Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Matagorda County


Texas A&M AgriLife Extension educates Texans in the areas of agriculture, environmental stewardship, adult life skills, youth, human capital and leadership, and community economic development.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is a state wide educational agency and a member of the Texas A&M University System linked in a unique partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension System and the local County governments in Texas.

Matagorda County

Matagorda County is in the Coastal Prairie region of Texas, bounded on the north by Wharton County, on the east by Brazoria County and the Gulf of Mexico, on the west by Calhoun and Jackson counties, and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico and Tres Palacios, Matagorda, and East Matagorda bays. Bay City is the county’s seat of government and largest city founded in 1894, and because of its location near the center of the county it replaced Matagorda as the county seat.

The name Matagorda, Spanish for “thick brush,” was derived from the canebrakes that formerly lined the shore. Crossed by the once highly flood-prone Colorado River, which bisects it from north to south, the county extends across 1,612 square miles of mostly open prairie. The growing season averages 295 days per year. Live oak, post oak, pin oak, pecan, ash cottonwood, elm, red cedar, and mulberry grow in the county’s forests; mesquite and prickly pear have invaded the Bay Prairie in patches where the land has been overgrazed.

The area harbors a variety of wildlife, including bobcats, coyotes, otters, white-tailed deer, and numerous smaller mammals, as well as oysters, shrimp, fish, snakes, and waterfowl. A number of protected wildlife habitats, including Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge, the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area, the Runnels Family Mad Island Marsh, and the Nature Conservance, are located in the county.

In 1982, 80 percent of Matagorda County was in farms and ranches, and of this, 28 percent was cultivated. The county derives 67 percent of its agricultural receipts from crops, especially rice, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, hay, and cotton. Potatoes, peaches, and pecans are also grown here. Cattle ranching has been important to the local economy. Mineral resources include salt domes, brine, petroleum, and natural gas.