At almost 900 miles, U.S. Highway 83 in Texas is the longest two-lane highway in any of the 50 states. It has been derisively called the “Road to Nowhere,” but not for history buffs. Travelers can take a deep dive into the Lone Star State’s history visiting these 10 sites on what some call The Last American Highway.
Travelers on Highway 83 will follow in the footsteps of Texas legends such as Colonel Rip Ford, Bonnie and Clyde, Coach Tom Landry, Freddy Fender, Chief Quanah Parker and Astronaut Alan Bean
Want to know more? Click here to read The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83 in Texas. Click here to join The Fans of U.S. Route 83 page on Facebook.
Just a few miles west of Highway 83 north of Brownsville, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park is where future president General Zachary Taylor squared off with Mexican General Mariano Arista in the first major battle of the Mexican-American War.
General Robert E. Lee came to the Rio Grande Valley in 1860 to quell a border uprising. While he only stayed here a few weeks, this one-story home inside the former Ringgold Barracks has been known ever since as the Lee House.
Step back in time in Roma, which was the last navigable port for steamboats plying the Rio Grande. The buildings are so well preserved that the town was used as a backdrop in the Marlon Brando film, Viva Zapata!
Six Flags Over Texas? Not in Laredo. The short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande puts that tally up to seven. This small building on St. Augustine Square in Laredo was said to have housed the capitol of this wannabe republic that sought independence from Mexico. The rebellion only lasted ten months.
A World War II internment camp housed Japanese, German and Italian families whom the authorities believed at the time to be a threat to the nation. Visitors can still see the foundations of the buildings just to the east of the town’s high school.
The Presidio San Saba, located on the edge of the town’s golf course, was where the Spanish Empire clashed with the Comanche Empire for control of Texas on March 16, 1758. The nearby mission was overrun by thousands of warriors and the massacre spelled the begging of the end for the Spanish rulers.
Frontier Texas! is a 14,000 square foot history museum dedicated to West Texas’ Wild West Days located in downtown Abilene. The “Guns of the West” is a highlight of this interactive museum. Learn about early settlers, the buffalo hunters and the Comanche Empire in its other exhibits.
Perhaps the most infamous incident to happen on Highway 83 was when Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, accidentally drove a stolen car into the Salt Fork of The Red River north of Wellington on June 10, 1933. A nearby family came to help but were taken hostage for their troubles. Bonnie suffered from her injuries for the remainder of her short life.
This is where the 1,885 mile long U.S. Highway 83 intersects with the famous Route 66. The town has preserved the historic art deco-style U Drop Inn/Conoco station so travelers can relive the golden age of motor travel. Check out the booth where Elvis dined.
Perryton is the “Top of Texas.” Visit the Museum of the Plains, which displays some of the massive steam-powered tractors that helped move the town building-by-building to its present location when the railroad came through in 1919.
BONUS! Keep your eyes peeled for the arrow sculptures in the Texas Panhandle that commemorate the life of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. Here is one just off Highway 83 in Canadian, Texas.
Stew Magnuson is the author of The Highway 83 Chronicles, a series of three books that uncovers forgotten history found along U.S. Highway 83 in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83 in Texas and the other two books in the trilogy are available by CLICKING HERE, or in bookstores and museum gift shops along the road including: Museum of the Plains, Perryton; Gageby Store, Canadian; Olde Town Mall, Shamrock; Pioneer West Museum, Shamrock; The Book Nook, Hamlin; Cactus Books, San Angelo; Frontier Texas; Abilene; Texas Star Trading, Abilene; The Crossing Travel Market, Winters; and Getty Street Marketplace, Uvalde.
The Twig in San Antonio and BookPeople in Austin.