Galveston County is located on the Gulf Coast of Texas eighty miles southwest of the Louisiana state line, east of Brazoria County, and west of Chambers County; it is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast. The county comprises mainland, Galveston Bay, and Galveston Island. The island, a slowly eroding bank of sand measuring three miles at its greatest breadth and twenty-eight miles at its greatest length, extends two miles southwest along the Gulf. Other barrier islands include Pelican Island, four miles out from Galveston, which was described in 1815 as a "narrow strip of marsh" and subsequently grew from shell deposits into an island four miles long and a half mile wide. Bolivar Peninsula is a slender strip of mainland northeast of Galveston Island and almost in line with it. Both Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island form natural storm barriers for Galveston Bay, which constitutes nearly half of the county's almost 450-square-mile area. The entrance to Galveston harbor, between Bolivar Point and Galveston Island, is about 1½ miles wide. Galveston, the county seat, is located at roughly the geographical center of the county (29°18' N, 94°47' W) on the Coastal Plain. Other towns in the county include Texas City, Port Bolivar, Clear Lake Shores, Crystal Beach, Jamaica Beach, Kemah, Hitchcock, Alta Loma, Dickinson, League City, La Marque, Algoa, Arcadia, and Friendswood. Altitudes in Galveston County range from a maximum height of thirty-five feet above sea level in the northwest sea level; the flat surface near the coast slopes gently to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The mainland coastline is indented with small bays, inlets, and marshes. Principal streams in Galveston County include Clear Creek, which forms the boundary between Galveston and Harris counties and empties into Clear Lake; Dickinson Bayou, which drains into Galveston Bay; and Highland Bayou, empties into Jones Bay and drains the western part of the county. Land in the area includes layered sand and clay and deep, sandy loams. The county has nearly 400 miles of beach. Many towns tap the Beaumont Clay, a water-bearing formation that underlies the county, for water supplies. The city of Galveston obtains its water from artesian wells. Drainage districts control flooding problems throughout the county. Grassland vegetation predominates, though live oak, water oak, magnolia, hackberry, and other trees grow along the creeks and bayous. The local water abounds with a variety of fish, including Spanish mackerel, red snapper, flounder, pompano, spotted sea trout, redfish, tarpon, oysters, and shrimp. The climate is humid, subtropical, and marine. Tropical disturbances in late summer and early fall are common. Hurricanes in 1900, 1915, 1961, and 1983 caused major damage, though construction of the Galveston seawall in 1902 lessened the effect of later storms. Rainfall averages 47.06 inches annually, and the growing season lasts for 320 days a year. The county's economy historically derives from its location as an important hub of land and sea transportation on the Gulf. Galveston is the oldest deepwater port west of New Orleans, and the community is noted for many "firsts" in Texas.
Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.