The Source for All Things Texan Since 1857: Texas Almanac

TEXAS' NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Vegetational regions of Texas

The Physical State of Texas

Extending from sea level at the Gulf of Mexico to over 8,000 feet in the Guadalupe Mountains of far West Texas and from the semitropical Lower Rio Grande Valley to the High Plains of the Panhandle, Texas has a natural environment best described as "varied." This section of the print version of the Texas Almanac discusses the physical features, geology, soils, water, vegetation and wildlife that are found in the Lone Star State. Below is a summary of the size, the boundaries, the highs and the lows of the state.

Area of Texas

Texas occupies about 7 percent of the total water and land area of the United States. Second in size among the states, Texas has a land and water area of 268,581 square miles as compared with Alaska's 663,267 square miles. California, third largest state, has 163,696 square miles. Texas is as large as all of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina combined. The state's area consists of 261,797 square miles of land and 6,784 square miles of water.

Length and Breadth of Texas

The longest straight-line distance in a general north-south direction is 801 miles from the northwest corner of the Panhandle to the extreme southern tip of Texas on the Rio Grande below Brownsville. The greatest east-west distance is 773 miles from the extreme eastward bend in the Sabine River in Newton County to the extreme western bulge of the Rio Grande just above El Paso.

Center of Texas

The geographic center of Texas is about 15 miles northeast of Brady in northern McCulloch County.

Texas' Boundary Lines

The boundary of Texas by segments, including only larger river bends and only the great arc of the coastline, is as follows:

Rio Grande889.0 miles
Coastline367.0 miles
Sabine River, Lake and Pass180.0 miles
* Sabine River to Red River106.5 miles
Red River480.0 miles
* East Panhandle line133.6 miles
* North Panhandle line167.0 miles
* West Panhandle line310.2 miles
* Along 32nd parallel209.0 miles
Total2,842.3 miles

Following the smaller meanderings of the rivers and the tidewater coastline, the following are the boundary measurements:

Rio Grande1,254 miles
Coastline (tidewater)624 miles
Sabine River, Lake and Pass292 miles
Red River726 miles
* The five unchanged line segments above926 miles
Total (including segments marked *)3,822 miles

Latitude and Longitude of Texas

The extremes of latitude and longitude are as follows: From Latitude 25° 50' N. at the extreme southern turn of the Rio Grande on the south line of Cameron County to Latitude 36° 30' N. along the north line of the Panhandle, and from Longitude 93° 31' W. at the extreme eastern point on the Sabine River on the east line of Newton County to Longitude 106° 38' W. on the extreme westward point on the Rio Grande above El Paso.

Altitudes of Texas Places

The highest point in the state is Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet above sea level. Its twin, El Capitan, stands at 8,085 feet and also is located in Culberson County near the New Mexico state line. Both are in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which includes scenic McKittrick Canyon. These elevations and the others in this article have been determined by the U.S. Geological Survey, unless otherwise noted.

The named peaks above 8,000 feet and the counties in which they are located are listed below. These elevations may differ from those in earlier editions of the Almanac because of the more accurate measuring methods currently being used by the USGS.

Named Peaks in Texas Above 8,000 Feet
Guadalupe Peak, Culberson County8,749
Bush Mountain, Culberson County8,631
Shumard Peak, Culberson County8,615
Bartlett Peak, Culberson County8,508
Mount Livermore, Jeff Davis County
(also called Baldy Peak)
8,378
Hunter Peak, Culberson County
(also called Pine Top Mountain)
8,368
El Capitan, Culberson County8,085

Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County is the highest town of any size in Texas at 5,050 feet, and the county has the highest average elevation. The highest point on state highways, 6,781 feet, is also in the county at McDonald Observatory at the end of a tap from State Highway 118.

The highest railway point is Paisano Pass, 14 miles east of Marfa in Presidio County.

Sea level is the lowest elevation determined in Texas, and it can be found in all the coastal counties. No point in the state has been found by the geological survey to be below sea level.

Latitude and Longitude of Texas Places

To find the latitude and longitude of any place in Texas (or the rest of the United States), go to the U.S. Geological Survey's mapping information site, then find the heading "Query the GNIS Online Database" and click on "United States and Territories."

Deer forage in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Robert Plocheck
Deer forage in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Texas Wildlife

Texas Nature, generally:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/

Texas Birds and Birding:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/birding/

Wildlife Management Areas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

National Wildlife Refuges in Texas:
Texas national wildlife refuges are included in the Southwest Region list of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mammals of Texas:
A list of Texas mammals, their habitats, their behavior, their appearance.