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Hit the Road With Chet Garner

Matagorda Island Lighthouse

Ancient tower once guided ships to Indianola

If the heat didn’t take me, the mosquitoes would, so I pedaled as fast as I could through the grass and sand, hoping I was rolling in the right direction. I was committed to seeing the Matagorda Island lighthouse, and the price of admission is a 2.5-mile trek across this desolate island.

The barrier island is 38 miles long and uninhabited, save for a small outpost used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. TPWD ran a daily ferry to the island until 2003, when a fire destroyed the state’s boat, and the ferry service was lost in the flames. If you want to visit Matagorda Island now, you either float your own boat across Espiritu Santo Bay or enlist a fishing guide in Port O’Connor. I reached the island with the help of guide Mike Bohac, who delivered me to Matagorda, pointed toward the lighthouse and said, “Head that way.”

After an hour of pedaling, I could see the lighthouse. It was built in 1852 to guide ships through Pass Cavallo on their way to Indianola. Numerous renovations and a relocation raised the structure to where it now sits, 91 feet above sea level. The Confederate States army tried to blow up the lighthouse to keep it from falling into Union hands, but the cast-iron structure survived.

I peered into a small glass window at the bottom of the lighthouse and wondered what the view was like from the top. Volunteers open it up on special occasions, but my trip was not one of those. Near the lighthouse, I inspected the foundation for the lightkeeper’s home and a small cemetery where deceased keepers lie in rest, still guarding the tower.

It was easy to imagine the isolation they must have felt here on the edge of Texas.