Explore 100 Years of Texas State Parks with TSLAC Resources

By Alec Head, Reference Librarian

In 2023, Texas celebrates 100 years of its State Parks program. Governor Pat Neff encouraged the state legislature to create the State Parks Board in 1923, something he later said was his proudest achievement. The board worked to develop better infrastructure, allowing for camping by Texans who were by then commonly driving modern automobiles and able to travel hundreds of miles into the great wilderness. What better way to celebrate a century of Texas State Parks than to pack up and embark on an age-old Texan tradition: camping! 

Black & white photo two individuals in a small row boat landing on the shore near a tent, picnic table, and car in the background.
Possum Kingdom_14. 2011/434 (TX005320) Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Photos and negatives (Parks and Wildlife), 1938-about 1979.

From its humble beginnings in 1923, the Texas State Parks Board has grown enormously to designate 76 separate State Parks. Encompassing more than 580,000 acres, the possibility for adventure is endless. Each year, more than 8 million people visit Texas parks. To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Texas State Park system, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission—formed by a 1968 merger of the Texas State Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission—is hosting a series of events each week through the end of the year. More information about where and when these events take place can be found on the Parks and Wildlife Commission Website.

New to camping? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hosts regular Texas Outdoor Family Camping Workshops. Groups can rent camping equipment, attend workshops that teach camping and outdoor skills, and stay overnight in one of Texas’ beautiful parks. A tent, cots, sleeping pads for children, a lantern, stove, cookware, and even a coffee press are included in the cost of admission—just bring your own food and bedding. Workshops range from geocaching, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, and more. This is a perfect opportunity to start your adventure in a Texas State Park.

Whether seeking to connect and engage with nature in the form of rustic, “primitive” camping or desiring the comforts of indoor cabins of Palo Duro Canyon for a nice “glamping” trip, Texas State Parks offer amenities of all sorts. Campers can go canoeing, wildlife-watching, or just bask in the sounds of nature under that wide blue Texas sky. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has the materials to equip patrons for their very own adventures and activities.

TSLAC’s Texas Documents collection includes maps for the many state parks to be explored in Texas, as published by the Parks and Wildlife Department. Likewise, TSLAC’s other collections offer many wildlife guides available for reference to help plan the perfect camping trip. Some of these items can be found listed below. 

Black  & white photo of log cabin under construction in Bastrop State Park.
Bastrop_01. 2011/434 (TX005320) Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Photos and negatives (Parks and Wildlife), 1938-about 1979.

Visitors to TSLAC who plan to go out into Texas parks for a camping trip are also recommended to look at our collections’ guides to the more dangerous aspects of the great outdoors. These materials, such as guides to the venomous snakes of Texas, may prove to be lifesavers! Not all wildlife poses a threat, though—TSLAC also has wildlife guides for patrons more interested in relaxing, kicking back, firing up a s’more, and practicing their birdwatching. Search the library catalog from home or in our reading room at www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog to find more publications.

Texas State Parks have evolved quite a bit over their 100 years. During the New Deal era of the 1930s, the federal government created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and assigned a series of work projects to develop infrastructure and beautify many of the state parks. Patrons looking to learn more about the history of the parks can view our online exhibit, To Love the Beautiful: The Story of the Texas State Parks.

Color drawing of Palmetto State Park Master plan with inset of roads bottom left. Park areas are illustrated in green with a blue river winding through the middle of the plans.
Palmetto State Park Master Plan, SP 27.74. Texas Parks Civilian Conservation Corps Drawings Database.

In addition, TSLAC hosts on our website a searchable database of drawings from the CCC state park projects. Recently stayed at one of the parks and loved the rustic furniture? The designs for much of the furniture created by the CCC can be found in the drawings database as well. Research the historical documents held in the State Archives such as the Texas State Parks Board and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division records.

Whether looking for adventure or just to get away, any camping trip is sure to be better equipped by a visit to TSLAC’s collections before heading out!

Sample Publications at TSLAC:

Venomous Snakes of Texas: A Field Guide

Hoyt, Andrew

TXD, E-Book

Z UA380.8 P931VE

Texas Public Campgrounds: A Guide to Federal, State, and Local Government Administered Facilities

Texas Travel and Information Division.

TXD

T1325.5 P96 1996

Texas Public Campgrounds

Texas Travel and Information Division.

TXD

H1473.6 P96

Bob Spain’s Canoeing Guide and Favorite Texas Paddling Trails

Spain, Bob

E-Book

NA

The Art of Texas State Parks: A Centennial Celebration, 1923-2023

Sansom, Andrew

TXD

Z TA110.8 AR75

Parks for Texas: Enduring Landscapes of the New Deal

Steely, James Wright

E-Book

NA

Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide

Parker, Mary O.

TXD, E-Book

Z TA475.8 P227ex

Texas State Parks and the CCC, The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Brandimarte, Cynthia A.

TXD, E-Book

Z TA475.8 B733te

Birds of Davis Mountains State Park and Vicinity: A Field Checklist

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

TXD

P500 D295B 2011

Texas Wildlife Identification Guide: A Guide to Game Animals, Game Birds, Furbearers and Other Wildlife of Texas

Hall, Stephen P.

TXD

P400.5 W646id 2020/04

The Mammals of Texas

Shmidly, David J.

E-Book

NA


Sample Collections in the Texas State Archives:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department administrative records and other material, 1909,1929, 1934-2004, bulk 1963-1999, 10.75 cubic ft.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department State Parks Division records, 1905-1990, bulk1927-1986, 30.68 cubic ft.

Texas State Parks Board, State Parks Board Big Bend National Park files, 1881-1883,1895, 1897, 1904, 1909-1957, bulk 1941-1942 20.25 cubic ft.

Texas Planning Board, Records. 1914-1939, undated, bulk 1934-1939, 19.43 cubic feet, 3 scrapbooks, 366 maps, 48 photographs

Don R. Brice Collection, Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1935 (photographs of CCC activities at Lampasas and Big Bend, 1989/006)


Bibliography:

“Camping and Lodging.” Camping and Lodging – Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, May 28, 2020. https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/parks/things-to-do/camping.

Communications, Sherard Smith. “Celebrating 100 Years of State Parks.” 100 Years of State Parks. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/100years/.

“Texas State Parks.” America’s State Parks, February 7, 2023. https://www.americasstateparks.org/texas-state-parks/#:~:text=Texas%20has%2076%20State%20Parks,a%20Texas%20park%20each%20year.


For more information about our collections and services, please contact the reference desk at 512-463-5455 or ref@tsl.texas.gov.


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