Hurricane Harvey’s Effects on El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast. Coming onshore, just north of Corpus Christi, as a Category 4 storm (130 – 156 MPH), the tempest headed in a northwesterly direction towards San Antonio, before turning and heading east towards Houston and Louisiana.

With massive winds pushing it along its way, the storm dropped record-setting, torrential rains across vast swaths of both states. Some areas in Texas recorded over sixty inches of rainfall, requiring the National Weather Service to add new colors to its color charts to accurately depict the deluge that was taking place! (NPR.org, last accessed November 3, 2017) The extent of storm damage spanned from south Texas to western Louisiana and multiple trail sites were affected.

In south Texas, in Goliad, roughly fifty miles from where the storm came ashore, the initial impact was massive. Storm winds knocked down centuries-old oak trees, ripped roofs from buildings, and tore down fences! Harvey also dropped from 12” – 15” of rain on the community, causing flash-flooding in creeks and along the San Antonio River. Goliad State Park and Historic Site, a Camino resource that houses a Spanish mission built in 1749, was severely affected by the storm. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “The hurricane took down or damaged over 200 trees in the park. Most buildings were unhurt. However, the maintenance shop lost its roof and a storage building was heavily damaged. The park lost power. The San Antonio River was forecast to crest at 34 feet.” (TPWD online, last accessed November 3, 2017) The park was completely closed from August 27th until September 23rd, when it partially reopened, though many areas still remain closed at present.

Further north, at Bastrop State Park, near Austin, “Some campsites and park roads [were] flooded… [and] [p]ortions of Park Road 1C between Bastrop and Buescher were damaged.” (TPWD online, last accessed November 3, 2017) Bastrop State Park has swale remnants of the Camino and the park was also devastated by the Bastrop Fire of 2011, which decimated the Lost Pines of central Texas.

In far east Texas, in San Augustine, near the Louisiana state line, flooding inundated the area and cut off access to Mission Dolores State Historic Site for over a day. According to the site’s Facebook page, “Mission Dolores State Historic Site will be closed today [8/30/17] due to inclement weather. [The site is] starting to see the impact of Hurricane Harvey in San Augustine, and the site is experiencing very heavy rains, which are beginning to cover our entrance road. Be safe out there!” More so, “The three highway drainages are the main issues. The culverts under our entrance road are backing up and are sending water over the road. Ayish Bayou is 2 feet above flood stage and has jumped its banks. This is why we are closed.” (Mission Dolores State Historic Site, last accessed November 3, 2011)

Hurricane Harvey was an intense storm of record and the citizens of Texas and Louisiana are still working to recover from it. Luckily, while trail sites were heavily impacted by the storm, for the most part, they were only shut-down for a relatively short period of time, with no extensive damage to trail resources. Just days before the storm hit, speaking of Presidio la Bahia, a fort that has stood in Goliad since 1749, we noted on our Facebook page, “Pictured here is Presidio la Bahia, the Presidio of the Bay, which has stood strong for centuries on the eastern end of the presidial line of defenses on the Northern Frontier of New Spain. We are sure the presidio and the residents of Texas will continue to endure as the storm approaches.” (ELCAT, last accessed November 3, 2017) Let’s hope that this will remain true of all trail resources in the years to come, as they undergo the tests of Mother Nature, just as they have for centuries.

References Cited:

El Camino Real de los Tejas NHT Association: https://goo.gl/t48D38

Mission Dolores State Historic Site: https://goo.gl/4SLDJt

NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/28/546776542/national-weather-service-adds-new-colors-so-it-can-map-harveys-rains

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/park-information/hurricane-harvey

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