Waiting for Word While a Lifetime of Rockport Memories Linger

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Joseph Cook for the Rivard Report

The sun sets over Little Bay in Rockport, a low-key fishing village popular with sport anglers and birders.

The tiny coastal town of Rockport may not look like much to the casual visitor. Situated on Aransas Bay, it isn’t beachy like Port Aransas. The old downtown’s main drag, Austin Street, doesn’t offer much but an old shell shop, a tacky souvenir store, a handful of gift shops, and the occasional eatery.

But for fishermen, birders, duck hunters, boaters, and anyone not into Port A’s party atmosphere, Rockport is a treasure — a place that only grows in appreciation with each visit in winter and summer, pleasant weather and foul.

For San Antonio families such as mine who for years have traveled down Interstate 37 to the Texas coast, Rockport is place to enjoy the outdoors and the town’s slow, laid-back vibe. Art lovers come for the annual Rockport Art Festival, while history buffs take in the recently restored Fulton Mansion, with its mansard roof and period furnishings. Still others come to Rockport simply for being near the water and the southeasterly bay breezes.

I have made countless visits to Rockport since I was about 7 years old, often staying in a bayfront house owned by a family friend on Key Allegro, an island of vacation homes and condos. In the late 1980s, my parents purchased a home there that we enjoyed for five years. Three years ago, I introduced my husband and children to Rockport and Key Allegro.

Initially, they weren’t impressed, being accustomed to the more bustling beach towns of North Carolina and the South Carolina Lowcountry. But just like me, they learned to appreciate the peaceful beauty of watching the sun set over Little Bay, the fun of feeding noisy seagulls bits of stale bread, and the wonder of seeing a dolphin and her calf surface tantalizingly close to our dock.

Now my family is sharing my sense of profound worry and sadness over the fate of Rockport as the town took the full impact of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey. After watching television, internet, and social media coverage of the storm Friday night, we now wonder what will become of the original houses on Key Allegro, which date to the early 1960s and have weathered many a storm but not one packing winds the strength of Harvey’s.

We feel concern for the many people who earn their livelihood hard by Aransas Bay, running small businesses of all kinds, waiting tables in restaurants, guiding anglers on fishing trips, taking shrimp boats out to the Gulf.

We wonder, too, whether the dozens of species of birds – roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, snowy egrets, and many more – who nest on Bird Island near Rockport Beach Park will return to the area once the winds fade and storm surge recedes.

Wendy Lane Cook / Rivard Report

A brown pelican sits atop a sign in Rockport's Little Bay, a nesting area for dozens of bird species.

Uncertainty can be harsh. But until we know more, I lean on the memories of many visits over four decades.

I have swum in the bay, ridden jet skis over choppy waters, and navigated Key Allegro’s system of canals in our small Boston Whaler. I have arisen in the early morning hours of a winter day to board the Wharf Cat and see endangered whooping cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. I have eaten at places as diverse as the venerable but now-closed Duck Inn and the Asian cuisine of Hu Dat in Fulton. I have boiled, peeled, and eaten by the dozen the sweet and fresh shrimp purchased at the Rockport Marina. And I have labored to land redfish, the prize of area sport fishermen, in the flats of Aransas Bay.

We have had our share of mishaps at Rockport, too. Our water-loving springer spaniel once leaned too far over the bow of our boat and tumbled overboard, right into the path of the propeller. He survived to enjoy many more boat rides. I’ve been stung by schools of jellyfish. Just this past spring break, my husband sliced open his forearm on the razor-sharp edge of a oyster shell in the bay. Dr. Thomas Nguyen at Rockport’s urgent care clinic expertly stapled the wound closed.

As the extent of the damage to Rockport becomes clearer in the days to come, as residents and vacation home owners venture back to see what remains, I want only to be able to see a pink cloud of roseate spoonbills rise up from Bird Island, signaling that the essence of Rockport endures.

16 thoughts on “Waiting for Word While a Lifetime of Rockport Memories Linger

    • Jay Buzzini – Anne White (Flores)!! Good to see you posting here!! We are anxiously awaiting news on Rockport as we have a place at Allegro North. Praying.

  1. Your dear comments made me cry, part happy tears and part sad. We love Rockport and have so many wonderful memories made at our home on Copano Bay as you so beautifully expressed.

  2. I moved to Texas from Charleston SC twenty years ago and sorely missed Lowcountry beaches, but I was lucky to discover Rockport. My husband and I go there twice a year. It’s a charming place, full of natural beauty, friendly people and great seafood. I’m heartbroken to see photos of the damage but I know the fine people of Rockport will persevere.

  3. I too spent my childhood in Rockport. We went every year for two weeks and stayed at the long gone Fulton Family Cottages. They were run by three unmarried sisters who were grey-haired when I was a kid. We toured the Fulton Mansion multiple times, went to 7-Eleven for candy bars and comic books and of course visited the adorable “Shell Shop”. We never stayed in Key Allegro but always drove around and looked at the adorable beach cottages. My retired parents still go there several times a year to fish and hunt shells. I took my family there for Mother’s Day in 2004 for my 6 month old daughter’s first beach experience. Hoping and praying for the people, businesses, homes, and fisherman who will have to rebuild. I hope it can bring back its charm as well. Please post any news of the landmarks as the TV has not reported on those things.

  4. Our family has three generations of memories at Allegro North and trying to find out how to get information on the status of our condo unit? Any suggestions?

    • If you use Twitter, search for Key Allegro and use the “Latest” tab to view the latest information. I’ve seen photos of individual homes and some video of Bayshore. The damage appears very mixed; one house will appear almost untouched while the house next door is heavily damaged. I hope your condo is ok.

    • Hi, I was sent photos of all key allegro north. We are winter Texans and Rockport is dear to us. We are so very sad for everyone there. If you wish I will send photos.

  5. And yet with the knowledge that practically the entire population of Rockport-Fulton area residents have lost everything all you selfish people are worried about is your vacation and weekend houses and condos. You don’t belong in Rockport!

  6. One day I will run into you, and I will hug your neck. And perhaps we will become friends. It’s like you reached right into my heart and said everything my husband and I have been feeling. Praise God we saw a photo of our Key Allegro home on a random video today and it looks – well, it isn’t in Aransas Bay. And that’s a win. Thank you so much for writing this.

  7. I have been taking family vacations to Rockport for over 40 years. My family, based out of Refugio, has fished, crabbed, and visited on vacation Rockport since the early 1900s. God Bless this beautiful community as well as the City of Refuge nearby that was hit by the same eye wall 48 hours ago at 130 mph as what hit Rockort a few hours prior.

  8. Wonderfully said! I’ve been going since I was a kid. My family would drive through Key Allegro and be in awe of the homes wishing we had a home there. Fast forward and since 2002 my husband and I have owned a home there. We have been so worried about our home and surprising enough someone had taken a picture down our canal and posted it and there was our home standing! It was a blessing! We are missing shingles on the roof but looks okay! We are so blessed!

  9. Reading your piece about Rockport, it felt as though I could have written it myself. I am so sad and concerned about the many people displaced by this disaster. I am also worried about the irreplaceable like The Big Tree and Fulton Mansion. My Dad started going to Rockport in the 50’s and my family went to Rockport every summer while I was growing up. Klines (Clines?) and Charlotte Plummers were our favorite restaurants, in later years it was Alice Fayes, The Boilimg Pot, Panjos, and still Charlotte Plummers. In my 20’s my Dad had a boat at the Key Allegro Marina. The boats name was Memory Maker and thats exactly what we did, those are some very special memories for me. Dad passed away on March 31, 2016 he was on vacation in Rockport.

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