Central Texas: More Than Natural Wonders

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As sites of natural beauty, CCC parks in Central Texas provide green spaces, sheltering woods, and refreshing waterways for recreation. Along with these natural features, the CCC constructed shelters, picnic areas, swimming pools and ways to access them by roads, bridges, and paths. The parks were as much built environments as they were nature preserves.

Beyond enjoyment of the great outdoors, the parks were places for creating community. Free entrance and use of the parks was especially important during the years of the Great Depression. Entertainment areas for music and dancing were provided for, as seen in the drawing for the dancing terrace at Garner State Park in Uvalde County.

The parks also served as vocational training grounds for the CCC workers, who acquired skills in construction, landscaping, forestry, erosion and flood control. At the same time, workers underwent a regime of physical training and exposure to military-style camp life that, in many ways, prepared them for future service during World War II. Production centers for craftsmanship operated at several parks in Central Texas. Furniture for the park buildings was created at workshops in Bastrop and Longhorn Cavern parks, where timber mills and dry kilns were used to prepare lumber for transformation into tables and chairs. A blacksmith shop at Garner State Park fashioned ornamental ironwork for doors and decoration.


In the 1940s, the developed state parks were seen as agricultural and institutional resources to be exploited. The Texas State Board of Control’s use of parkland for cattle grazing at Longhorn Cavern was resented by the park manager. The board sought funding to turn the park’s former CCC barracks into additional housing for state mental hospital patients. However, the Texas Legislature did not fund the renovations.

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Items in this Exhibit

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Letter from Longhorn Cavern State Park Manager H.H. Galloway to Texas State Parks Board Director Frank D. Quinn, 21 March 1945. Administrative and subject files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-9.

The State Board of Control exerted considerable political pull to use state parks’ facilities for its own purposes but failed at using unoccupied CCC barracks as housing for mental hospital patients, due to lack of legislative funding.

"The Viking Prow, Longhorn Cavern State Park," Curt Teich & Co. postcard, 1936. Prints and Photographs collection, 1/103-758.

Spectacular crystalline and marble-like cave formations feature startling color.

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Blanco State Park "Open for Season" handbill, 10 April 1938. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-12.

Families during the Great Depression enjoyed free park facilities with swimming and camping amenities. As ever, barbecue was a Texas tradition.

Photograph of CCC workers at Bastrop State Park, 1935. Civilian Conservation Corps files, Texas State Parks Board records, 1996/102-1.

CCC companies became fully segregated during 1935. An African-American man pictured at the right end of the back row was likely restricted to kitchen or maintenance work at Bastrop, though all-black camps were allowed to perform the full spectrum of camp work.

Woodsmanship for the Civilian Conservation Corps pamphlet, 1938. Civilian Conservation Corps files, Texas State Parks Board records, 1996/102-1.

This instructional pamphlet with woodcut illustrations discusses proper behavior expected of CCC workers in regard to preventing fires, respecting wildlife and the use and care of tools.

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Drawing for proposed park areas at Buchanan and Inks Lakes, 3 June 1937. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-14.

Inks Lake State Park was made possible by dams built on the Colorado River that created the lake in 1938. The work on the park began in late 1940 by CCC enrollees who had finished Longhorn Cavern State Park. After only a few months, funding cuts to the CCC ended the Inks Lake park with only a boathouse, dock, and park roads completed.

Drawing for Garner State Park proposed terrace change, 29 November 1938. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-13.

The attention given to designing this spacious dancing terrace reflects the social customs of the 1930s. Everyone danced the foxtrot, the jitterbug, and the Lindy hop. Today, the terrace is still in use with scheduled evening dances in the spring and fall.

Photograph of Lockhart State Park swimming pool, 1 April 1958. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-15.

The park opened in 1948 after a ten-year delay. This photograph was taken in 1958 approximately twenty years after the CCC completed its work.

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Buescher State Park "Labor Day & Park Celebration" handbill, 2 September 1940. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-2.

Labor Day in 1940 was full of activity as evidenced by this schedule of events to commemorate the holiday and celebrate Buescher State Park.

Drawing of Caretaker's Dwelling, Mother Neff State Park, 1 July 1937. Civilian Conservation Corps drawings, Texas State Parks Board, SP.38.103.

Fine carpentry work and decorative iron hardware graced this home for the park's caretaker.

Photograph of two women at warm spring at Palmetto State Park, about 1940. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-16.

Warm springs abounded at Palmetto State Park. In the 1950s the water levels dropped due to oil and water drilling thereby causing many springs to stop flowing.

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Page last modified: January 3, 2017