The Texas state park system has evolved into a network of scenic spots and attractions that draw millions of visitors every year, but vintage photographs show it had humble beginnings.
Photographs provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department show the evolution of the Texas state park system as it turns 100 in 2023.
It all started in 1923 when Texas Governor Pat Neff convinced the state legislature to create the State Parks Board. Prior to this, Texas only had a Fish and Oyster Commission that regulated the fisheries (although this later evolved into the Game and Fish Commission).
The mission of the State Parks Board? Look for places where people can camp.
Neff later said that the establishment of the board was “his most important accomplishment as governor”. Texas Library and Archives Commission.
“But Neff’s vision could not have been more different from Roosevelt’s momentum, which spurred the creation of national parks,” the commission’s website says. “Neff was less interested in the majesty of the purple mountains than he was in building campsites for Texans who, like himself, liked to travel by car.”
In the 1930s, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps expanded the system, turning undeveloped land into actual parks for the people.
Palo Duro Canyon and Garner are among the state parks built by the CCC in that decade.
In 1963, the State Parks Board merged with the Game and Fish Commission to become the Texas Department of Wildlife.
Fast forward to today and Neff’s beliefs have led to the creation of 89 state parks spanning over 630,000 acres. CCC has created 29 of these facilities, including Inks Lake, Blanco, Lockhart, and Lake Corpus Christi State Parks.
To celebrate the centenary, TPWD has released some vintage images to be featured in an upcoming special issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. See these images below.
State Parks will also host a series of special events to celebrate the 100th anniversary. To find out more, click here.
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