The name Matagorda, which loosely translates to “dense cane,” reflects the abundant saltwater grasses that lined the bay’s shores when Spanish explorers came. Today, wetlands are still Matagorda Bay’s dominant feature and are a critical source of food and habitat for shrimp, blue crab and many species of fish.
The Colorado, Navidad, and Lavaca rivers provide most of the freshwater inflows to the Matagorda system, but multiple large dams on the Colorado River upstream of Austin, along with other dams and extended periods of drought, have significantly altered flows to the bay, impacting its overall health.
One strategy for protecting inflows to the bay involves purchasing water rights from willing sellers on streams that flow directly into the estuary. Another key tactic will be protecting and restoring strategic tracts of land. The land near Matagorda Bay is fertile, and the bay is largely surrounded by rice fields, ranches and small communities. Deepwater Horizon funds have already been used to purchase Powderhorn Ranch – the largest land acquisition in state history – protecting more than 17,000 acres of marshes, grasslands, and woodlands. Additional investments in the Matagorda Bay area should focus on protecting freshwater inflows, improving the health of the bay and restoring critical nesting and nursery habits.