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West of Notrees
West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semiarid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas.
There is a general lack of consensus regarding the boundaries that separate East and West Texas. Walter Prescott Webb, the American historian and geographer, suggested the 98th meridian separates East and West Texas. The Texas writer A.C. Greene proposed that West Texas extends west of the Brazos River. Perhaps, the truth is no distinct line separates them. Rather, some places are clearly in West Texas and some are clearly in East Texas, and then some fall within a transitional zone between these two regions.
West Texas is often subdivided according to distinct physiographic features. The portion of West Texas that lies west of the Pecos River is often referred to as "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos", a term first introduced in 1887 by the Texas geologist Robert T. Hill. The Trans-Pecos lies within the Chihuahuan Desert, the most arid portion of the state. Another important subdivision of West Texas is the Llano Estacado, a vast region of high, level plains extending into Eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. To the east of the Llano Estacado lies the “redbed country” of the Rolling Plains and to the south of the Llano Estacado lies the Edwards Plateau. The Rolling Plains and the Edwards Plateau subregions act as transitional zones between East and West Texas.
West Texas has a much lower population density than the rest of the state. It was once mostly inhabited by nomadic Native American tribes, such as the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa, until after the Civil War. It does not have as many ties to other parts of the South as does East Texas. There is also a very large Hispanic population near the Rio Grande. Many Mexicans fled Ojinaga and walked to Stonewall during the Mexican revolution in the early days of the 20th century. Many Mexican-Americans still have close family ties in Mexico.
West Texas receives much less rainfall than the rest of Texas and has an arid or semiarid climate, requiring most of its scant agriculture to be heavily dependent on irrigation. This irrigation, and water taken out farther north for the needs of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, has reduced the once mighty Rio Grande to a stream in some places, even dry at times. Much of West Texas has rugged terrain, including many small mountain ranges while there are none in other parts of the state.
The Guadalupe Mountains at sunset
Monahans Sandhills of West Texas
View from Haynes Ridge in Caprock Canyons, Briscoe County, Texas
The area is known for its conservative politics, except for the El Paso area. Some of the most heavily Republican counties in the United States are located in the region. Former President George W. Bush spent most of his childhood in West Texas. This region was one of the first areas of Texas to abandon its "Solid South" Democratic roots; some counties have not supported a Democrat for president since 1948.
Major industries include livestock, petroleum and natural gas production, textiles such as cotton, grain and because of its proximity to the Mexican border, the maquiladora industry. West Texas has become notable for its numerous wind turbines producing clean, alternative electricity.
Pumpjacks, like this one south of Midland, are a common sight in West Texas oil fields.
Irrigated agriculture in West Texas
A freight train crossing the level plains of the Llano Estacado
Cities and towns of West Texas
Some of the smaller West Texas cities and towns include: Alpine, Andrews, Big Spring, Brownfield, Canyon, Crane, Fort Stockton, Hale Center, Iraan, Kermit, Lamesa, Levelland, Littlefield, Marfa, McCamey, Monahans, Ozona, Pampa, Pecos, Plainview, Post, Rankin, Seminole, Slaton, Snyder, Socorro, Sweetwater, and Van Horn, Texas.
- Cochran, M., Lumpkin, J. and Heflin, R. 1999. West Texas: a portrait of its people and their raw and wondrous land. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 176 pp.
- Webb, W.P. 1935. The Texas Rangers: a century of frontier defense. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 583 pp.
- Greene, A.C. 1998. Sketches from the five states of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 176 pp.
- Hill, R.T. 1887. The topography and geology of the Cross Timbers and surrounding regions in Northern Texas. The American Journal of Science, 3rd Series, 33:291-303.