In every classic stereotype of the Wild West, there is a scene of a tumbleweed rolling across the dirt or gravel of an abandoned ghost town. And it’s not just a movie stereotype: there are real-life abandoned ghost towns in Texas throughout nearly every region of the state.
The unpredictability of the oil industry, the railroad industry, the mining industry, the agricultural industry, and more have resulted in abandoned towns in Texas left and right (or, near abandoned–it’s worth clarifying that many of these places do still maintain a very, very small population).
These Texas ghost towns are an interesting mark in the history of the Lone Star State, and often you can find so much of it preserved for the occasional visitor just passing through.
If you ever want to jump back in time and get a glimpse 19th century Texas lifestyles, consider checking out one of these abandoned ghost towns in Texas.
Not sure which ones are near you? We’ve included a map of Texas ghost towns at the bottom of this blog post to help you find them!
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Cool Ghost Towns in Texas to Visit
Lobo is an old abandoned town along Highway 90 with a booming population of 15 people!
Nearby Van Horn is probably the closest place to load up on fuel and food prior to entering this arid part of Texas.
Back in the 1800s, Lobo was the only source of water for miles. This shot the town to fame and slowly it became a very popular pitstop during the migration of settlers out west.
Lobo gets its name from the Mexican wolves that once populated the land, now it sits more or less frozen in time. The entire town went up for sale in 1980 for $60,000.
In 2001, three German buyers purchased the town for $20,000 and have been working on reviving it as a place for artists to come and get inspired.
If you happen to be visiting Big Bend National Park, a short visit to Terlingua is definitely worth it!
The town is still being held together by a handful of companies, and there is a definite wish to preserve history in this area.
A resurgence in tourism from visitors looking for the unusual atmosphere and glamping opportunities near Big Bend sure has helped, too–in fact, these days we’d call Terlingua perhaps a semi-ghost town, despite it being widely considered one of the best-known Texas ghost towns.
The desert lifestyle has pushed most people out to the big cities but for those that are still close to the roots of the city, they want the town to be a place that is warm and inviting but also has a lot of its own character to it.
Annually, there is a large chili cook-off that is held here that turns into something of a festival. Consider it Coachella with a beefy, tomatoey twist! The trading and mining companies here also keep this ship afloat.
If you want a unique travel experience Terlingua should definitely be on your list!
If you load up your car and head out on Route 66 toward New Mexico, you’ll come across the abandoned TX town of Glenrio.
In the early 1900s, a railroad used to run through this town, and slowly small farmers started to farm the surrounding land. The historic district is listed on the National List of Historic Places.
Slowly but surely, the people have left but the buildings and remnants of a time long ago have been left behind.
In fact, The Grapes of Wrath was filmed here. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know how well this terrain fits the bill as a set for its corresponding movie.
Barstow is named after a Texas transplant from Rhode Island. The town came together in the late 19th century and had a very short flash of fame.
George E. Barstow, the town’s namesake, was a leader in the irrigation industry. He was honored at the 1904 World Fair for his agricultural expertise with grapes.
Later that same year a dam broke in a nearby area and nearly flooded everything in its vicinity. Several public offices, homes, schools, and a few private businesses have been left behind.
Some hold onto the hope that one day, businesses will bloom again and the vineyards that were left behind will flourish once more.
When people think of ghost towns they rarely ever think of a beach town.
This town is off of the Gulf of Mexico, and as part of the package where it is located, the town has been ravaged by hurricanes multiple times over. To some degree, it almost was more difficult to keep the town alive due to the horrific damages incurred by hurricanes.
Originally several European immigrants chose to settle in this town but due to disease, weather, and poverty, the town never could prosper.
After a particularly devastating hurricane in 1886, the town was not able to rebuild and its remains have been left behind. The only thing that’s of prominence to be memorialized is the Zimmerman Cemetery.
If you’re a Baylor University fan, Independence should be a place that you’re familiar with. The university was founded in Independence and was also home to another legendary Texan.
Sam Houston and his family resided in this town during the mid-19th century.
That time was one of unyielding wealth and growth. The cotton industry was flourishing, and technology was slowly but surely transforming the land.
Now you can take a bike tour or church tour around this historic town in Texas.
The town of Catarina was established as a gateway for a railroad.
Legend says that the town is named after a woman who was killed during a standoff near the area in the 1700s.
Fast forward 200 years, the town had a post office, schools, and a full community.
Unfortunately, the lack of accessibility to water and a poor economy forced the town downwards. There haven’t been more than 100 residents in at least 30 years.
Toyah used to be the site of several flowing springs, in fact, the town is named after a Native American word for “flowing water”.
While railroads were being constructed and used as the primary method of transport, Toyah was quite popular.
It is one of the oldest towns in the county and held great popularity for trade and ranching. The economy continued to run for quite some time due to some oil fields that were discovered.
It also has a claim to fame through Amelia Earhart, who visited Toyah in 1928 when flying across the US.
Unfortunately like several other small towns, the area saw an enormous population drop following the Great Depression, and today only has about 100 residents.
Buchanan Dam is a large, beautiful structure that was constructed in the Hill Country.
It expertly sifts the waters from the Colorado River, and while most towns died due to lack of water, Bluffton had an abundance of it. Rising waters and the subsequent flooding drowned Bluffton and the surrounding towns.
As the following drier years forced the water levels back down, the leftover remnants of the town were discovered.
Now, this is the place you can come drive 4 wheelers or go birdwatching. Despite a complete shift in things to do, the town never fully regained its population after being uncovered.
Medicine Mound is named due to its ranging elevations. This land was sacred to the Comanches and it is about as rural as you can get.
Even in its peak time this town only had about 500 residents.
It was started as a small village when settlers started to arrive. While the Great Depression had a heavy effect on the decline of the town, a 1933 fire ultimately was the last straw.
Ever since then a few buildings remain but the four Native mounds that gave the name to this town still survived.
Gilliland was originally known as Coyote, similar to other ghost towns; this area also started out as a village for new settlers.
Several Norwegian families moved in the late 1800s from nearby areas. Coyote was renamed after a district judge when the first post office was established which formally changed the name to Gilliland.
The town was never heavily populated due to its location, eventually, the residents tapered off, and now less than 200 remain.
Eliasville is named after the first owner of a store in the town. In the late 1800s, this town was started as an area for some farming and ranches. Eventually, that infrastructure led to a cotton gin and flour mill.
In due time, the town started to grow quickly due to the oil boom.
Unfortunately, just a few years later some of the landmark buildings were burned to the ground in a large fire.
As business declined, residents started to leave and Eliasville never quite recovered.
The population graph of Sherwood continued to go up and down throughout the centuries.
Sherwood originally started as a country seat in the late 1800s. There was a courthouse and post office established to carry out business operations both privately and for the government.
A nearby town called Mertzon started to grow faster and drew people away. Eventually the town steadily declined by the late 1900s the population was below 50. At the turn of the century it popped back up nearly tripling to 150.
While that is still considered tiny compared to the large metroplexes we see now, there may be more to come for this tiny Texas ghost town that could!
Maybe one day Sherwood will become a hub again and the businesses that were once lucrative there will gain their shine back.
Texas Ghost Towns Map