Park Pick: Ranch Reverie
Government Canyon’s Kallison Ranch takes us back in time.
By Bess Graham
As I stand on the front porch of the foreman’s house at Kallison Ranch, I’m caught between the past and future. From this spot nearly 20 miles northwest of San Antonio, the breezes blow and the sky expands to the horizon, much as it did when Nathan Kallison purchased the property in 1910.
Fragments of the past surround me, remnants of a thriving farm and ranch operation spanning the 20th century. Much more than a weekend retreat for the Kallison family, the 2,700-acre ranch grounded the Kallisons’ farm and ranch supply store in downtown San Antonio and served as a testing ground for progressive agricultural practices and technology. Meanwhile, Perry Kallison’s radio show, The Trading Post, complemented his retail business and contributed to the family’s regional prominence.
But all that’s gone now — the store, the ranch and the radio show. In 1967, buyers snapped up the cattle; in 2002, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its conservation partners acquired 1,162 acres of the ranch property as an addition to Government Canyon State Natural Area.
The Kallisons’ sturdy stone house now stands roofless, battling the elements and defying the encroaching cedar and prickly pear. Only the remnants of fences, barns and gates speak to the larger ranch story. Porches frame views of suburbia’s relentless sprawl across what was once verdant farmland. It’s a picture-perfect study of contrasts between rural and urban places, new patterns emerging from old practices and the ever-changing, ephemeral state of the built environment. The Kallison Ranch may have run its course, yet its heart and soul still seem to resonate over the landscape.
As a historical architect, I see ruins of ranch heritage at a number of state parks and natural areas.
“All parks and natural areas have hidden gems,” says Government Canyon interpreter John Koepke. “It’s our job to spotlight these places that add shine.”
Stewardship and resource protection extend not only to the natural environment, but also to historical buildings that add another dimension for park visitors. The Texas Hill Country parks seem particularly blessed with such treasures, like Guadalupe River and South Llano River state parks, and Hill Country and Honey Creek state natural areas. The challenge in managing these vanishing places can be daunting.
The Kallison Ranch is accessible only on special tours. Please check the website for special tour information and volunteer opportunities available seasonally at tpwd.texas.gov/governmentcanyon.
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