Texas

Vintage photos show the early days of Texas State Parks turning 100 years old.

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.

First State Park Board, 1924 (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

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.

Palo Duro Canyon, 1933-1937 (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

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.

CCC Workers, Indian Lodge, 1937. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Picnic and camp setup, Inks Lake State Park, July 1970 (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Abilene State Park, June 1943 (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Indian lodge in the Davis Mountains, undated. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
School Lunch Seminar at Huntsville State Park, June 23, 1955. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Visitors from Georgia arrive at the entrance to Bastrop State Park, January 1954. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Cabin, Garner State Park, 1940s. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Inks Lake State Park, 1941 (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Two CCC applicants stand in front of an undated Garner State Park sign. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Bastrop State Park, no date. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Lockhart State Park, 1950s. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Caddo Lake State Park, circa 1960-1970. (Courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

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