The ETX Bucket List- As a Texan there are certain things you should see in the state before leaving this world. East Texas is deeply rooted in the beginning of the Lone Star State and filled to the brim with history and unexplainable beauty. There are 11 places in the Pineywoods that every self respecting Texan should have on their bucket list and every East Texan should hold dear to their hearts as the westward most extension the Deep South. East Texas is the beginning of Texas, the link to ancient history, and the last of the Deep South, which separates it from the rest of the state.
Ten would have been more of a traditional number for a bucket list, but East Texas has always been a little different, and therefore 11 suits the region well. All 11 sites are an exceptional representation of East Texas and the culture there.
In no particular order:
The Caddo Indian Mound State Historic Site
The Caddo Indian Mound State Historic Site is located between Weches and Alto. Texas State Highway 21 runs directly through what was at one time a thriving Caddo Indian Community. The site is the southernmost Caddo Indian village in Texas. If you have never visited the site you will have an opportunity to see the State Historic Site and the Caddo people in October.
For more information regarding the history of the Caddo Indians of East Texas read Caddo Mounds State Historic Site: An East Texas Ancient Civilization, and log on to the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site website for more details about upcoming events.
Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas and has been dubbed a wetland of international significance. Caddo Lake is also home to the world’s largest Cypress forest. The natural beauty that abounds here is unexplainable. Caddo Lake lies on the Texas-Louisiana border and is a site to behold.
The lake is named for the Caddo Indians that once inhabited the mysterious land. The lake is believed by many to have been created by an earthquake which shook the Red River so violently that it caused the river’s waters to slosh out and form what is known today as the only natural lake in Texas.
Every Texan should visit this natural wonder. There is no place like it on earth.
The Big Thicket
“One’s fondness for the area is hard to explain. It has no commanding peak or awesome gorge, no topographical feature of distinction. Its appeal is more subtle.” – Big Thicket Legacy, University of Texas Press, 1977.
It has been said that The Big Thicket is the most bio diverse places on the planet. The Big Thicket was the first National Forest Preserve established in the United States National Park System, in 1974 and is the only national preserve in Texas.
Texans from across the state should see The Big Thicket. To learn more about The Big Thicket click here.
The Neches River
The Neches River basin has long since been a throbbing life source of the Pineywoods. The Neches is also the last wild river in Texas. The river flows freely through East Texas and has for thousands of years. Stephen F. Austin even recognized the potential of the mighty river. The river’s history is deeply intertwined with East Texas and its natural beauty is breathtaking.
Texans who have not visited the last wild river in Texas should plan a play day on the Neches. Those who want to experience the wild Neches River up close and personal should consider entering The Neches Wilderness Canoe Race in August. For the last 20 years, people from across the nation have ventured to Palestine, Texas to participate in the “toughest little canoe race” in existence, which also benefits a scholarship fund. The scholarship fund benefits a variety of deserving people either entering or returning to college. If you think you have what it takes to tame the last wild river in Texas then log on to the Neches Wilderness Race website for more details about how to enter the race that is becoming a Texan tradition.
Visit the first county established under the Republic of Texas in 1837. Houston County holds some of the oldest historical markers in the state. Visit the county seat in Crockett, where Davy Crockett is believed to have camped long ago. Visit the oldest mission in the State of Texas in Weches, or see Sam Houston’s Mound in Mound City, near the county line. Tour some of the oldest historical homes in the state such as the Aldrich House or Warfield House in Crockett.
When Houston County was first established in 1837 it contained much of present day Anderson County. After taking a tour of Houston County visitors should make their way to Palestine, where some of the most magnificent examples of early architecture in east Texas can be found. Make plans to visit historic downtown Palestine, and go on the historic tour of homes.
Stay awhile in the oldest town in Texas! Nacogdoches is a beautiful historic little town nestled in the Pineywoods of Deep East Texas. Nacogdoches has always been the center of diversity in East Texas and flies Nine Flags to represent its history of change.
The First Lady of Texas Letter, and East Texan poetess, Karle Wilson Baker once said, “Nacogdoches has a soul, a spirit, an atmosphere. She is no raw product of today or yesterday. There are ghosts on her streets…Gentle Franciscan fathers and curious, credulous redmen, spirited; lordly Mexican alcaldes and courtly French adventurers…stubborn, spirited, courageous American Empressarios;… men like Rusk,…Crockett,…Houston,…Travis.”
Nacogdoches is also a diverse college town full of excitement and nightlife. A trip to Nacogdoches will not disappoint!
The East Texas Gulf Coast
The East Texas Gulf Coast stretches from historic Galveston Island all the way eastward to Port Arthur. The East Texas Gulf Coast has weathered some of the most fierce weather in the nation’s history and is home to several historical places of interest in the Lone Star State.
Cruise down Crystal Beach then take a ferry to Galveston. Shop on the strand, walk along the seawall, or visit historic downtown in Galveston. Check out the nightlife in Galveston on your visit, too. Galveston is full of entertainment with local energy on tap.
Relax on the beach all day in the Texas sun, collect beach glass, or catch some waves. The East Texas Gulf Coast awaits you.
Visit the oldest inland marina in the state; Johnson’s Marina or take a tour on a riverboat through the largest Cypress wood forest in the world, all in Uncertain. Visit nearby Caddo Lake State Park or shop at the Uncertain Flea Market. Uncertain is certain to be an East Texan experience like no other.
Uncertain is a place every Texan should visit in their lifetime. The mystery and magic in Uncertain is something that has to be experienced for one’s self.
Sam Houston Statue
The world’s tallest statue of an American Hero stands proudly beside I-45 in Huntsville, Texas. Travelers can see Houston from an impressive distance, but every Texan should stop and marvel at the sheer size of the Texas pioneer. The Huntsville Visitor and a park are also located on site. The visitor center offers unique videos, brochures and maps.
Huntsville is overflowing with history that has molded the Lone Star State. It is the final resting place of Sam Houston and home to “The Walls”, the oldest penitentiary in Texas and home of the Texas execution chamber, the most active chamber in the United States. The Texas Prison Museum is also in Huntsville.
Read more about the Sam Houston Statue here.
The oldest bakery in Texas may ship thousands of pounds of Deep South desserts all over the globe each year, but they are never lacking if you happen to wander into the bakery, located in Historic Downtown Palestine. Eilenberger’s is 112- years-old and guaranteed to deliver the best taste of East Texas. Whether you have a hankering for pecan pie or cookies, Eilenberger’s can tickle your taste buds!
Read more about the history of the oldest bakery in Texas.
No trip to East Texas is complete without a visit to the antique capital of the Pineywoods in Jefferson. Jefferson is no lack luster location. Jefferson offers an abundance of history, antiquing at its finest, and tours throughout the little East Texas town.
Stay in one of the historic bed and breakfast locations and let Jefferson transport you back in time to the days when steam engine whistles could be heard roaring through the Pineywoods and over the river. Fans of the paranormal will enjoy the mysterious side of Jefferson. Haunted tours, and hotels are waiting for you. Holidays in Jefferson are an exceptional sight to see, making the little town an excellent holiday destination in East Texas.
The ETX Bucket List includes locations which are richly immersed with natural wonder and area history. Anyone who has the opportunity to visit one of these locations will not be disappointed. These destinations are perfect for a lone adventure or fun for the entire family.
East Texas is an adventure waiting to be had by anyone with a wild spirit and a sense of adventure!