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The San Jacinto River portion of the Houston Ship Channel. Wakes of ships traveling along the channel are visible to the south of the Goat Islands (bright, oblong islands at top center of image). The inset area (denoted by white rectangle line at top left) is magnified as the bottom photo showing the battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Monument.

The Houston Ship Channel in Houston, Texas is part of the Port of Houston — one of the United States's busiest sea ports.[1] The channel is a conduit for ocean going vessels between the the city of Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. The channel is a widened and deepened natural watercourse created by dredging the Buffalo Bayou and the Galveston Bay.[2] Major products such as petrochemical and Midwestern grain and transported in bulk together with general cargo. The original watercourse for the channel, Buffalo Bayou, has its headwaters 30 miles (48 km) to the west of the city of Houston. It has been used to move goods to the sea since at least 1836. The proximity to Texas oilfields led to the establishment of numerous petrochemical refineries along the waterway, such as the ExxonMobil Baytown installation on the eastern bank of the San Jacinto River.

While much of the Ship Channel is associated with heavy industry, two icons of Texas history are also located along its length. The USS Texas (BB-35) saw service during both World Wars, and is the oldest remaining example of a dreadnought-era battleship in existence. The nearby San Jacinto Monument commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto (1836) in which Texas won its independence from Mexico.

The Houston Ship Channel has been periodically widened and deepened to accommodate ever-larger ships, and is currently 530 feet (160 m) wide by 45 feet (14 m) deep by 50 miles (80 km) long (161 meters by 14 meters by 80 kilometers).[1] The islands in the ship channel are part of the ongoing widening and deepening project. The islands are formed from soil pulled up by dredging, and the salt marshes and bird islands are part of the Houston Port Authority's beneficial use and environmental mitigation responsibilities.[1]

On December 25, 2007, The Houston Ship Channel was featured on Anderson Cooper's CNN Special, "Planet in Peril," as a potential polluter of nearby neighborhoods. This year, the University of Texas released a study suggesting that children living within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the Houston Ship Channel are 56% more likely to become sick with leukemia than the national average.[3]

The Ship Channel has five vehicular crossings. They are the Washburn Tunnel, the Sidney Sherman Bridge, the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge and popularly known as the Beltway 8 Bridge; the Fred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas; and the Lynchburg Ferry.

The channel was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1987.



  1. ^ a b c "Welcome to the Houston-Galveston Navigation Channel Project Online Resource Center" (description), USACE, December 2005, webpage: USACE-HGNC.
  2. ^ "The Houston Ship Channel A History". The Port of Houston Authority. Retrieved 9 September 2009.  
  3. ^ "Possible Link Between Ship Channel Air Pollutants, Cancer Risks". The University of Texas School of Public Health. Retrieved 2009-08-30.  


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Coordinates: 29°42′30″N 95°00′18″W / 29.70833°N 95.005°W / 29.70833; -95.005



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