The Texas Forts Trail Region
The frontier forts of Texas were lonely outposts in wild country. As settlers streamed west with dreams of new opportunity, the federal government established lines of forts to protect Texans on the advancing frontier. The passions of that era often resulted in conflict: frontiersmen on one side, tough and self-reliant, accustomed to taking what they wanted; Native Americans on the other side, resentful of intruders into their domain. In between stood the frontier soldier. His hardships were many and his dangers very real. Usually, the soldier built the fort—he felled trees and shaped crude timber, quarried stone and heaved both into place with muscle and sweat. As frayed tents gave way to barracks, the soldier looked around and found the nucleus of a town huddling in the safety of the new fort. "Civilization" had arrived—the frontier had moved. Along with it marched the soldier, trekking farther west into an uncertain environment.
From 1848 to 1900, the U.S. Army built 44 major posts and set up more than 100 temporary camps in Texas, the nation's largest military department. In addition, a number of earlier Republic-era forts, private bastions erected by pioneer families, and a host of much older presidios (forts) from the Spanish colonial period had been built and abandoned.
The "trail" is a recommended 650-mile driving loop within a 29-county region of Central West Texas. The trail is anchored by a Spanish presidio and eight historic frontier forts and the communities and attractions that surround them.
- Fort Richardson
- Fort Belknap
- Fort Griffin
- Fort Phantom Hill
- Fort Chadbourne
- Fort Concho
- Fort McKavett
- Fort Mason
- Presidio San Luis de Las Amarillas
About the Texas Heritage Trails Program
The Texas Heritage Trails Program (THTP) is the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) award-winning heritage tourism initiative. This economic development initiative encourages communities, heritage regions, and the state to partner and promote Texas' historic and cultural resources. These successful local preservation efforts, combined with statewide marketing of heritage regions as tourism destinations, increase visitation to cultural and historic sites and bring more dollars to Texas communities. This in turn supports the THC's mission to protect and preserve the state's historic and prehistoric resources for the use, education economic benefit, and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The THTP is based around 10 scenic driving trails created in 1968 by Gov. John Connally and the Texas Highway Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation) as a marketing tool. The trails were established in conjunction with the HemisFair, an international exposition that commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio.
In 1997, the State Legislature charged the THC to create a statewide heritage tourism program. The THC responded with a program based on local, regional, and state partnerships, centered on the 10 scenic driving trails. These trails serve as the nucleus of 10 heritage regions, and include heritage tourism attractions and communities both on and off the trail.
The program began with the establishment of the Texas Forts Trail Region in 1998. Other heritage regions made a formal application to the program, demonstrating knowledge of area attractions and broad support from organizations and local government. The suite of heritage regions was completed in 2005 with the additions of the Texas Pecos and Hill Country Trail Regions.
The THTP received national recognition with the Preserve America Presidential Award in 2005. This award was given for exemplary accomplishment in the preservation and sustainable use of America's heritage assets, which has enhanced community life while honoring the nation's history. The following year, the program was awarded a Preserve America grant for developing the Heritage Tourism Guidebook and for providing heritage tourism training across the state.
We envision Texas as a place where:
- The diverse places of the Lone Star State are preserved and promoted for present and future generations.
- Visitors and residents delight in experiencing, firsthand, the real places telling the real stories of our state's heritage and cultures.
- The total visitor experience of Texas' diverse places stimulates local economies.
- Heritage tourism is a community-based enterprise that contributes to its livability and sense of place.