The History of Texas State Parks

Since 1923, Texas State Parks has been dedicated to protecting the best parts of Texas’ vast natural and cultural beauty. Originally envisioned as a series of roadside stops for highway travelers, today the Texas State Park system has grown to a network of parks, historic sites and natural areas that welcome millions of visitors every year. Discover the story of the first 100 years of the state park system, or watch the video below, and learn about what's on the horizon as we enter a new century of outdoor adventures.

CCC Construction, Bastrop State Park 1930s
CCC Construction, Bastrop State Park 1930s

Texas State Parks Board - Creation of a System

Americans recognized the value of resource conservation with the creation of a national park system; and gained access to the parks by the automobile and road networks. Suddenly people had cars, paved roads to drive on, and destinations to explore. In 1923, Pat Neff, the governor of Texas, appointed a Texas State Parks Board to begin locating sites for the establishment of a state parks system.

First Texas State Parks Board of 1924

New Deal Breathes New Life into Texas State Parks

In 1933, President Roosevelt charged the National Park Service to lend their services as part of his New Deal program. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), built our park infrastructure putting out-of-work Americans back on the job. Texas State Parks transformed from a handful of undeveloped properties into a robust system of over fifty parks. Texans added camping, fishing, and hiking to their family traditions.

CCC at Davis Mountains

Trailblazers and Parks for All

Trailblazing Texans worked to ensure that parks were for everyone. While WWII soldiers were away, Texas women kept parks operating. This opened the doors of change, elevating the roles of women in the workforce as leaders. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African American citizens near Tyler and Bastrop State Parks successfully advocated for access to parks regardless of the color of someone's skin.

NAACP youth intergrate Bastrop State Parks pool

The Golden Age – Growth and Expansion

By the 1980s, parks were stretched to capacity. Thanks to significant public support for additional parks, the legislature expanded the system dramatically. Texans were becoming aware of the importance public lands played in maintaining a healthy environment. Parkland was acquired and managed to protect their habitat, uniqueness, and geological forms in order to preserve the land and the experience.

Enchanted Rock park sign

21st Century Parks — The Next 100 Years

Although our park system has expanded significantly in the last one hundred years, 95% of Texas is still privately owned. This makes public land in Texas a precious resource for people and wildlife. Every inch of our Texas public land is a seed of hope for future generations.

Family Camping at Inks Lake State Park

Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

Our State Parks are situated on the traditional lands of numerous indigenous peoples. We acknowledge those who have ancestral history in Texas State Parks.

Texas State Parks: The First 100 Years

The State Parks Board was created in 1923, making 2023 the 100th year of Texas’ park system. Learn about the history of our treasured parklands, and some hopes and plans for the next century of state parks. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has partnered with TPWD to celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks. H-E-B, the presenting sponsor of the Centennial Celebration, has donated $1 million to help Texas State Parks engage all Texans in discovering and exploring their parks.

100 Years and H-E-B

Texas State Parks Guide Mobile App

Texas State Parks Guide app on two devices

Plan your trip to a state park and bring the guide along. Most content is available without an internet connection.

Apple App Store Google Play

Texas State Parks Guide Booklet

Texas State Parks Guide Booklet

This full-color, digest-sized, free publication provides maps, amenities, activities and visitor program information. Download the guide as a PDF or find at state park near you.