The story of how this Colorado County community got its name has a hint of mythology. In 1821, two scouts for Stephen F. Austin were exploring the area and one of them killed an eagle at the lake. They named the body of water “Laguna de Aguila.” The town site was platted in 1856, and the first of three rail lines arrived in 1859. Over time, the local economy transitioned from ranching to rice production with hunting and ecotourism earning Eagle Lake the title of “Goose Hunting Capital of the World.”
Depending on the season, you’re likely to encounter bird watchers, fishermen or hunters. The area is the wintering site for all species of geese and ducks that migrate the great Central Flyway. Northeast of town is the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for an endangered species that’s making a comeback on the coastal prairie. The refuge hosts a festival every April.
After exploring the area’s natural history check in at the Farris Hotel, a highlight of Eagle Lake’s Commercial Historic District. Built as the Dallas Hotel in 1912, the two-story, red brick building with a wrap-around covered porch was designed by Houston architect A.E. Barnes. The hotel prospered during the town’s railroad heyday as a social and business center, then began to decline during the Great Depression. Restored in the 1970s, the Farris has recaptured its early 20th Century elegance with antique furniture, Victorian carpets and draperies made of satin and lace. A short distance from the hotel, two museums on East Main Street offer back-stories of Eagle Lake’s past. The Depot Museum preserves the community’s railroad heritage. It’s housed in the restored, 1911 Santa Fe Depot, a one-story Prairie-style building with walls of solid, red brick. Next door, the Prairie Edge Museum is located in an adaptively reused former auto dealership and repair shop. Its collections and exhibits include artifacts from natural history, Native American culture, agriculture, and pioneer history.