Before Spanish and French explorers sailed along the Texas coastline in 1519 and 1720, respectively, the indigenous peoples, the Karankawa, claimed the land known as the Aransas Pass their own.
Rancher Robert Ainsworth was Port Aransas’ first settler in 1855; he saw others who wanted to use the pass struggle valiantly against the natural channel’s movement. The pass was valuable, as it offered access to the isolated central Texas coast. Because the area was so difficult to navigate by ship, pirates used the area to hide their treasure, however, the lighthouse and the United States Life Saving Station in Port Aransas in the mid 19th century ended the pirates’ hold on the channel.
Port Aransas played an important role during the Civil War, as their lighthouse offered the only hope of navigating the treacherous channel at night. Union ships blockading the Texas coast couldn’t move at night once the citizens disabled the lighthouse.
Wiped out by a hurricane in 1916, Port Aransas rebuilt, eventually offering safer transportation, this attracted tourists interested in the community’s legendary tarpon fishing.
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