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Canoeing & Kayaking

West Galveston Bay - Greens Lake, Texas
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Copyright 2002 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Marilyn Kircus
  • Date Submitted: 12/2001
  • Location: near Hitchcock, Texas USA
  • Class: 1 subject to wind blown waves
  • Distance Paddled: about 26 miles, but you can paddle any amount and still enjoy the area
  • Water Level: tidal bay
  • Water: salt
  • Wildlife: Lots of fish and oyster beds, great blue herons, reddish egrets, little blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, tricolored egrets, white ibis, roseate spoonbills, yellowlegs, willets, black bellied plovers, peeps, white pelicans, brown pelicans, cormorants, mergansers, laughing gulls, great tailed grackles, common mergansers, loons, black shouldered kites, oyster catchers, long billed curlew, godwits, dowichers, Forrester terns, royal terns.
  • Special Regulations: none

Entry & Exit

  • Directions: We put in at a bait stand/restaurant just west of Highland Bayou on the north side of the road. From Houston, TX, take Hwy. I-45 South to Hwy. 6. Go west a few miles until you cross Highland Bayou. Immediately turn right into the parking lot for the boat ramp. The bay has many other entries and exits also.
  • Fee: $2.00 per boat
  • Description: This is a paved boat ramp on the grounds of a bait shop and restaurant.
  • Parking: Just dirt and grass
  • Facilities: Rest rooms
  • Handicap Access: none

What We Saw

We left out of the boat ramp at 9:30 A.M. and went under the bridge over Hwy. 6. We passed a community of houses on piers on our right and had mash and birds to our left. We were able to see up to 10 species of birds at a time. The bayou winds through the marsh, getting wider as it goes and finally empties into Jones Bay, a part of Galveston Bay. We went southwest along the shoreline, sneaking up on birds to take their pictures and enjoying the warm day. We were paddling in long sleeved shirts and pants. I was in my sandals. I had my sleeves rolled up as soon as we started. As we got into the bay, we saw more and more species of birds. We also saw a two story octagonal building which Natalie wanted to investigate. I wanted to take pictures of an old wreck while the light was still pretty and then got distracted by a tugboat pushing two barges. I finally beached and walked back towards the building but saw Natalie paddling towards me. As I was walking, I was seeing a lot of tiny horse hooves. I couldn't believe that someone had a pony here. But on the way back, we saw a herd of nine burros, some black, some gray, others tan or brown. These were the makers of the footprints.

Our goal for a couple of years has been to travel down the coast to Greens Lake. But we never had had time to get there. So we soon decided we needed to paddle more and play less but decided to take the long way around some spoil islands to see if there were some good camping sites on them for later trips. We found one beautiful site and several others somewhat less desirable but adequate. But while we explored the really great site - trees, windbreak from the north, great views and right next to the ship channel - we found what looked to be a permanent camp. Not wanting to meet an irate hobo, we quickly backed up and left. Just past the end of this long island, was the opening to Greens Lake.

We went into the lake and explored around a little point to find a tiny island with an old duck blind on it. The edges of the island were piles of oyster shells while the interior - all 300 square feet of it - had vegetation growing on it. We ate lunch at one end while an oyster catcher napped at the other end. Forrester terns were diving for fish all around us. White and brown pelicans and many other species of birds were resting on various oyster reefs. It was so beautiful and peaceful that we had to drag ourselves away after staying almost an hour.

We crossed back across the ship channel and explored a second island, finding more spots for camping. Then we returned by the inside passage, being careful to stay out of the barge traffic in the ship channel. We had to wait for two tug boats and their loads of barges to pass before we could cross back to where we found the burros and then continued on home. As we got home we saw flock after flock of double crested cormorants going to where they roost near Texas A & M in Galveston. We got back to the boat ramp just after 4:15P. There we saw the laughing gulls flocking up to go to their roost. After loading our boats, we stopped and got a coke and tried to find roads on our map that would let us access the further reaches of the coast. We couldn't find any so explored by car until dark, finally proving to ourselves that there are no public roads further southwest for many miles.

Hazards: Oyster reefs - the area has lots of shallow spots with oysters just laying on them as well as reefs. Watch for smooth water and avoid it. Sometimes you have to get out and wade to get back out of trouble.

Shipping traffic - In addition to many fishing boats, there is barge traffic like the one shown at left. The tugboats are pushing 2 to 4 barges and sometimes are passing each other. Some of them make quite a wake. It is important to stay out of the ship channel, paddling to the left or right of it, except when you need to cross. Then it is important to look both ways and not to pass within 1/2 mile in front of a barge. I paddle towards their back end or stop and circle to show them I am intending to stay put. If you get 5 whistles, you are in major trouble so be very careful. At night, be sure to use regular running lights- the red/green in front and a white 360 degree light in the back.

Map -Charts are best for this area. We particularly like the Top Spot brand fishing charts. There is one for the whole of Galveston Bay and shows many great places to paddle.