Port Aransas, formerly known as Ropesville and as Tarpon, is a resort and fishing community on Mustang Island twenty-four miles northeast of Corpus Christi in extreme northeastern Nueces County. The settlement began as a sheep and cattle grazing station established by Robert A. Mercer of Lancaster, England, in 1850, when he settled on nearby St. Joseph Island. In 1855 he built a cabin on Mustang Island and moved there. William and Ed Mercer built a store on the island in November 1880. In June 1890 Elihu Harrison Ropes began an unsuccessful project to build a thirty-foot channel across the island to give Corpus Christi a direct connection with the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. The community's first post office was established in 1888 and called Ropesville. In 1896 the name was changed to Tarpon to celebrate the local fishing. On April 1, 1911, the name Port Aransas was adopted. A school, known as Mustang Island School, was established around 1900. In 1914 it became the Port Aransas Independent School District. The town, which incorporated, had a population of fifty in 1925 and 300 in 1931. Since World War II Port Aransas has grown rapidly as a resort because of the miles of public beach and the attractive opportunities for fishing, swimming, surfing, and camping. The town had a population of 824 in 1960, 1,300 in 1970, and 2,218 in 1982. The number of people on the island, however, frequently swells to over 20,000 during peak tourism periods, straining facilities and congesting the roads. In addition to the regular summer tourists, Port Aransas is crowded with college students at Easter, at Christmas, and between semesters. Late fall and early spring are the best times for surfing. New construction, especially of motels and condominium apartments, has rapidly increased. In 1990 the town reported 2,233 residents and 100 businesses. The population increased to 3,370 with 259 businesses in 2000.
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