Day Trips: Texas State Parks

Celebrating 100 years of Texas parks and the contributions of Civilian Conservation Corps

The CCC built what at the time was "the world's largest spring-fed pool" at Balmorhea State Park between 1935 and 1938 (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the foundation of the Texas parks system. As Texas State Parks celebrate their 100th year in 2023, it is interesting to identify early park infrastructure built between 1933 and 1942, much of which is still in use today.

The Legislature created the Texas State Parks Board in 1923 to accept donations of land for public use. The majority of the gifts were small parcels along highways where travelers could camp for the night.

In 1933, as the Great Depression gripped the nation, President Franklin Roosevelt created the CCC. The volunteer work relief program put young men to work replanting clear-cut mountainsides, reseeding grasslands, and building national, state, and local parks.

Cabins at Caddo Lake State Park (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The first CCC companies arrived in Texas in June 1933 at Davis Mountains, Caddo Lake, Blanco, and Mineral Wells state parks. At the program's peak in 1935, approximately 5,400 CCC enrollees were working in Texas parks.

By the time the CCC ended in 1942, the companies had developed 56 local and state parks. Of the original 31 state parks, all but Mackenzie Park in Lubbock and Kerrville-Schreiner Park in Kerrville are still part of the 89-park state system.

The Concession Building at Abilene State Park was completed by the CCC in 1934 (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Adhering mostly to the National Park Service style of architecture, the CCC built roads, dams, cabins, and meeting halls. Much of the furniture for the parks was built at Bastrop. The workers at Longhorn Cavern hauled out more than 2 million cubic yards of dirt and guano. Two companies of young Black men helped build the road into Palo Duro Canyon mostly with picks and shovels. The CCC's work is still evident in our state parks. What higher praise could be spoken?

For the list of the 31 original CCC-developed state parks, go to

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Civilian Conservation Corps, Texas State Parks, Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt

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