Visit the Texas Heritage Trail Regions and see where it all happened

Early Texas Explorations

El Camino Real de los Tejas trail segment, Mission Tejas State Park
Trail segment, Mission Tejas State Park


"Hardly had we begun to enjoy the pleasing sensation of drifting down the stream when a roaring noise was heard ahead," geologist Robert T. Hill reported during his 1899 survey of the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande River. The sound came from "seething and dangerous torrents of water foaming over huge rounded boulders" just around the river bend; in other words, rapids. Hill and his survey crew managed to negotiate the formidable rapids only after getting out of their boats and guiding them by stern lines through the swift current. Explorers of the rest of the vast wilderness destined to become Texas didn't have it any easier. Early French, Spanish, and Anglo expeditions trekked across our territory only to succumb occasionally to starvation, disease, and slaughter (and perpetrating some of their own misery along the way).

Fortunately for modern Texans their historic routes are now free of such tribulations. Follow the El Camino Real de los Tejas today (the trail once used by the Spanish to pursue their French rivals across the state) and your only concern will be choosing where, among your many options, to stop for dinner. Follow Hill's route down the Lower Canyons, however, and you'll still be facing rapids. Some places in Texas may have changed but in others the adventure remains wet and wild!


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Read more about Texas exploration in the Handbook of Texas Online.