Fort Richardson State Park outside of Jacksboro mixes the story of the Old West with outdoor recreation for the modern family
By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., Aug. 22, 2008
Fort Richardson State Park, outside of Jacksboro, Texas, began as a major military installation on the Texas frontier in 1867. More than a century later, the site mixes the story of the Old West with outdoor recreation for the modern family.
In the early years of the fort, right after the Civil War, there was very little the command could do to stop the American Indian raiding parties from sneaking across the Red River and the white buffalo hunters from harvesting the last herds in the Texas Panhandle.
The arrival of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie in 1871 changed the way the Army fought the Indians. Instead of waiting for the warriors to strike and then chasing the offenders, who had usually disappeared by the time the cavalry arrived, Mackenzie took the fight to the American Indians.
Any Native American off the Oklahoma reservations was considered hostile. Using Fort Richardson and Fort Concho at San Angelo as supply bases, Mackenzie relentlessly pursued the roving bands. Although his troops seldom engaged anything more than small parties of American Indians, his campaigns across the Llano Estacado kept the Comanche and Kiowa bands continually on the move.
By the spring of 1875, the Red River War was over, and the tribes of the Southern Plains had surrendered to the reservations around Fort Sill. As the Indian threat to North Texas became a bitter memory, Fort Richardson slowly lost its usefulness to forts farther west. By 1878, the fort was deactivated.
At its peak, the fort housed more than a thousand men, with most living in tents or barracks made of rough pickets splattered with mud. The most substantial building on the post was the two-story hospital that is now a museum honoring the units that had manned the fort.
Many of the things that made the site a good place for a frontier fort also make it a nice park. After it became a state historical site in 1968, the Parks Department added 60 campsites in the forest along Lost Creek.
The crown jewel of the park is an 8-mile-long, multiuse trail that winds from the campground around Lake Jacksboro to a beach with swimming access. The reservoir and the fort's flooded rock quarry are also popular fishing spots.
Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site is on the southern edge of Jacksboro, 60 miles from both Fort Worth and Wichita Falls. The restored hospital and the fort ruins are open during daylight hours, and there is usually a park employee around to tell battle stories. For reservations, call 389-8900 or go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Call the park directly at 940/567-3506.
Located near the park are the city swimming pool and golf course. While in Jacksboro, stop by City Drug on the courthouse square for a burger and malt at the soda fountain.
894th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.