The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 70, July 1966 - April, 1967 Page: 45
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Responses to the Challenges of Water Resources
Early Texas immigrants were dependent upon the rivers for
transportation as there was not a single adequate highway to the
outer world. The rivers were not navigable, however, except for
short distances, and often the navigable portions led through
thinly populated, marshy areas. Sandbars and mudflats, as well
as sunken masses of drift, obstructed many streams. But the
people of Texas were convinced that the streams of the state were
really navigable, or, they hoped, would soon be rendered so.
Agitation for river improvements continued throughout early
During the early days of the republic, a tentative movement
toward the development of transportation facilities was made, but
the government was too poor to accomplish anything and pri-
vate capital held warily aloof. That helped to foster Texas senti-
ment for annexation, as promises were made by visitors from the
United States that, upon admission to the Union, a comprehen-
sive development of internal improvements would be under-
After admission to the Union, the Texas legislature continued
its search for means to improve the navigability of rivers. State
funds were appropriated in the 1850's for the clearing of rivers
and harbors. After the Civil War and the coming of railroads,
much of the need for river improvements was removed, but de-
mand for harbor improvement continued, since many of the early
railroads were built between the coastal cities and the interior
The ports and harbors along the Gulf Coast were early recog-
nized to be in a strategic position. Navigation through those
ports, however, was fraught with innumerable difficulties and
hazards. The depth of the water in the channels of some ports
was so slight that only the shallowest vessels could successfully
make their way inside. Many of the coastal cities undertook the
task of improving their ports themselves. But despite those early
efforts by the coastal cities and the state, which had spent $272,000
3Charles W. Ramsdell, "Internal Improvement Projects in Texas in the Fifties,"
Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, IX, 99-1oo.
'A. D. Simpson, "Water Transportation in the Development of Texas and the
Southwest," Proceedings, Business Conference on Transportation, 1941 (Austin,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 70, July 1966 - April, 1967, periodical, 1967; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101199/m1/63/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.