ARANSAS PASS, TEXAS
Shrimp Capital of Texas
It wasn't too many years ago that a trip to Aransas Pass was a trip meant for fishing. The same is still true today, but there's a lot more going on in Aransas Pass than just getting your line wet. Steeped in fishing tradition, the "new" Aransas Pass is becoming a popular spot for new residents escaping the busier Corpus Christi Metroplex, and a favorite wintering ground for annual Winter Texans.
But before we get too far away from the subject of fishing, did you know the annual Shriporee, staged each year in June (the start of the gulf shrimp season), is the largest shrimp festival in the world? The entire community celebrates the industry that has been so very important to the local economy for generations. Musical acts, entertainment, cooking competition and carnival rides to arts & crafts vendors highlight this fest - and of course, shrimp - large shrimp, small shrimp, live shrimp, boiled, baked, and grilled shrimp.
The town's early developers wanted to found a great deep water port city on the Gulf of Mexico. The first attempts to develop the area were made by Pryor Lea, who founded the Aransas Road Company to link the coast with San Antonio by means of both a railroad and a turnpike. The enterprise, however, was a failure.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers studied the possibility of a deep water port at Aransas Pass harbor in 1853. But it was not until 1879, when a group from Rockport raised $10,000 for the project, that work began in earnest. Congress passed a resolution in 1879 authorizing the deepening of Aransas Pass. Samuel M. Mansfield worked unsuccessfully on this project from May of 1880 to 1885.
In 1890 the Aransas Pass Harbor Company and the Aransas Harbor City and Improvement Company were chartered. The harbor company planned to dig a channel from the Gulf to the site where the Harbor City Company proposed to develop Harbor City. Russell B. Harrison, son of the late president William Henry Harrison, and Thomas Benton Wheeler, former lieutenant governor of Texas, were two of the key organizers.
Nationwide publicity generated interest from all over the United States. The three-story Hoyt Hotel (later renamed Bay View) was opened in 1893 to accommodate and impress the flood of prospects who flocked in by rail and sea to inspect the new port city. The so-called Terminal Railroad that would link Aransas Pass to the mainland began in 1891.
In 1893 fund dried up however, and the channel-deepening project turned out to be a failure. People who had flocked into Aransas Pass now vanished just as fast.
After a hurricane of 1919, a seawall was built, and steady growth of the shrimping and fishing fleet brought business into Aransas Pass. Shrimp canneries opened, and later, when quick freezing techniques were developed, packing plants were built on the harbor.
Put Aransas Pass on your travel agenda and discovered a great getaway destination on the Texas Gulf Coast.