River-shipping efforts in pioneer Texas by steamboat were centered primarily on the Brazos (about 2 mi. E.), and Washington-on-the-Brazos (about 15 mi. N.) was an important distribution point for commercial interests. The Brazos flowed through most productive cotton and sugar region in Texas; steamers greatly aided shipment of these items to markets in New Orleans. The first steamer reached Washington in 1840; by 1849 its docks were busy with steamboats making regular river trips.
Between 1820-1840 settlers made journey to Texas on the Red River in steamers if the river was high enough and there were no obstructions. Buffalo Bayou, extending from Houston to Galveston Bay, was waterway traveled most often by steamers, and took over trade from Brazos River because it had better outlet to the sea. Navigation on the Trinity, Colorado, and Sabine rivers also increased inland growth and development.
While rivers in Texas seemed to offer possibilities for steamboat travel, the story of river navigation is largely one of disappointment. Most meandering rivers were too shallow, often flooded, needed clearing; many were choked with driftwood. These hazards greatly retarded economic and social development of the state. By 1865 the importance of river steamers was gone.
(inscription) Early Travel, Communication, and Transportation Series Erected by the Moody Foundation