Where exactly does West Texas begin?

Jun 14, 2017

A map of oak-tree growth in Texas.
Credit Texas Standard

This week the radio newsmagazine Texas Standard asked a question that Panhandle folks have been wondering for years. Where exactly does West Texas begin? And why are those of us in the northernmost part of the state referred to as “West Texans”?

The answer, surprisingly , may have to do with oak trees.

When you look at a map of oak tree growth in Texas, you can see a very distinct line stretching from the border east of Big Bend up past San Angelo and Abilene, and concluding around Wichita Falls. Oak trees need more rain than is available in the western part of the state.

So, when you drive across Texas there’s a distinct sense that the trees have vanished and the horizon has opened up. This sudden openness is what gives West Texas its distinctiveness—and its mystique.