1O Parks That Bring History to Life
Visit these parks with legendary stories or historic features.
By Dale Blasingame
I love history. It’s one of the first things I ask a park ranger about when I arrive somewhere new: Are there any interesting historical ties here? Our featured park, Washington-on-the Brazos, may be the birthplace of Texas, but there are plenty of other state parks that have legendary stories or historic features to check out. After visiting all of Texas’ state parks in one year, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.
Mission Tejas State Park
Who can pass up a hike in the footsteps of Davy Crockett along El Camino Real? The park was built as a commemoration of the first Spanish mission in East Texas in 1690. It also features the Rice Family Home, which was a place for travelers to stop along El Camino Real starting in the 1820s.
Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site
Take a step back in time to 1850, when the Fanthorp family home was a popular stagecoach stop in early Texas. Public tours, including a view of an authentic replica of an 1850s stagecoach, are available on Saturdays and Sundays.
Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site
This particular site holds a dear spot in my heart since it’s near my hometown. The lighthouse was built in 1852 and was a beacon along the Texas coast until 1905. Now, you can climb to the top for great views of South Padre Island.
Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site
Aside from being one of my favorite hiking spots in Texas, Seminole Canyon is steeped in history. You can take a private boat to Panther Cave or go on a ranger-guided hike to Fate Bell to see pictographs that date back 4,000 years.
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site
Just outside of El Paso, the pictographs and petroglyphs left behind at Hueco Tanks tell the stories of residents and travelers in this area over thousands of years. Several Native American tribes consider Hueco Tanks to be sacred ground.
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
Texas won its independence from Mexico here in 1836. Besides visiting the towering San Jacinto Monument, walk or drive around the battleground site, which features granite markers that help visitors visualize how the battle was fought and won.
LBJ State Park and Historic Site
The visitors center features memorabilia marking Lyndon Johnson’s time in the White House, and the park is also home to the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead — an authentic Hill Country farm that is presented just as you would have found it in 1918, if you were around back then.
Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site
Take a stroll among the seven remaining buildings of the fort, established in 1867 following the Civil War. Soldiers here fought Native Americans in battles over the Texas frontier. The fort was eventually abandoned in 1878.
Battleship Texas State Historic Site
One of the perks of visiting San Jacinto is getting to see the battleship. The USS Texas was commissioned in 1914 and fought in both world wars. It even fired on Nazi troops in Normandy on D-Day. The Texas is the last remaining battleship of its kind in the U.S.
Goliad State Park and Historic Site
There are five different areas to check out at Goliad. The park itself features a fully recreated Spanish mission. A few miles away sit the ruins of Mission Rosario. The nearby Presidio La Bahía is where Col. James Fannin’s men were held before their execution in the Texas Revolution. The massacre site itself is now marked with a memorial monument and is an eerie must-see for any Texas history enthusiast. Next to the presidio marks the birthplace of Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexican general whose victory created the celebration we now know as Cinco de Mayo.
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