Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country is a geographic region of Central and South Texas, forming the southeast part of the Edwards Plateau. Given its location, climate, terrain, and vegetation, the Hill Country can be considered the border between the American Southeast and Southwest.

Texas Hill Country
View from Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera County
Map of Texas Hill Country
LocationCentral Texas, United States
Coordinates30°10′27″N 99°03′55″W
Elevation980–2,460 ft (300–750 m)

The region is notable for its karst topography and tall rugged hills of limestone or granite.[1] Many of the hills rise to a height of 400–500 feet (120–150 m) above the surrounding plains and valleys, with Packsaddle Mountain rising to a height of 800 feet (240 m) above the Llano River in Kingsland.[2] The Hill Country also includes the Llano Uplift and the second-largest granite dome in the United States, Enchanted Rock. The terrain throughout the region is punctuated by a thin layer of topsoil and many exposed rocks and boulders, making the region very dry and prone to flash flooding. Native vegetation in the region includes various yucca, prickly pear cactus, desert spoon, and wildflowers in the Llano Uplift. The predominant trees in the region are ashe juniper and Texas live oak.[3]

Bound on the east by the Balcones Escarpment, the Hill Country reaches into the far northern portions of San Antonio and the western portions of Austin. As a result of springs discharging water stored in the Edwards Aquifer, several cities such as Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels were settled at the base of the Balcones Escarpment. The region's economy is one of the fastest growing in the United States.[4][5]

Counties included

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the following 25 counties are included in the Hill Country Wildlife District:[6]

History and politics

During the American Civil War, due to its large, pro-Union, German immigrant population, the Texas Hill Country was opposed to Texas seceding from the Union.[7] Subsequently, in the three quarters of a century following Reconstruction, the core of the Hill Country generally provided the solitary support base for the Republican Party in what became a one-party Democratic state.

Even when there were no Republicans in the Texas Legislature during the 1930s and 1940s, Gillespie and Kendall Counties backed every Republican Presidential nominee barring Herbert Hoover’s failed 1932 re-election campaign, and Republicans continued to control local government. Guadalupe and Comal Counties were less Republican, but still did not vote for Democratic nominees outside the 1912, 1932, 1936 and 1964 landslides. The region was also the only one in antebellum slave states to back the insurgent candidacy of Robert La Follette in 1924: in fact Comal was La Follette’s top county in the nation with 73.96 percent of the vote, and it and Gillespie were the only counties south of the Mason–Dixon line to give a plurality to his “Progressive” ticket.


Because of its karst topography, the area also features a number of caverns, such as Inner Space Caverns, Natural Bridge Caverns, Bracken Cave, Longhorn Cavern State Park, Cascade Caverns, Caverns of Sonora and Cave Without a Name. The deeper caverns of the area form several aquifers which serve as a source of drinking water for the residents of the area. Wonder Cave in San Marcos was formed by an earthquake along the Balcones Fault.

Several tributaries of the Colorado River of Texas — including the Llano and Pedernales rivers, which cross the region west to east and join the Colorado as it cuts across the region to the southeast – drain a large portion of the Hill Country. The Guadalupe, San Antonio, Frio, Medina, and Nueces rivers originate in the Hill Country.

This region is a dividing line for certain species occurrence. For example, the California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) is the only species of palm tree that is native to the continental United States west of the Hill Country's Balcones Fault.[8]

The region has hot summers, particularly in July and August, and even the nighttime temperatures remain high, as the elevation is modest despite the hilly terrain. Winter temperatures are sometimes as much as ten degrees cooler than in other parts of Texas to the east.

The area experiences a fusion of Spanish and German influences in food, beer, architecture, and music that form a distinctively "Texan" culture separate from the state's Southern and Southwestern influences.[1] For example, the accordion was popularized in Tejano music in the 19th century due to cultural exposure to German settlers.

Devil's Backbone is an elevated, winding stretch of Route 32 between San Marcos and Wimberley, continuing through Blanco, that has long been the subject of ghost stories.[9] Folklore about it appeared in a 1996 episode of NBC's Robert Stack anthology series Unsolved Mysteries, featuring apparitional Spanish monks, Comanche as well as Lipan Apache tribes, Confederate soldiers on their horses, and a spirit of a wolf. It later re-aired when this series was hosted by Dennis Farina.

The region has emerged as the center of the Texas wine industry. Three American Viticultural Areas are located in the areas: Texas Hill Country AVA, Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country AVA, and Bell Mountain AVA.

The Hill Country is also known for its tourism. In 2008, The New York Times listed the Hill Country in an article about North American vacation destinations.[10] Hill Country has also made Texas a popular retirement destination in the United States. The region has attracted Baby Boomers as they near retirement age.[11]

Frederick Day, a demographer with Texas State University, said that the Hill Country life-style reminds one of the small towns of the recent past. "Like old America . . . [the] cost of living is pretty low. To people who have spent their work life in Houston or Dallas, the Hill Country is very attractive."[11]

Notable people

Notable people of the Texas Hill Country
Lance Armstrong1971Professional cyclist renowned for seven consecutive Tour de France wins after surviving cancer. He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles over a doping controversy. Born in Plano but a long-time resident of Austin.
Buffalo Humpc 18001870War chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche
Liz Carpenter19202010Journalist, author, political speech writer, humorist, public speaker, first female Vice President of University of Texas student body. One of the founders of National Women's Political Caucus and co-chair of ERAmerica, traveling the country to push for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Drafted President Johnson's Nov 22, 1963 speech to the American public after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Jody Conradt1941Retired women's basketball head coach inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998 & Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. Texas Women's Hall of Fame 1986. Born in Goldthwaite, Texas resides in Austin. First women's basketball collegiate coach to reach 700 career victories. Achieved 99% graduation rate for the students on her teams.
Hondo Crouch19161976Humorist, proprietor of Fredericksburg-adjacent Luckenbach, where the town's motto is "Everybody's Somebody". Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson memorialized the small town in their song "Luckenbach, Texas/Back to the Basics of Love".[12][13]
Michael Dell1965Founder of Dell computers. Started company in Austin and still resides there.
John Henry Faulk19131990Austin-based radio personality, author, playwright, folklorist, actor, lecturer, blacklisted during the 1950s
Kinky Friedman1944American singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and columnist. Born in Chicago but grew up in Austin. Resides at Echo Hill Ranch near Kerrville. Founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, also located near Kerrville.
Fred Gipson19081973Novelist who authored Old Yeller, Savage Sam, and Hound Dog Man, lived in Mason
Trey Hardee1984World Champion Decathlete and graduate of the University of Texas at Austin
Harvey Hilderbran1960State Representative from the western Hill Country since 1989, a Republican from Kerrville
Max Hirsch18801969National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame thoroughbred horse trainer
Betty Holekamp18261902German Texas pioneer, also called the "Betsy Ross of Texas"
Carl Hoppe18971981San Antonio artist who painted scenes of the Texas Hill Country
J. Marvin Hunter18801957Born Loyal Valley author, journalist, and historian of the American West, founded Frontier Times magazine and Frontier Times Museum in Bandera.
Molly Ivins19442007Political author, journalist, humorist from Austin
Lady Bird Johnson19122007First Lady of the United States, Graduate of University of Texas in Austin. Business woman and one-time owner of KTBC radio and television stations turned $17,500 investment into more than $150 million. She bankrolled her husband's initial political career, buried in Stonewall, Texas next to husband Lyndon B. Johnson. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is named for her decades-long project to beautify America's landscapes
Lyndon B. Johnson19081973President of the United States, born and raised in Stonewall, Texas.
Tommy Lee Jones1946Actor, born in San Saba.
Robert Earl Keen1956Country singer-songwriter, former resident of Bandera, Texas and current resident of Kerrville, Texas
Guich Koock1944Actor, humorist, one-time owner of Luckenbach, Texas, Fredericksburg businessman, nephew of John Henry Faulk.[14][15]
Herman Lehmann18591932Apache captive and then Comanche adoptee (adopted son of Chief Quanah Parker), native of Loyal Valley, 1927 autobiography, Nine Years Among the Indians
Hermann Lungkwitz18131891Romantic landscape artist and photographer, noted for first pictoral records of the Texas Hill Country
Gerald Lyda19232005General contractor and cattle rancher, born and raised in the Hill Country community of Marble Falls
Johnny Manziel1992The first freshman to win Heisman trophy and quarterback for the Texas A&M University Aggies, from Kerrville
Matthew McConaughey1969Model/Actor, raised in Uvalde, Texas attended The University of Texas at Austin
John O. Meusebach18121897Founder of Fredericksburg negotiated 1847 Meusebach-Comanche Treaty (unbroken to this date) with Comanche chiefs Buffalo Hump, Santa Anna, Old Owl. Oversaw development of New Braunfels. Elected Texas State Senator for Bexar, Comal and Medina Counties. Buried Marschall-Meusebach Cemetery in Loyal Valley
Willie Nelson1933American country singer-songwriter, author, poet, actor and activist. Austin resident
Elisabet Ney18331907Sculptor, art pioneer, works can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Texas State Capitol, U.S. Capitol
James Wilson Nichols18201891Texas Ranger, Frontier Battalion, Indian Scout, author, Now You Hear My Horn. Buried Kerrville.[16][17]
Chester W. Nimitz18851966Commander of U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific during World War II was from Fredericksburg, Texas and Kerrville, Texas
Old Owlc 17951849Civil Chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche Indians
Alfred P.C. Petsch18871981Lawyer, legislator, civic leader, and philanthropist. Served in the Texas House of Representatives 1925–1941. Veteran of both World War I and World War II.[18]
Ann Richards19332006Governor of Texas (1991–1995). Resided in Austin.
Rudy Robbins19332011Singer, songwriter, actor, stuntman from Bandera
Andy Roddick1982Former professional tennis player who resides in Austin.
Santa Annac 17951849War Chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche Indians
Robert F. "Bob" Schenkkan19172011Teacher, radio and TV broadcaster, professor of communications. A long-time Austin resident, he was instrumental in founding PBS and an USAID consultant.[19]
Charles Schreiner, Sr.18381927Businessman, banker, rancher, landholder, philanthropist in Kerrville[20]
Charles Schreiner, III19272001Rancher and businessman from Kerr County, who worked to preserve the Texas Longhorn cattle from extinction[21]
Juan Nepomuceno Seguín18061890Served on both sides during the Texas Revolution. Fought with Sam Houston and organized a Tejano rear guard. 1834 Territorial Governor of Texas, 1841 Mayor of San Antonio. Suspicions of his loyalty caused him to flee to Mexico in 1842. Served with Mexico's General Adrian Woll and participated in Woll's 1842 invasion of Texas. Seguin, Texas named in his honor.[17][22][23]
Sixpence None the Richer1992An alternative rock band prominent in the late 1990s with their song "Kiss Me"
Frank Van der Stucken18581929Music composer, conductor[24]
Stevie Ray Vaughan19541990Blues guitar player resided in Austin.

See also


  1. Jordan, Terry G. "Hill Country". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
  2. Google Earth Terrain Data
  3. Lehman, Roy L.; Ruth O'Brien; Tammy White (2005). Plants of the Texas Coastal Bend. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-408-3.
  4. "America's Next Great Metropolis Is Taking Shape In Texas". Forbes. October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  5. "The City of the Eternal Boom". TexasMonthly.com. February 24, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  6. Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Hill Country Wildlife Management". Land & Water: Habitats. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
  7. ‘6 Unionist Strongholds in the South during the Civil War’
  8. Hogan, C. Michael (January 5, 2009). Nicklas Stromberg (ed.). "California Fan Palm: Washingtonia filifera". GlobalTwitcher.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  9. "Texas scenic drive, Devil's Backbone, RR 32". www.texasescapes.com. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  10. "31 Places to Go This Summer". New York Times. June 1, 2008. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  11. Bobbi Gage, "Baby boomers being drawn to Hill Country", Llano County Journal, July 2, 2008, pp. 1, 7A
  12. Patterson, Becky Crouch. "Crouch, John Russell (Hondo)". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  13. "History of Luckenbach". Luckenbach, Texas. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  14. "Koock, Guich Bio". IMDb. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  15. Hallowell, John. "Guich Koock". Texas Hill Country Magazine (Fall 2009).
  16. Schellenberg, Cynthia. "Nichols, James Wilson". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  17. McKeehan, Wallace L. "The Battle of Salado The Journal of James Wilson Nichols 1820–1887". Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  18. Watkins, Melanie. "Petsch, Alfred PC". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  19. "Robert F. "Bob" Schenkkan's Obituary on Austin American-Statesman". Legacy.com. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  20. Hollon, W. Eugene. "TSHA: Schreiner, Charles Armand". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  21. Douglas Martin (April 29, 2001). "Charles Schreiner III, 74, Dies; Colorful Texas Rancher Fought to Save Longhorn". New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  22. de la Teja, Jesús F. "Seguin, Juan Nepomuceno". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  23. "Col. Juan N. Seguin". Seguin Descendants Historical Preservation. Archived from the original on October 24, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  24. Wolz, Larry. "Van Der Stucken, Frank Valentine". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
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