Two brothers, John and August Allen founded Houston in 1836, naming it for Sam Houston, hero of the Mexican war with Generalissimo Santa Anna. The idea was to attract people there on the basis of its success as a port. They were optimistic but as it turned out justifiably so. Houston was state capital in the mid 1800's until Austin superseded it. The building of a ship canal linking it to the sea began to establish it as a port of some value and when Galveston, at the time the main port, was destroyed by a hurricane in 1900 growth really began. Houston went from being prosperous port and trading centre to one of the powerhouses of the nations economy with the discovery of oil in 1901.
The Houston Ship Channel is the 30+ mile long waterway that extends from Galveston Bay to the southeast side of town, and turns into Buffalo Bayou, which runs through the center of the city. The Ship Channel is how Houston got its start as growing city on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, and it links Houston to the sea, making the city one of the most important international port cities in the world. After Texas won it's independence from Mexico in 1836, small ships began navigating up the then narrow and shallow channel to Buffalo Bayou, and the city. Plans were made quickly to expand the channel so larger vessels could make their way up to the city. Competition quickly began between Houston and it's then rival city to the southeast, Galveston. As the jostling continued between the 2 cities over several decades, Houston was also linked to the national system of railroads, which gave it an extra edge on the dispersal of shipped in items. Then in 1900 when a hurricane struck Galveston, killed thousands of it's residents, and all but wiped the city of the map, Houston emerged as the chief port city on the Texas coast. And after the Texas oil boom occured soon after, Houston's shipping activities increased dramatically. Over the years, as the port has been expanded and more commerce and shipping has been conducted here, the Houston Ship Channel has become one of the most vital parts to the city's livelihood. Now not just used for shipping, many cruise and casino ships use the port for a departure location. Tours are now available to relive the port's history, and discover it's immense importance to the City of Houston. A very interesting look into one of the largest ports in the world!
This an absolute amazing boat tour that allows you to see the real Houston at work, a close up of the boats on the ship channel and the industries along it. It takes one hour and a half and it is FREE! The little boat for tourists, called the Sam Houston, takes you up close next to huge tankers and bustling, hissing and smoking factories of all types. The industrial landscape is haunting. Remember that he Port of Houston ranks as the US largest port in international tonnage and second in total tonnage, it is very impressive!! A must see!!!
You have to reserve in advance by calling Monday to Thursday, 8 am to 5 pm; or you can reserve on line (webite below).
Tours take place:
Tu, W, Fr, Sat 10:30 am and 2:30 pm
Th, Su 2.30 pm
Monday, Holidays and September: closed.
One of the densest concentrations of refineries are found in the Houston area. The oil companies are located along the Houston Ship Channel where it is more sheltered from bad weather that comes up from the Gulf. The construction of the refineries began during World War 1 and were expanded during World War II.
Another large refinery is south of the city at Texas City.
If you are interested in seeing an up close view of the refineries etc, you can take a boat ride on the Sam Houston Inspection Ship for around 90 mins through the deep water channel. You can see all the large container ships, barges and tugs.
Another good view is from the San Jacinto Battlefield on the other side of the channel.
The Port of Houston is currently ranked first in the nation for international tonnage. Located in the Houston Ship Channel which is only six miles from the city, the port has something like an excess of 6,400 ships which pass through the waterway each year.
Here is a chance to see what this great industrial city is really all about. The oil refineries, tankers, and freighters are all right here. You can observe them from the Sam Houston, a tour vessel.