Bolivar Peninsula

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Bolivar Peninsula, named for Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), the South American hero, is a narrow strip of eroding land or "barrier island" stretching twenty-seven miles along the Texas Gulf Coast in a northeasterly direction to form eastern Galveston County (the center of the peninsula is at 29°26' N, 94°41' W). At its widest point between Crystal Beach and Caplen, the peninsula is three miles wide. At its narrowest point—where Rollover Pass divides the community of Gilchrist—the peninsula is a quarter of a mile wide. Water separates the peninsula from Galveston Island by a distance of less than three miles. The sheltered Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which extends the length of the peninsula on the north side, is used primarily for transporting freight; at Bolivar Roads, it forms a water passageway that serves as the marine entrance from the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston Bay. The Bolivar portion of the waterway belongs to the Galveston District and is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Bolivar Peninsula is accessible by land from the Texas mainland only through southern Chambers County. Towns on the peninsula, in addition to Crystal Beach (the only incorporated community), Caplen, and Gilchrist, include Port Bolivar and High Island; independent school districts serving the peninsula include Galveston and High Island. At the southwestern tip of the peninsula at Point Bolivar stands old Fort Travis, named for Alamo hero Col. William B. Travis.

Although Galveston Island has been generally considered the most likely site of the shipwreck of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca on November 6, 1528, in recent years speculation has developed that the explorer might have arrived on Bolivar Peninsula, near High Island. Indians occupied parts of the peninsula during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and probably much earlier. Atakapas established a burial ground near Caplen, where flint artifacts have been excavated; Orcoquisas occupied the coastal prairie and passed across the peninsula to Galveston Island; and Karankawas roamed the Texas Gulf Coast in the nineteenth century. According to legend, Jean Laffite's entire pirate crew from Galveston Island sometimes held parties on the peninsula. At least one former pirate, Laffite's cabin boy, Charles Cronea, made his home there at High Island, where he is buried.

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A. Pat Daniels | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Bolivar Peninsula is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Bolivar Peninsula is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Calpen)
  • (Crystal Beach)
  • (Gilchrist)
  • (High Island)
  • (Port Bolivar)


Latitude: 29.47828780
Longitude: -94.57991450

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


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