exaggeration. But we learned in school she was the "Mother of Texas".  I suppose the school books are not so romantic these days.

Door to Bunker 

Door to Bunker 

The abandoned bunkers of Fort Travis were designated for civil defense and many local residents used them for shelter during Hurricane Carla in 1961. If you look really hard, you can see the words "Storm Shelter" stenciled at the top of these doors. Carla was my first hurricane; and Dan Rather started the trend of live reporters out in the elements on that one.

lonely piers 

lonely piers 

Further down Bolivar toward the North Jetty, you can see damage from Hurricane Ike still not repaired five years later.

These supports may have held up a restaurant or a residence.

Now they just are perches for gulls. 

There is one little bait shack at the beginning of the North Jetty. It was doing a jam up business as there were a lot of fishermen out that day.

Most were pulling little wheeled ice-chest and made a lot of noise on the jetty. Didn't seem to bother the birds at all. 

Neoptropic Cormorant at NorthJetty 

Neoptropic Cormorant at NorthJetty 

The cormorants were numerous around the jetty. Lots of birds are opportunistic when there are fishermen about; who knows what they might throw away or even catch?  

You know these are the birds they train to fish in China and the South Sea? A snare is tied around the neck and the birds are allowed only to swallow small fish. Any big fish they catch the owner takes from them.

Tri-colored Heron with supper

Tri-colored Heron with supper

I wouldn't try to take this catch from the Tricolored Heron. He was fishing in a bit of a sand bar up next to the jetty. I was sitting on the rocks, just photographing what ever walked in front of me.  There were some Reddish Egrets, but they look so ragged this time of year. A few shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstones, but they were not as cooperative as this guy.

Have you been to Bolivar lately? What about Fort Travis? And when was the last time you rode any ferry? 

Let me know in the comments. You know you can ignore that Facebook and/or Google log ins. Just click on the bitty icon and sign in as a Guest.  

Paintings and Illustrations

Paintings and Illustrations

Photos and Photoshop

Photos and Photoshop