Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast
The Texas General Land Office and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum are pleased to jointly present Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast, which includes ten unique maps covering 252 years of Texas history, from 1740–1992. The maps showcased in this exhibit demonstrate the diverse history of Texas’s Gulf Coast.
With 367 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, more than 3,300 miles of bays and estuaries, and hundreds of communities, Texas has one of the longest, most vibrant coastlines in the United States. From the earliest days of European settlement to modern navigation and oil drilling, the mapping of Texas’ coast has always been of vital importance.
To view any of the maps below in greater detail, click on the image to access the map’s database entry, then click on the magnifying glass icon to enter “Zoomify” mode.
The Gulf Coast in the 20th Century
Texas’ Gulf region has developed into a popular destination for travelers looking to enjoy its beaches and abundant natural resources. These travelers required guidance — the best routes on the road, the choicest fishing spots, how to navigate the coastal waterways, and more. Maps, especially in the pre-internet era, were an indispensable source of this essential information, as seen on the Gulf Oil Corporation map from the 1960s, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map made in 1992, both on exhibit at the Bullock Museum through January 2017.
Founded by a group of investors after the 1901 discovery of oil at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, Gulf Oil Corporation was one of the top ten American oil manufacturing companies of the 20th century. Innovators of drive-in service stations and well known for their branding campaigns, Gulf Oil Corp. became a household name, their bright orange disc recognized globally.
In the 1960s, one of the branding tools the company created was a series of state and regional maps that located their filling stations in relation to other local sites. Along the Texas Gulf Coast, Gulf created “Fishgides,” [sic] to map the premier locations for fishing. The Fishgides were detailed maps of specific coastal areas. One of the artistic touches that Gulf Oil included was their logo into the map’s compass rose.
The Fishgide shows all major roadways leading to the coast, creeks, lakes, and rivers, as well as places to rent boats, purchase bait, and refuel with Gulf gas. Also indicated are the best locations to find certain types of fish — trout, redfish, tarpon, and mackerel. The reverse side provides more information on deep-sea boat departures, the types of tackle to use in different areas, and what types of fish are available in different seasons.
Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast goes beyond the purview of oil companies’ marketing departments. Maps are also created by NOAA as part of its mission to “understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal marine ecosystems and resources.”
Published in Washington, D.C. in 1992, this nautical chart of Sabine Pass and Lake — Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast produced by NOAA’s National Ocean Service is part of a collection of over one thousand charts covering 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of United States waters.
Charts like this one of Sabine Pass and Lake provide information about the area for boaters, divers, swimmers, and for tourists planning trips to the lakes and coasts of Texas. As a hydrographic survey, it indicates the coastal and lake shorelines and provides sounding depths in feet with a conversion chart provided for both meters and fathoms (each fathom equals 6 feet or 1.8 meters).
This nautical chart indicates the ship channels and canals, and the locations of oil platforms, submerged cables and pipelines, gas and oil structures, obstructions, and shipwreck locations in the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas-Louisiana state line is also shown as it passes through the lake.
Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast runs through January 2017. For more information about viewing the exhibit, please visit http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/visit/exhibits/mapping-texas.
To learn more about the Texas Coast today, please visit txcoasts.com
 Hydrography is the scientific branch that deals with the measuring and describing of the earth’s seas and coastal areas, especially for navigation purposes.