Clear Lake (region)

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Clear Lake Area
The boardwalk rollercoaster appears in the background with the lake and the marina in the foreground
Kemah boardwalk and marina
Location of the Clear Lake area
Location of the Clear Lake area
CountryUnited States
Metro AreaHouston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land
Named forClear Lake (Galveston Bay)
 • Estimate 
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
77058, 77059, 77062, 77258, 77505, 77507, 77565, 77573, 77586, 77598
Area code281

Clear Lake, or the Clear Lake Area, is a region in parts of Harris and Galveston County in Texas, United States. It is part of the Galveston Bay Area, which itself is a section of the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area.[2][3] The area is geographically characterized by the bodies of water in it and around it, including Clear Lake, Taylor Lake, Clear Creek, and Galveston Bay.

Clear Lake is relatively affluent with a thriving business community. The area's most important business sectors are aerospace and tourism. It is home to the Johnson Space Center and numerous aerospace contracting firms. The lake itself is home to one of the largest concentrations of recreational boats and marinas in the nation.[4]


The Clear Lake region is named, as it implies, for Clear Lake, a brackish lake, fed by Clear Creek, that empties into Galveston Bay.[5]

The name "Clear Lake" is often used in a variety of ways depending on the source. Apart from referring to the lake itself or the region defined by the chamber of commerce, the name can refer to the Clear Lake City residential development, the Clear Lake area of Houston (a Houston "superneighborhood" including Clear Lake City, Johnson Space Center, and surrounding areas), the Clear Lake area of Pasadena, and other geographies as well.[6][7]


As of 2010 the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, established in 1962, provides the following definition for the area.[8]

The Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes the defined "Clear Lake Area" as its service territory. This composite community includes Clear Lake City, Clear Lake Shores, El Lago, Kemah, League City, Nassau Bay, Seabrook, Taylor Lake Village, Webster, and parts of Houston and Pasadena.

— Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

These communities lie on or near the lake. They occupy a compact area lying between Houston, Pasadena, and the bay. Clear Lake City is itself a composite community within the Clear Lake Area that spans parts of Houston, Pasadena, Webster, and Seabrook.[7]


At the time Europeans arrived the area around Galveston Bay was largely inhabited by Akokisa and Karankawa tribes.[9] The first substantial European presence in the area came as a result of the pirate kingdom established by Jean Lafitte in the early 19th century from his base on Galveston Island.[10] One of the earliest settlers in the region was Anson Taylor, namesake of Taylor Lake, who supplied Lafitte's Galveston colony with produce and game from around Armand Bayou (though his homestead was actually near the Trinity River).[11]

During most of the 19th century the Clear Lake Area remained largely undeveloped. Ranches such as the famed Allen Ranch used much of the area as a cattle range.[7][12] Toward the end of the century small farming and fishing communities developed. Railroads grew up near the area as well connecting the nearby commercial centers of Galveston, Harrisburg, and Houston spawning new communities such as Clear Creek (League City) and Webster.[13]

In 1901 the oil gusher at Spindletop launched the Texas Oil Boom. Soon oil wells and refineries were built in nearby Goose Creek (modern Baytown) and Texas City.[14] Houston rapidly became established as the main commercial center in the area for the oil industry. The Clear Lake Area became an attractive recreational destination for the new class of wealthy oil businessmen. Much of the area was developed as retreats for the wealthy including a large ranch estate owned by Houston businessman James West.[15] The population increased rapidly including significant immigration from overseas.[16] The Maceo crime syndicate, which ran Galveston at that time, created casino districts in Kemah and other areas of Galveston County (though they were shut down in the mid-20th century).[17]

In 1963 NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) was established in the area. That and the explosive growth of neighboring Houston in the mid-20th century, especially the 1970s and 80s, caused significant urbanization.[18] The Clear Lake City community was created by the Friendswood Development Company, a venture of Humble Oil and Dell E. Webb Corporation, to support residential growth near the new NASA facility.[7] Some of the communities around Clear Lake reoriented toward aerospace-related industries. Still tourism and recreation remain core industries of the area today.


The area's most important employment sectors are aerospace, high-tech (software, biotechnology, electronics, etc.), and tourism. Most other employment in the region is supported by these industries. Also, a significant number of petrochemical and refining industry employees who work at near-by facilities live in the area.

NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) is an important pillar of the area economy. As of 2010 the center itself employs 3,000 civil servants and 12,000 engineering contractors.[19] Businesses around this core include a broad range of high-tech development enterprises. JSC manages more than $4 billion annually in aerospace contracts, and together with numerous private companies involved in space programs and related ventures gives the area one of the highest concentrations of aerospace businesses and expertise in the nation.[20]

The tourism industry attracts millions of visitors each year with attractions ranging from Space Center Houston to the bay itself.[21] Ecotourism, in particular, is a growing sector with destinations such as the Armand Bayou Nature Center, one of the largest urban wilderness preserves in the nation, and the Seabrook Trail System (part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail).[22] Biotechnology, which already employs nearly 3000 workers in the area, is a smaller but growing industry in the area enabled in large part by JSC and the Texas Medical Center in Houston.[23] Commercial fishing is one of the older industries in the region and is still a significant economic sector.[24]


Community Total
% White % African
% Asian
Clear Lake-Houston[25] 43,141 $68,815 77.8% 4.7% 11.4%
Clear Lake-Pasadena[26] 20,395 $60,403 82.5% 1.8% 4.6%
Clear Lake Shores 1205 $67,500 94.9% 3.3% 7.5%
El Lago 3075 $66,223 94.5% 7.8% 1.4%
Kemah 2330 $51,620 75.4% 3.8% 3.5%
League City 106,244 $67,838 84.0% 5.1% 3.2%
Nassau Bay 4170 $57,353 89.6% 1.9% 3.9%
Seabrook 9443 $54,175 88.9% 2.1% 3.3%
Taylor Lake Village 3694 $99,535 92.4% 2.7% 2.1%
Webster 9083 $42,385 64.9% 9.0% 5.7%
Total 141,980 $64,742 81.6% 4.4% 6.1%

The Clear Lake Area contains diverse communities. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the City of Houston the area had following demographic statistics in 2000. The total population of the area was approximately 141,980. The median household income was approximately $64,742 (US). The population was 81.6% white, 4.4% African-American, and 6.1% Asian.[27][28] The comparable statistics for nearby Houston were a median household income of $36,616, 49.3% white, 25.3% African American, and 5.3% Asian. The comparable U.S. statistics were a median household income of $41,994, 75.1% white, 12.3% African American, and 3.6% Asian.[28]

Apart from Houston and Pasadena, which are only partially within the Clear Lake area, League City is the area's largest community. As of 2000 Taylor Lake Village has the highest median household income in the area and Webster has the lowest.


The primary institution of higher learning in the area is the University of Houston–Clear Lake (UHCL). UHCL is separate and distinct from the University of Houston (UH), but it is part of the larger University of Houston System. The university offers a wide spectrum of programs including what it touts as the most complete biotechnology graduate programs in the state.[29] Additionally San Jacinto College has extension centers in the area.[30]

Primary and secondary education are provided by Clear Creek Independent School District, which serves most of the area's communities with the exception of outlying parts of Pasadena and League City.[31] As of 2009 Clear Creek ISD was ranked as a "recognized" district (the second-highest ranking) by the Texas Education Agency. 25 (65%) of the district's schools were ranked as "exemplary" (the highest ranking) and the rest were ranked as "recognized".[32] For comparison, 29% of all schools in Texas rated by the TEA were ranked as "exemplary".[33]

Culture and recreation[edit]

In terms of the restaurants in the region, Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press said in 2010 "there's also more to the area than overly-fancy eateries like Cullen's or old mainstays like Villa Capri and the Seabrook Classic Cafe. (Not that we don't cling to nostalgic memories of those last two places, but there's better food to be found in Clear Lake now.)"[34]

Festivals and events[edit]

Many annual events take place in the Clear Lake Area. The Blessing of the Fleet boat parade in Kemah is an annual event that celebrates Kemah's history as a shrimp fishing town.[35] The Gulf Coast Film Festival annually showcases independent films from local, regional and international artists in various categories ranging from short films to documentaries. Other annual events include the Wings over Houston Air Fest (Ellington Field), the Ballunar Liftoff Festival, the Oak Tree Festival (League City), and the South Shore Dockside Food & Wine Festival (League City).[36] The Galveston Bay Cruising Association holds regular regatta events on the bay such as the Bay Cup (Lakewood Yacht Club, Seabrook) and the Performance Cup.[37]

Artistic programs[edit]

The region offers various artistic programs. The Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre group and the League City Ballet offer performances in genres ranging from ballet to American musicals.[38] The Clear Lake Symphony offers multiple performances each year ranging from classical to "pops" performances.[39] The Arts Alliance at Clear Lake, a group of 50 area arts organizations, regularly schedules arts exhibits, musical performances, and other arts programs.[40] The Clear Creek Country Theatre (Nassau Bay) offers regular community theater performances.[41] Additionally various free concerts and other cultural events take place in venues such as League Park Plaza (League City).

Parks and attractions[edit]

The Armand Bayou Nature Center is one of the largest urban wilderness preserve in the nation.[42] It features a boardwalk through the marshes, numerous nature trails, and boat tours offering views of natural habitats for animals ranging from bison to seagulls to butterflies. The Texas Armand Bayou Coastal Preserve features one of region's most popular paddling trails. The Seabrook Trail System, which includes Robinson and Pine Gully Parks, offers primitive access to natural habitats for numerous species.[43] These sites are all part of the larger Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Other major area parks include Harris County Clear Lake and Bay Area parks, Clear Creek Nature Park (League City) and Challenger 7 Memorial Park (Webster).

Space Center Houston is the tourist arm of the Johnson Space Center and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Texas.[44] Visitors can tour the Space Center grounds, view space capsules and artifacts, and find numerous educational activities including an IMAX theater.[45] The Kemah Boardwalk is a waterfront attraction featuring a variety of rides, restaurants, shops, and other entertainment venues.[46] It is next to the Kemah Marina and hosts annual events such as the Boardwalk Wine Festival.[47] Museums in the area include the Bay Area Museum[48] (Seabrook) and the Butler Longhorn Museum (League City).[49]

Farmers markets in the area, including the Nassau Bay Farmers Market and the Farmers Market at Clear Lake Shores, provide opportunities for area residents to connect with local growers, producers, and other businesses.[50] The League City Historic District provides views of early area architecture in addition to unique shopping venues.[51]

The area contains many marinas for boating and fishing enthusiasts such as the Watergate Yachting Center (Clear Lake Shores).[52] The shoreline of Clear Lake itself has the greatest concentration of recreational boats in Texas and ranks third nationwide (Watergate even claims to be the nation's largest).[53]


There is one Coptic Orthodox church in the area, Archangel Raphael Coptic Orthodox Church in Clear Lake City.[54]

The Clear Lake Islamic Center Inc. (CLIC) is the largest mosque in the Clear Lake area.[55] It was established in 1996.[56] In addition, the Al-Noor Society of Greater Houston operates the Clear Lake Jama Masjid.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Number provided is a sum of data from U.S. Census and City of Houston; see Demographics
  2. ^ Kimball (2006), pg. 209-210
  3. ^ Harmsen (2008), pg. 357
    West, Richard (Dec 1976). "Texas Monthly Reporter". Texas Monthly: 87.
    Antrobus (2005), pg. 136
  4. ^ Antrobus (2005), pg. 57
  5. ^ "Clear Lake". First Books. Retrieved 14 Nov 2009.[permanent dead link]
    Scardino (2003), p. 64.
  6. ^ "Census 2000: Average Median Incomes in 1999: Median Household Income, Median Family Income and Per Capita Income: City of Houston by Super Neighborhoods". Retrieved 6 Nov 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d Greene, Casey Edward: Clear Lake City, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 6 Nov 2009. Texas State Historical Association.
  8. ^ "About the Chamber". Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on 2010-01-24. Retrieved 3 Nov 2009.
  9. ^ "Ethnohistory". Texas Beyond History. University of Texas. Retrieved 18 Dec 2009.
  10. ^ Chang (2006), p. 187
    Kearney (2008), p. 177
  11. ^ "Armand Bayou Watershed History". Armand Bayou Watershed Partnership. July 2003. Archived from the original on 2004-11-13.
  12. ^ Pomeroy, C. David, Jr.: Allen Ranch from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 Oct 2009. Texas State Historical Association
  13. ^ LEAGUE CITY, TEXAS from the Handbook of Texas Online
    Kleiner, Diana J.: WEBSTER, TEXAS from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 Oct 2009. Texas State Historical Association
  14. ^ Olien, Roger M.: OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 Oct 2009. Texas State Historical Association
    Young, Buck A.: Baytown, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 Oct 2009. Texas State Historical Association
  15. ^ Jasinski, Laurie E.: Clear Lake Shores, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online Texas State Historical Association.
  16. ^ Henson, Margaret Swett: HARRIS COUNTY from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 Oct 2009. Texas State Historical Association
  17. ^ Burka, Paul (December 1983). "Grande Dame of the Gulf". Texas Monthly: 168.
  18. ^ Ramos (2004), pg. 154.
  19. ^ "NASA - Johnson Space Center Jobs". NASA. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  20. ^ "Aerospace Engineering". Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 18 Sep 2009. "Mining the Moon, Selling the Stars". Texas Monthly: 168. July 1986.
  21. ^ Nathan Smith (2005-03-28). "Clear Lake at center of economy, community". The Galveston County Daily News. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
    "BAY AREA HOUSTON ECONOMY". Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  22. ^ "Wildbird's Top 50 Birding Hotspots: Upper Texas Coast". U.S. Geological Survey: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Archived from the original on 2009-08-25. Retrieved 19 Sep 2009.
  23. ^ Laura Elder (2006-08-31). "Who will build the next spacecraft?". The Galveston County Daily News. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
    "Bioscience/Biotech". Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. Archived from the original on 2009-08-23. Retrieved 18 Sep 2009.
  24. ^ "Social Marketing: A New Approach to Enhance Public Outreach and Education about Galveston Bay". Fall 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-10-08.
    Galveston Bay is the second most productive estuary in the nation, producing more seafood than any other bay—trailing only Chesapeake Bay, which is over six times Galveston Bay’s size!
  25. ^ Houston super-neighborhood #81; includes Houston portion of Clear Lake City, Johnson Space Center, and nearby areas
  26. ^ Defined by the 77505 and 77507 zip codes
  27. ^ "Index - Census 2000 Data By Super Neighborhoods". City of Houston. Retrieved 3 Nov 2009.
  28. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 3 Nov 2009.
  29. ^ "Biotechnology Program". University of Houston–Clear Lake. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 22 Sep 2009. The University of Houston–Clear Lake is the first university in Texas to offer all three concentrations for a Master of Science in Biotechnology: Molecular Biotechnology, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, and Biotechnology Management & Marketing
  30. ^ "Campus Locations". San Jacinto College. Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 6 Jan 2010.
  31. ^ "Clear Lake Area Communities". Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009. Retrieved 6 Jan 2010.
  32. ^ "2009 Accountability System: List by District". Texas Education Agency. Archived from the original on 2009-12-05. Retrieved 22 Jan 2010.
  33. ^ "2009 Accountability System: State Summary". Texas Education Agency. Archived from the original on 2010-03-14. Retrieved 22 Jan 2010.
  34. ^ Shilcutt, Katharine. "Top 10 Restaurants In Clear Lake." Houston Press. Thursday April 15, 2010. Retrieved on June 15, 2012.
  35. ^ Barrington (2008), p. 260.
  36. ^ Barrington (2008), p. 265.
    John F. Purner. (2004). 101 Best Aviation Attractions. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 213. ISBN 0-07-142519-5.
    "Annual Oak Tree Festival". League City Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on 2009-09-05. Retrieved 17 Sep 2009.
    Barrington (2008), p. 271.
    "South Shore Dockside Food & Wine Festival". Clear Creek Community Charities. Archived from the original on 2009-09-23. Retrieved 19 Sep 2009.
  37. ^ "Galveston Bay Cruising Association". 17 Sep 2009.
  38. ^ "Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre". Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre. Retrieved 5 Sep 2009.
  39. ^ Kearney (2008), p. 76.
    "Where did we come from?". Clear Lake Symphony. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009. Retrieved 5 Sep 2009.
  40. ^ "Come See What's Behind the Blue Doors". The Arts Alliance at Clear Lake. Archived from the original on 2009-07-17. Retrieved 5 Sep 2009.
  41. ^ Kidwell, Harlan Jr. (July 2006). "Column: ENCORE! Arts and Entertainment" (PDF). Bay Area Houston Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-07.
    "Clear Creek Country Theatre". Retrieved 19 Sep 2009.
  42. ^ "Armand Bayou Nature Center". Retrieved 17 Sep 2009.
  43. ^ Antrobus (2005), p. 137.
  44. ^ Campbell (2004), p. 663.
  45. ^ Baird (2005), p. 188-189.
  46. ^ Naylor (2006), p. 42.
  47. ^ Torregrossa, Bernice (9 Sep 2009). "Festival features wines, cuisine from Northwest". Galveston County Daily News. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011.
  48. ^ "Bay Area Museum". Lunar Rendezvous Festival. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  49. ^ Tyler, Paula Eyrich; Tyler, Ronnie C. Tyler (1983). Texas museums: a guidebook. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-292-78062-0.
  50. ^ "Houston-area farmers markets". Houston Chronicle.
    "Houston Farmers Markets". Bayou City Outdoors. Retrieved 19 Sep 2009.
  51. ^ Kearney (2006), p. 227.
  52. ^ Roddy (2008), p. 265.
    Barrington (2008), p. 266.
    Antrobus (2005), p. 57.
  53. ^ Antrobus (2005), p. 57.
  54. ^ Vara, Richard. "New home is 'miracle' for Coptic Christians." Houston Chronicle. August 21, 2004. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  55. ^ a b Shellnutt, Kate. "Clear Lake mosque suffers two fires; Police investigate for arson." Houston Chronicle. March 18, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  56. ^ "About" (). Clear Lake Islamic Center Inc. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.


Further reading[edit]

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