When people think of Texas, they often visualize wide-open spaces and cactus as far as the eye can see. But when we say Texas is like a whole other country, we’re talking about places like the Piney Woods region. If you’re searching for scrub brush and tumbleweeds, you’ll be disappointed. However, prepare to be dazzled at the beauty and majesty that awaits you here.
Specifically, the Piney Woods region contains thousands of acres of pine and pine-hardwood forests. Visitors will find a variety of loblolly, short leaf and some pockets of longleaf pine, as well as magnolia, elm, oak, ash, cypress and other trees. Located primarily in East Texas, this area boasts the state’s four national forests and five state forests nestled among the wooded acres here. For outdoor enthusiasts, this region is also home to many state parks and bodies of water that offer fun and enjoyment.
The grandeur of majestic, towering trees and eye-popping landscapes can be seen year-round, but this area is dominated by breathtaking colors during the fall when the sassafras, persimmon, maples, sweet gums, dogwoods, elms, and oaks can generally be counted on to offer up hues of golden brown, yellow, orange, red and even reddish purple.
Then, during the Christmas season, this part of Texas becomes truly magical. Town squares are transformed into holiday wonderlands with thousands of lights. Re-experience the childhood delight of old-fashioned and lighted holiday parades. Tour historic homes specially decorated for the holidays. See unique sights like the star-topped oil derricks in the World’s Richest Acre in Kilgore.
It is also quite beautiful in the spring, too. Blooming azaleas and dogwoods are occasions to celebrate. These spring specimens can be seen on trails in cities like Palestine, Woodville and Quitman.
Tyler seems to be an especially prolific site for flora. Apart from colorful spring flowers, this city is known around the world for its roses, and it’s also home to Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, the nation’s largest municipal rose garden.
In the southern portion of the region, the towering pine trees give way to mammoth bald cypress trees and lush swampland, found in Big Thicket National Preserve and accessible via neighboring cities Jasper, Kirbyville, Kountze, Silsbee and Saratoga. The awe-inspiring ecosystem is also home to amazing diversity, because here you can also find cactus, ferns and orchids, as well as pine and oak trees.
But beautiful landscapes are not the only things to see here, as this region is rich in Texas heritage and history as well. Discover how the Early Caddo tribe lived at the site of an ancient Indian settlement at the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site in Alto. There, you can wander through reconstructed Caddo dwellings and ceremonial areas of this archaeological gem.
For a taste of Texas history during the time of its struggle for independence, look no further than Nacogdoches. One of Texas’ oldest communities, it was originally established as a Spanish fort in the mid 1700s and later the site of three short-lived republics. In 1832, what were considered the opening shots of the Texas Revolution were fired here, as citizens fought a Mexican garrison in the center of town and were successful in forcing the Mexican troops out of East Texas.
Signs of East Texas’ oil history can be seen throughout the region. Several historic towns such as Kilgore, Marshall, Joinerville and Longview celebrate their ties to Texas’ oil boom days with museums, attractions and other historical markers that mark the Lone Star State’s impact on the oil industry at the turn of the 20th century.
With the dogwoods, cypress, magnolias and other foliage, parts of East Texas exude a feeling of being in the Old South. Venerable plantation homes and graceful mansions further this impression. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride in Jefferson, or enjoy a relaxing and romantic trip on a paddle wheel-style riverboat in Uncertain, and soak in the Southern hospitality and charm of the region.
Enjoy the wonder and glory that awaits you in the Piney Woods!