Matagorda County

Matagorda Court House

Magagorda County Map

About Matagorda County:

Matagorda County is in the Coastal Prairie region of Texas. It is bordered on the north by Wharton County, on the east by Brazoria County and the Gulf of Mexico, on the west by Calhoun and Jackson counties, and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico and Tres Palacios, Matagorda, and East Matagorda bays. The center of the county lies at 28°54′ north latitude and 95°59′ west longitude. Bay City, the county’s seat of government and largest city, is four miles north of the center of the county at the convergence of State highways 35 and 60, fifty air miles southwest of Houston.

The name Matagorda, Spanish for “thick brush,” was derived from the canebrakes that formerly lined the shore. Crossed by the once highly flood-prone Colorado River, which bisects it from north to south, the county extends across 1,612 square miles of mostly open prairie. With the exception of a slight undulation in the north, most of the county is level, with elevations ranging from sea level to seventy feet. Part of Matagorda Peninsula, a narrow barrier island formed less than 5,000 years ago, runs northeast and southwest for sixty-five miles from the mouth of Caney Creek in the eastern part of the county to Pass Cavallo on the west. The peninsula protects Matagorda Bay and is cut in half by the Colorado River channel twenty-four miles from the pass.

Major watercourses in the county include Caney, Peach, Peyton’s, Turtle, Cash’s, and Big and Little Boggy creeks, the Tres Palacios and Colorado rivers, Live Oak and Linville bayous, and Little Robbins Slough. Along the rivers the soils are brownish to reddish, cracking and clayey to loamy, and along the coast soils are sandy. In the rest of the county light-colored, shallow loam covers clayey sub-soils; some areas, particularly in the coastal marshes, have gray to black, cracking, clayey soils.

Temperatures in the county vary from an average low of 44° F in January to an average high of 92° F in July. The growing season averages 295 days per year. Live oak, post oak, pin oak, pecan, ash cottonwood, elm, red cedar, and mulberry grow in the county’s forests; mesquite and prickly pear have invaded the Bay Prairie in patches where the land has been overgrazed. The area harbors a variety of wildlife, including bobcats, coyotes, otters, white-tailed deer, and numerous smaller mammals, as well as oysters, shrimp, fish, snakes, and waterfowl. A number of protected wildlife habitats, including Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge, the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area, the Runnels Family Mad Island Marsh, and the Nature Conservancy, are located in the county.

In 1982, 80 percent of Matagorda County was in farms and ranches, and of this, 28 percent was cultivated. The county derives 67 percent of its agricultural receipts from crops, especially rice, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, hay, and cotton. Potatoes, peaches, and pecans were also grown there. Cattle ranching has been important to the local economy. Mineral resources include salt domes, brine, petroleum, and natural gas. In 1982, 97,440,000,000 cubic feet of gas well gas, 6,781,000,000 cubic feet of casing head gas, and 2,903,000 barrels of petroleum were produced in the county. The Colorado Barge Canal, completed in 1959, extends fifteen miles along the Colorado River from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to a turning basin below Bay City and links the county to deep water at Freeport and Galveston. In the 1990s the county was served by the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads.

Major tourist attractions include hunting, fishing, water sports, an October rice festival, and a March fair. The Texas Independence Trail runs through Matagorda County, and an annual cattle drive across the Colorado River to summer pastures on Matagorda Peninsula, which began in 1919 still draws tourists. Palacios celebrates a Valentine Parade and Pageant in February, July 4th Boat Races, and a Bayfest in November. Bay City holds a county fair, the Rodeo and Parade in March, an October Rice Festival, and a Christmas Tour of Homes and Christmas Lighted Parade in December.

Major highways
  • State Highway 35
  • State Highway 60
  • State Highway 71
  • State Highway 111
Adjacent counties
  • Brazoria County (northeast)
  • Gulf of Mexico (southeast)
  • Calhoun County (southwest)
  • Jackson County (west)
  • Wharton County (northwest)
  • Bay City
  • Palacios
Census-designated places
  • Blessing
  • Markham
  • Van Vleck
Other communities
  • Allenhurst
  • Caney
  • Cedar Lake
  • Cedar Lane
  • Collegeport
  • Elmaton
  • Hawkinsville
  • Matagorda
  • Midfield
  • Pledger
  • Sargent
  • Wadsworth
  • Buckeye
Population QuickFacts Matagorda County Texas
Population, 2011 estimate    36,809 25,674,681
Population, 2010 (April 1) estimates base    36,702 25,145,561
Population, percent change, April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011    0.3% 2.1%
Population, 2010    36,702 25,145,561
Persons under 5 years, percent, 2011     7.2% 7.6%
Persons under 18 years, percent, 2011     26.0% 27.1%
Persons 65 years and over, percent, 2011     14.6% 10.5%
Female persons, percent, 2011     50.0% 50.4%
Foreign born persons, percent,  2006-2010    10.2% 16.1%
Language other than English spoken at home, pct age 5+, 2006-2010    26.9% 34.2%
High school graduates, percent of persons age 25+, 2006-2010    76.6% 80.0%
Bachelor’s degree or higher, pct of persons age 25+, 2006-2010    14.1% 25.8%
Veterans, 2006-2010    3,050 1,635,367
Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16+, 2006-2010    21.6 24.8
Housing units, 2010    18,801 9,977,436
Homeownership rate, 2006-2010    71.6% 64.8%
Living in same house 1 year & over, 2006-2010    88.6% 81.5%
Housing units in multi-unit structures, percent, 2006-2010    15.1% 24.1%
Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2006-2010    $83,400 $123,500
Households, 2006-2010    13,786 8,539,206
Persons per household, 2006-2010    2.63 2.78
Per capita money income in past 12 months (2010 dollars) 2006-2010    $22,623 $24,870
Median household income 2006-2010    $43,205 $49,646
Persons below poverty level, percent, 2006-2010    21.6% 16.8%
Business QuickFacts Matagorda County Texas
Private nonfarm establishments, 2009     729 519,028
Private nonfarm employment, 2009    7,882 8,925,096
Private nonfarm employment, percent change 2000-2009    -0.1% 11.2%
Nonemployer establishments, 2009    2,441 1,844,130
Total number of firms, 2007    2,943 2,164,852
Manufacturers shipments, 2007 ($1000)    593,541,502
Merchant wholesaler sales, 2007 ($1000)    424,238,194
Retail sales, 2007 ($1000)    313,945 311,334,781
Retail sales per capita, 2007    $8,547 $13,061
Accommodation and food services sales, 2007 ($1000)    38,800 42,054,592
Building permits, 2011     63 97,450
Federal spending, 2010    255,847 225,724,926
Geography QuickFacts Matagorda County Texas
Land area in square miles, 2010    1,100.28 261,231.71
Persons per square mile, 2010    33.4 96.3
FIPS Code    321 48
Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area    Bay City, TX Micro Area  

School districts serving Matagorda County include:

  • Bay City Independent School District
  • Matagorda Independent School District
  • Palacios Independent School District (partial)
  • Tidehaven Independent School District
  • Van Vleck Independent School District
  • Boling Independent School District (partial)
Agriculture in Matagorda County:

Average size of farms: 625 acres

Average value of agricultural products sold per farm: $116,781

Average value of crops sold per acre for harvested cropland: $643.15

The value of nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod as a percentage of the total market value of agricultural products sold: 52.53%

The value of livestock, poultry, and their products as a percentage of the total market value of agricultural products sold: 24.53%

Average total farm production expenses per farm: $111,510

Harvested cropland as a percentage of land in farms: 21.94%

Irrigated harvested cropland as a percentage of land in farms: 30.53%

Average market value of all machinery and equipment per farm: $68,272

The percentage of farms operated by a family or individual: 89.10%

Average age of principal farm operators: 55 years

Average number of cattle and calves per 100 acres of all land in farms: 13.53

Milk cows as a percentage of all cattle and calves: 0.13%

Corn for grain: 7708 harvested acres

Upland cotton: 27156 harvested acres

Soybeans for beans: 8811 harvested acres

Land in orchards: 2,102 acres