History of Port Mansfield
The Willacy County Navigation District (Port of Mansfield Authority) was created on February 14, 1948 to take advantage of the County’s location in regards to the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. In March of 1950 the Navigation District acquired 1760 acres of land immediately surrounding “Red Fish Bay”. The Port was named port Mansfield to recognize U. S. Representative Mansfield of Texas, who headed the Commission that pushed legislation through the U. S. Congress to have the Gulf Intracoastal Canal (GIWW) extended from Corpus Christi south to Brownsville, linking it to the major inland waterways in the United States.
The original harbor facilities of Port Mansfield were completed in phases from 1950 through 1956. In 1954 construction began to dredge a channel from the Laguna Madre Bay through South Padre Island and construct a jetty system at the Gulf of Mexico. This channel would link the Port with the Gulf of Mexico directly and enhance its commercial use and recreational opportunities. In 1962 the channel to the Gulf of Mexico an the harbor facilities were deepened to 18 feet to allow larger vessel access to the Port facilities. The Port Mansfield Gulf Channel is the only access to protected waterways from the southern tip of the Texas Coast – Brownsville to the middle Texas Coast – Corpus Christi.
Other events that occurred in the 1960’s of significance included the construction by the Coast Guard of an Aids-to-Navigation Station in the Port and the construction by the Navigation District of an Airstrip allowing access to the local area to more people.
On August 9, 1980 the “eye” of Hurricane Allen passed directly over Port Mansfield. Both public and private damage caused by the over 100 miles per hour winds and a 10 foot storm serge tide was extensive. This natural disaster did not, however, deter the growth of the Port. In the years immediately following Hurricane Allen the Port has grown significantly in its commercial and recreational tenants and facilities.
In August 1983 construction was completed by the Navigation District on its Small Craft Basin Facility. This 135 Boat Capacity Marina Facility replaced the 77 Boat Capacity Marina Basin originally constructed in 1957.
The major commodities shipped through the harbor facilities of Port Mansfield are oil and gas exploration and production related supplies. Other items are seafood products: Shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and fish and blue crabs from the Laguna Madre Bay.
The recreational facilities at the Port too are expanding. Port Mansfield is recognized as one of the ten top fishing locations in the United States. To accommodate this recreational activity in the Port there are numerous motels, fishing guides, recreational vessel services and supply institutions, etc. The Port offers access to the Laguna Madre Bay and Padre Island to boaters and fishermen who enjoy the uncrowded and unpolluted environment.
Each July the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Fishing Tournament attracting anglers from all over the State of Texas to compete. The fishermen compete for prizes and trophies for both Offshore Fish, such as marlin and sailfish and for Inshore / Bay Fish, such as trout and red fish.