Matagorda Peninsula

By: Art Leatherwood and Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Matagorda Peninsula is a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf of Mexico from East Matagorda and Matagorda bays. It is located at 28°35' north, 96° 01' west. The peninsula is fifty-one miles long and is crossed at midpoint by the Colorado River. Brown Cedar Cut, at the northeast end of the peninsula, connects East Matagorda Bay with the Gulf. Cavallo Pass, at its south end, provides access to Matagorda Bay.

Early reference is made to the peninsula as Isla de Culebra, or Snake Island. Karankawa Indians probably inhabited the area in the summers and moved to the mainland for the winter. With cessation of the Indian threat, the peninsula opened for settlement. A small German colony of about twelve houses, midway between the Caney Creek connection and Decros Point, was destroyed in the storm of 1854, rebuilt, and destroyed again in 1875.

For many years the barrier-island peninsula played an important role in coastal defense. During the Civil War, Capt. E. S. (Ned) Rugeley lost twenty-two men in a blizzard during an attack on Yankee gunboats landing on Matagorda Peninsula. Battles on the peninsula occurred on December 29, 1863, and January 21–25, 1864.

Samuel A. Maverick moved to Decros Point on the peninsula in 1844 and received 400 cattle there the following year. Cattle drives by the Huebner family in 1919 began a tradition that continued for fifty-five years. In the early 1920s and 1930s, before the Colorado River filled in the area between Matagorda and Matagorda Peninsula, the peninsula was long and narrow and ran parallel to the mainland. Cattle made the almost two-week trip up the peninsula to Sargent. The area was known as the "Cherry" after the name of an early inhabitant. Later herds were brought directly through Matagorda, and hay was scattered on the bridge to keep animals from seeing the water. Drives helped local workers survive the Great Depression, and as late as 1975 500 to 600 cattle made spring and fall drives.

On July 30, 1941, the United States Army declared its eminent domain over the area and established a bombing and machine-gun range there. It returned the "Cherry" to the Huebner family on December 28, 1945. In 1990 Matagorda Peninsula was actually two islands with a ship channel separating them, and was largely uninhabited.

Douglas B. Comstock and Terry Lynn Galloway, Assessment of the Archeological and Historical Resources of the Area Around the Mouth of the Colorado River, Texas (Texas Archeological Survey, Research Report 19 [Austin: University of Texas, 1973]). Lorraine Bruce Jeter, Matagorda: Early History (Baltimore: Gateway, 1974). John Columbus Marr, History of Matagorda County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1928). Junann J. Stieghorst, Bay City and Matagorda County (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1965). Rockette L. Woolridge, "Here Comes the Herd to Matagorda," Texas Historian, January 1975.
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood and Diana J. Kleiner, “Matagorda Peninsula,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 12, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: