Podcast: Galveston's East End Lagoon and its Natural Wonders

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East end lagoon nature park and preserve

Podcast Transcript

John James Audubon, America’s famous 19th-century naturalist, waded ashore at Galveston Island near the modern-day East End Lagoon in April 1837. In the ensuing years, Galveston has become a major port and a destination that attracts over 8 million tourists annually. Galveston Island is a 27-mile-long spit of land wedged between the Gulf of Mexico and the upper Texas coast. At its highest natural elevation, Galveston is seven feet above sea level. The incorporated area of the city of Galveston is 80% water. The East End Lagoon is a 685-acre complex consisting of intertidal marshes, seagrasses, wetlands, tidal lagoons, and sand dunes located at the extreme east end of the island. The East End Lagoon represents the natural setting typically found on undisturbed barrier islands.

A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs. The East End Lagoon runs parallel to the Galveston seawall. This water's only inlet and outlet runs under Boddeker Drive, emptying into the Bolivar roads. Which is the entrance to the Galveston, Texas City, and Houston ship channels, as well as Galveston Bay. The East End, Lagoon Nature Preserve, is dominated by the open waters of the lagoon and by the surrounding salt marsh. Salt marshes serve as the transition from the Gulf of Mexico to the land. In this area, fresh and saltwater mix the protected waters of the lagoon fed by the dead vegetation from the adjacent salt marsh, creating a perfect nursery and refuge for many types of marine life, such as fish, crabs, and shrimp, therefore, the lagoon teams with the diversity of sea life.

Fishermen often wade into the shallow waters at the mouth of the lagoon, and the calm waters are perfect for kayaking and canoeing. Bird watchers and photographers discover spectacular birds. Throughout the year, the lagoon area is covered with wildflowers as you walk along the trail. You'll see palm trees. These are cabbage palms or sable palmettos. These palms are shown to be native to Texas, only in Cameron County, near the Texas-Mexico border, but they have become naturalized along the Galveston coast. These hardy palms thrive in Galveston's hot, humid climate. They are immune to salt spray and freeze tolerant. Although the preserve is almost entirely wet, these slight elevation variations determine what can grow. To see the greatest diversity of plants and animals at the preserve, you will need to visit a cross-section of these zones and habitats. The East End Lagoon Nature Trail snakes through upland habitat and offers easy access to the lower marshes that border the trail.

The waters of the lagoon vary in salinity based on the rainwater runoff. Since the lagoon is connected to the gulf, saltwater regularly enters the lagoon with high tides. However, freshwater also drains into the lagoon. And therefore, the salinity of the lagoon can vary from day to day. These brackish waters are perfect for a diversity of sea life, especially juvenile fish, crabs, and oysters. Pimple mounds dot the preserve but are easy to overlook. These mounds are often small and slightly elevated. The large pimple mounds are covered by shrubs. Various birds, such as herons and egrets, use these trees and shrubs for roosts. Virtually all of the land within the preserve is salt marsh. There are several types of salt marsh around the lagoon, including low salt marsh dominated by smooth cord grass. Other habitats in the zone include high salt marsh, salt pans, and salt flats. Mini species like the seaside sparrow are only found in salt marshes.

The East End Lagoon borders Bolivar Roads, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Bolivar Roads is protected by two jetties. The North Jetty connects to Bolivar Flats, while the South Jetty connects to East Beach. Here, nature and Man coexist. Bolivar Roads is the entrance to the Port of Galveston and the Port of Houston. The Port of Houston is one of the largest port complexes in the world. The jetties that protect Bolivar Roads also trap sand that flows southward along the Galveston coast. The sediments captured by the north jetty create Bolivar flats, and sediment trapped by the South jetty feeds into East Beach. As a result, the beaches in the Flats in this area are expanding, unlike much of the upper Texas coast. Which is eroding due to a sand deposit deficit. As a result of this growth, the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve is well protected from the wave action by the extensive East End beaches. Additionally, sand continuously blows into the preserve, adding sediments to the scattered pimple mountains. Even though the preserve abuts one of the busiest sea lanes in the U.S., nature continues to thrive at the East End Lagoon.

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J.R. Shaw Creator & Host of Galveston Unscripted

J.R. Shaw is the creator and host of Galveston Unscripted Podcast & audio tour. Shaw recognizes that history is nuanced and learning it can be powerful. He's made it his mission to reduce the friction between true history and anyone who is willing to listen! J.R. Shaw focuses on telling the full story through podcasting and social media with the goal of making learning accurate history easy and entertaining for all who seek it.

J.R. grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, where he learned to love talking with anyone about anything! He started Galveston Unscripted after he realized how much he loved talking to people about their stories related to Galveston Island and Texas History. "So much of our history is lost when we don't have the opportunity to hear from those who lived it or have second-hand knowledge."