Why is the water brown in Galveston?
I asked this question myself the first time I saw the sea at Galveston Island, Texas.
Is the ocean really Brown at Galveston?
Is the water dirty on Galveston Island?
No, not really dirty in the sense you mean.
Answers… I promise answers.
I wondered these things myself and before I would stick one toe inside the water there, I looked it up. I wanted a scientific explanation (dumbed down enough that I could understand.) I mean… Is brown water in Galveston safe?
Here’s why the ocean water is brown in Galveston:
The Gulf of Mexico is fed in part via the “Loop Current”. This is a nifty term that scientist like to use 😉 This ocean flow (or current) sends warmer water from the Yucatan Channel northward into the Gulf of Mexico. As this current comes in it bends and then heads towards Florida.
( I am no artist, but I drew a diagram to help you visualize.)
The Loop Current is one of the strongest and fastest in the Atlantic Ocean. This is what happens in the lower portion of the Gulf of Mexico.
Now… the upper portion of the gulf is affected by other factors. Look at my terrible diagram and notice the pink arrows from Louisiana towards Texas. Notice how the current is kissing the coast of Texas there?
The Mississippi River empties into the Gulf. Not considering the tributaries this river has, the Mississippi alone carries roughly 2 million tons of sediment each day. This sediment is dumped into the Gulf waters around and near Louisiana heavier than other areas. But this sediment is also joined by sediment from the Red River. You see, the Red River joins up with the Mississippi to create the Atchafalaya River. Guess where that river empties…
Yep, it’s the Gulf of Mexico. Are you starting to see a trend?
The currents (above in pink) indicate how the sediment in carried in two directions. Those currents carry a large portion of sediment to the coast of Texas. Sediment in other beach areas of the US have sea flora on the ocean floor that help trap sediment and clear the water. The ocean around Galveston is mostly shallow. Shallow water has a high sand and sediment turnover … literally. Therefore the water has a brown color that cannot be seen through.
The brown ocean water is very warm, almost tepid. Although it is murky water, it’s thoroughly relaxing to swim in. A warning though: there are more creatures that live in that area of the gulf and you can’t see them. I would recommend exercising common sense caution.
Have you been to Galveston and seen the brown water? Did it bother you or did you enjoy it just the same?
The Neches also dumps in the Gulf of Mexico. My mom tells me pleasure island in Port Arthur used to be clear water when her family would go there she could walk out past her waist and see her toes under the water but now it’s really dirty water. Mom also said about the time they started building plants in the area is when it turned dirty.
You did a great job of explaining. Thanks! And I think your diagram is right on.
You can make up any excuse you want, but the real reason Galveston has brown disgusting water is that it’s downstream from 8 million people. You won’t catch me touching that water – no way. Go 40 miles either up or down the coast and water quality improves greatly
No, that has nothing to do with it in a way that’s different from any other urban area.
Great articles. sounds goods galveston island.
Haven’t been to Galveston Island but it sounds like a great place to explore.
I hope you get to go!
[…] While we were exploring the giant state of Texas, we decided to find out. My husband and I love the ocean and visit regularly. We normally are swimming in the Atlantic Ocean though, so the Gulf of Mexico was a new experience. The little town of Galveston Island has a bad reputation due to the deep brown coloring of the sea on its shoreline. I even heard it referred to as Texas’ armpit. Don’t believe the hype. The water is, in fact, brown, but there are many theories as to why. (See my blog here) […]
Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.
Thanks a million!
Reblogged this on Truth Troubles.
Excellent article ma’am, you taught me some things that I did not know, so thank you. I am going to reblog this article for you.
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI saw ocean with black water but not one with brown. Never been there and this is also the first time I knew of an ocean having brown water. I can swim in that ocean for as long as I don’t see any other kinds of waste is floating on the water.
Oh no, there wasn’t any waste!
This was an interesting bit of knowledgeable information about the brown ocean at Galveston Island. I have never been there before but would love to check it out some day. Your diagram I do believe was indeed helpful for explaining the current, etc. Thanks for sharing the interesting information. .
This is so very interesting. I had no idea the the ocean was brown in Galveston.
It was a pretty big surprise for me ehrn I saw it too 😊
I have also never heard of this but I love the way you break down the explanation and even draw a diagram. Excellent illustration of events.
Thanks for getting into the science of this stuff! What a great post about why the water is warm and the color!
It fascinated me 🙂
Oh wow I haven’t heard of the brown water at Galveston Island before, but I would definitely be interesting in seeing it for myself.
I had not known that the ocean around Galveston Island was brown. What a fascinating fact to learn!
It was definitely interesting to unexpectedly see it for the first time ☺
What an informative post. I would have been hesitant to get in the water before, but definitely not now
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I forwarded this post to my niece. She lives for trivia knowledge like this. The real question is. Can you skip the costly mud bath at the spa and go there instead? ;D
Yes… I suppose you could. 😉
I have never been there. The brown water would be so cool to see.
It’s nice 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
I grew up in Houston. The brown water is not cool,just ugly and embarrassing. There is also a funky brownish foam that washes up. Maybe it is okay to swim in, but it looks like a giant toilet bowl full of runny pooh.
I remember that foam!
Very informative article. Now I know why the Galveston water is brown.
Thanks for swinging by. Come back and see me sometime now, you hear?
How interesting, thanks for sharing! I have actually never been to Texas outside out the Houston airport.
It would be a good place to add to a travel bucket list 🙂
For sure, my travel bucket list is about a mile long and growing. Hope you have a great one!
I do hope you are able to start marking some items off your list soon. 🙂
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI’ve never been here! I love how educational this post is. Vacation + learning something new = a great thing!
Berniedette | PetiteAndToned.com
Stop by again sometime Berniedette. 😊 I’ll be back to visit you too
I had absolutely no idea why it was brown but this answered all my questions!! Good to know it’s perfectly safe to swim in!