Texas, United States

About Texas

Texas is the second-largest U.S. state in both area and population, and the largest state in the contiguous United States. Located in the South Central United States, Texas is bordered by Mexico to the south, New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, while San Antonio is the seventh largest in the United States. Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston are the fourth and sixth largest United States metropolitan areas, respectively. Other major cities include San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin—the state capital. Due to its size and geologic features such as the Balcones Fault, Texas contains diverse landscapes that resemble both the American South and the Southwest. Today it has more Fortune 500 companies than any other U.S. state. With a growing base of industry, the state leads in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. It leads the nation in export revenue since 2002 and has the second-highest gross state product.

Texas Tourism and Recreation

Each of the state's seven major tourist regions offers outstanding attractions. East Texas has one of the state's oldest cities, Nacogdoches, with the nation's oldest public thoroughfare and a reconstruction of the Old Stone Fort, a Spanish trading post dating from 1779. Jefferson, an important 19th-century inland port, has many old homes, including Excelsior House. Tyler, which bills itself as the rose capital of the world, features a 28-acre municipal rose garden and puts on a Rose Festival each October. The Gulf Coast region of southeastern Texas offers the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, the Astrodome sports stadium and adjacent Astroworld amusement park, and a profusion of museums, galleries, and shops, all in metropolitan Houston; Spindletop Park, in Beaumont, commemorating the state's first great oil gusher; Galveston's sandy beaches, deep-sea fishing, and Sea-Arama Marineworld; and the Padre Island National Seashore.

To the north, the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area (including Arlington) has numerous cultural and entertainment attractions, including the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park and the state fair held in Dallas each October. South Texas has the state's most famous historic site—the Alamo, in San Antonio, which also contains HemisFair Plaza and Brackenndge Park. The Rio Grande Valley Museum, at Harlingen, is popular with visitors, as is the King Ranch headquarters in Kleberg County.

Texas's park system includes Palo Duro Canyon, Big Creek (Ft. Bend County), Brazos Island (Cameron County), Caddo Lake (Harrison County), Dinosaur Valley (Somervell County), Eisenhower (Grayson County), Galveston Island, and Longhorn Cavern (Burnet County). State historical parks include San Jacinto Battleground (east Harris County), Texas State Railroad (Anderson and Cherokee counties), and Washington-on-the-Brazos (Washington County). Hunting and fishing are extremely popular in Texas. White-tailed deer are hunted as a way of cutting the wildlife population; thousands of jabalina and wild turkeys are shot annually.

Texas Climate

Texas has a climate as varied as its topography. Summer brings average temperatures of 96°F (36°C) in the southwest, 91°F (33°C) in Amarillo in the panhandle, and 88°F (31°C) on the Gulf Coast between April and October, while winters range from 29°F (-2°C) to 48°F (9°C) from November to March. The Gulf Coast generally experiences hot and humid summers, but mild winters. The coast is also prone to heavy rainfall, hurricanes and tornadoes. Colder winters with snowfall occur in the northwestern panhandle, whereas dry and hot conditions exist along the Mexican border, with the least amount of rainfall in the state.

Texas's great size and topographic variety make climatic description difficult. Brownsville, at the mouth of the Rio Grande, has had no measurable snowfall during all the years that records have been kept, but Vega, in the panhandle, averages 23 in (58 cm) of snowfall per year. Near the Louisiana border, rainfall exceeds 56 in (142 cm) annually, while in parts of extreme West Texas, rainfall averages less than 8 in (20 cm). Average annual precipitation in Dallas (1971–2000) was 34.7 in (88 cm); in El Paso, 9.4 in (23.9 cm); and in Houston, 47.8 in (121.4 cm).

Generally, a maritime climate prevails along the Gulf coast, with continental conditions inland; the Balcones Escarpment is the main dividing line between the two zones, but they are not completely isolated from each other's influence. Texas has two basic seasons—a hot summer that may last from April through October, and a winter that starts in November and usually lasts until March. When summer ends, the state is too dry for autumn foliage, except in East Texas. Temperatures in El Paso, in the southwest, range from a mean January minimum of 29°F (–2°C) to a mean July maximum of 96°F (36°C); at Amarillo, in the panhandle, from 23°F (–5°C) in January to 91°F (33°C) in July; and at Galveston, on the Gulf, from 48°F (9°C) in January to 88°F (31°C) in August.