Birding – Matagorda County tops the charts for avian adventurers
A diverse collection of rare breeds tends to gather in Matagorda County, including the intrepid species known as the birder. Ninety-seven of them showed up in a nasty winter storm last year to conduct the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, once again making Matagorda Countys Mad Island Marsh Preserve the champion of the event for North American species, a title its proudly held since 1997.
Matagorda County in general, and Mad Island in particular, is popular with birders for the same reason that its popular with birds. As Clay Carrington of the Nature Conservancy puts it, “Let’s just say it’s the last chance for a good meal.” Positioned as it is on the coast midway between Louisiana and Mexico, Mad Island provides the last lush bit of habitat that migrating birds will see in their arduous fall migration until they arrive in Mexico. Alternatively, its where they will break their long fast in the spring.
Mad Island, with its crocodiles and rattlesnakes, is for the hard-core birders. A little further inland but more popular with birders – and nearly as popular with the birds – is the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center. This carefully tended 35-acre nature park condenses all the major habitats of the Texas coast into one easy-to-traverse area. Birders can ride from forest to marshland to river to lake in a golf cart, rent a boat to cruise the Colorado River, or wander the labyrinthine paths to their hearts content.
First-rate birding is available throughout the county, with excellent opportunities in the seaside villages of Sargent and Palacios as well as further inland in Blessing. And Matagorda Bay Nature Park offers a wealth of opportunities to get out on the bay and see the birds, even with trained interpretive guides.
The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail lists three separate loops with 17 sites in Matagorda County, including Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge, Sargent Beach, Cashs Creek and Trull Marsh. The Tres Palacios Loop alone contains 10 sites. Most of the sites include boardwalks, viewing platforms, kiosks and parking spots. Downloadable maps and more information are available at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
The Lower Colorado River Authoritys Matagorda Bay Nature Park deserves special mention. Its state-of-the-art nature center houses interpretive exhibits, an extraordinary staff and a whole host of interactive activities for the whole family. Check out their website to preregister for upcoming activities ranging from A Day on the Bay Wetlands Kayaking Trip to Wings Over the Wetlands.
Another way to experience the avian abundance of the Matagorda coast is by boat. Rent your own from Freebird Kayak and Canoe Rental and take a trip down the Colorado, or leave the driving to a pro and hit the bay with one of the scores of experienced boat captains and fishing guides. Some of them know as much about birds as they do about fish.
Wherever you go, you’re apt to be blessed with the thrill of your first sighting of some magnificent feathered thing, whether it is a roseate spoonbill rising from the marshes or a snowy egret decked out in mating plumage. With more than 300 species to choose from, the only challenge will be finding your favorite.
You have many camping options in and around Bay City. From beautiful Riverside Park with tent and RV sites to free camping on the beaches. We have a spot to satisfy anyone seeking an overnight adventure.
In Matagorda County, the fish are always biting.
Whatever floats your boat, whether its wade fishing, drift fishing, surf fishing or offshore fishing, Matagorda County is the place to be. With more than 50 miles of coastline and literally hundreds of miles of rivers, creeks and bayous, you’ll find every type of habitat for almost any type of fish.
Walk along the beach on a typical day and you’re sure to find the surf-fishers among the shorebirds, setting up their poles for their catch of the day. Others line up along the piers, like the Jetty Park at Matagorda or the brand-new Swing Bridge Fishing Park where the old swing bridge used to be. Last year a brand-new bridge opened, connecting Matagorda with the barrier island and giving ready access to more space for some fine fishing.
Fly-fishing for the trophy-sized speckled trout that like to hang out in the grass flats and along the reefs can be an adrenaline rush, as well; nine-pounders are not uncommon, and they like to put up a good fight. Fly-fishing on the banks of the Colorado is popular, as well as in the flats of East and West Matagorda Bay.
Some thrill-seekers head out to the open sea for heart-pounding adventures in search of the giant tuna, kingfish, tarpon, sailfish or marlin that ply the waters of the deep. Others stick closer to home, trolling the thriving waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, East or West Matagorda Bay or Tres Palacios Bay in search of trophy redfish, black drum, flounder or speckled sea trout.
You don’t have to head for the high seas or be an expert to have a good time, or to catch tomorrow’s lunch. For beginning anglers, try flounder gigging in Matagorda Bay. This is a nocturnal adventure; with lights on the airboat, you can watch the marine life under the water and the stars above.
If competition is your thing, look for a local tournament; there’s one or two going on most weekends, and many are open to the public. you’ll find events for the kids, like the “Jimmy Guest Memorial Kid Fish”, and others for the ladies, like “Lingerie on the Bay” (The men are allowed to bait hooks, net fish, get out backlashes but are NOT allowed to cast or retrieve, according to the guidelines). Check the Calendar of Events for an up-to-date listing of all upcoming tournaments.
Whether you’re competing with other anglers, with yourself or just with the waters of the deep; whether you’re looking for the challenge of a lifetime, a fish story, your next meal or just a peaceful day at the coast, pack up your gear, hit the bait shops and toss out a line. You won’t be disappointed.
Some people say Matagorda was named for it abundant game. This is still very true today. We have world class bird hunting in the fall and plenty of public land in the area that allows bird hunting. Looking to shoot pigs? Yes, please come shoot all the pigs you want in Matagorda County! You can hunt some of the public land for wild pigs, but for maximum fun we recommend you book a night vision hunting trip with one of the hunting guides in the County.
Kayaking & Paddling
Matagorda County is a very special place for paddling due to it’s large selection of easy access sites for paddling Caney Creek, The Colorado and Tres Palacios Rivers, the bayous of Matagorda Bay and off the beaches. The bayous are generally protected calm and shallow waters that are easy for beginner paddlers. There are marked kayaking trails in the area & GPS coordinates of these areas are available online. You can find are paddling trails here. Many of these areas are inaccessible by motor boat, making them quiet and peaceful outings that offer world class birding and fishing opportunities.
On a clear and moonless night the stargazing can be outstanding in Matagorda County. You don’t have to travel far to find dark sky. It is especially good on the beaches at night with the waves crashing. The beach is also nice on full moon.