If you’re looking for abandoned places in Texas, you’re in the right place. Below are 22 of my favorite abandoned locations across the Lone Star state.
Abandoned Places In Texas
1. Old Williamson County Jail
Opened in 1889, this old but sturdy sandstone jail is where prisoners waiting to be sentenced would pass their time. The jail’s medieval design wasn’t just for show. In order to tame the last parts of the true wild west, the law needed to let everyone know that inside, weren’t busting their way out.
Countless murders, thieves, and outlaws spent their life behind these bars, but one prisoner stands out for being particularly gruesome. Henry Lee Lucas was accused of killing at least 11 people, with him confessing to killing many more. The judge would rule in favor of the death penalty, but ultimately Henry Lee would serve life behind bars elsewhere.
The jail was in continuous use until 1989 when its solid sandstone blocks began to crumble at the hands of time. It was abandoned for a long while, with the occasional Halloween event opening inside every season or so.
2. Fort McKavett State Historic Site
Fort McKavett was one of many forts built in 1852 to protect merchants and travelers headed west towards California. The fort was abandoned only eight years after opening but was soon reactivated to serve during the Civil War. In 1861 the castle was a POW camp operated by the confederates, housing dozens of captured soldiers.
The fort was again brief abandoned and reactivated until being closed for good in June of 1883. Over the years the harsh Texas heat and strong southern winds have eroded the fort away to a mere shell of itself. Thankfully, the fort was deemed a historical landmark in 1936 and received funds for restoration in the upcoming years.
Today, the fort is considered one of the easier abandoned places in Texas to explore, allowing those both young and old to take a step back in time and experience one of the last forts that tamed the wild west.
3. Old Kent County Jail
In 1894 this quaint but hardy jailhouse was erected right next to the Kent County Courthouse to hold moonshiners, murders, and thieves while they awaited their sentencing. The jail is constructed of bright red sandstone, which was mined from a quarry not too far from where the building sits today.
Off all the jailhouses during the late 1800s, the old Kent County Jail was one of the hardest to escape from. All attempts to escape this jail had failed.
Inside is covered in graffiti with numerous cramped cells lined up next to each other. The heavy iron doors still remain in surprisingly great condition. Despite years of neglect, the building is still rock solid. This place is a very easy exploration but work the still worth the stop for seasoned explores passing through.
4. Maxdale Bridge
Covered in layers of rust and graffiti, the Maxdale bridge hovers above a shallow portion of the Lampasas river slowly decaying with time. Built in 1914, the bridge was constructed in response to repeated flooding in the area. The bridge would allow traffic to travel from a local farm road to the nearby Maxdale cemetery.
Ironically, before the first bridge was completed, it was wiped out by a flood. Again, the county approved another more sturdy bridge be constructed. This pin-connected Parker tussle would help both vehicles and pedestrians cross safely and would withstand floodwaters in the future.
With the bridge being so close to the oldest cemetery in the county, folklore surrounds both the cemetery and the old bridge. Nearby you can find the graves of the town’s original settlers, and veterans from the Civil War all the way through the Korean War.
Investigators have captured voices of children playing on the bridge on recorders and claim it to be haunted. Others claim a man hung himself from the bridge at some point in time. It’s tough to say what’s fact from fiction at this point. However, the bridge is very cool to photograph during the golden hours and is great for anyone who also enjoys really old cemeteries.
5. Presidio de San Saba
Presidio de San Saba is a ruined Spanish fort dating back to 1757 that is now barely still standing. The fort was home to over 300 Spanish soldiers and their families who worked to defend the compound from invaders. But fortress had other goals than defense.
Captain Don Diego Ortiz Parilla (wow, what a mouthful) was on a mission. We would use the fort to not only protect the nearby ports, but would launch scouting parties to investigate rumors of land rich with silver in the nearby area. This encroachment didn’t go over well with the local native Apache, who would fight off and ambush the Spanish quite often.
The hate for Spanish invaders quickly grew. So much so that four separate native tribes joined forces to repel them. Eventually in 1758, the combined native forces attacked San Saba stealing everything and burning the fortress down. The ruins would remain semi-operational but would never be rebuilt. It was officially abandoned in 1772.
Today the site is used by budding archeologists to test their skills, and serves as an easy place to explore for anyone nearby.
Teetering on the edge of Texas and New Mexico, the Glenrio ghost town sit quietly decaying right off the famous Route 66. In its heyday, the area was bustling with travelers headed west and farmers who would tend the land just across the road.
Like so many ghost towns, Glenrio was birthed as the Pacific Railroad carved its way through the American west. Gelenrio was established as a small ranch town, home to mostly ranchers and their cattle. By 1920 the town was settled in quite nicely with a post office, hotel, service stations, and cozy cafes.
When Route 66 was finally finished in the late 30s, Glenrio saw a quick uptick in guests, especially those going on their first nationwide road trip. The town never had many permanent residents, but always drew in travels throughout the years.
When the new interstate replaced Route 66, traffic dried up and the population of Glenrio would eventually fall to zero. If you’re following the old Route 66 trail, do not pass up on this ghost town. There’s plenty of old buildings still left to explore.
7. Terlingua Ghost Town
Terlingua like many ghost towns, was an old mining town established just after the turn of the century. Established in 1903, the Chisos Mining Company would extract massive amounts of quicksilver from the ground over the next 30 years. Along with being one of the largest quicksilver producers, the mining company also extracted and processed cinnabar ore.
Additional surveying in 1914 uncovered a massive vein of cinnabar that ran across the property. This helped the Chisos Mining Company hit record profits through the increased demand during World War I. It’s estimated that nearly 2000 workers and their families live in Terlingua, most of them Mexican laborers.
The town had a doctor, hotel, school, and reliable water for citizens. That’s not to say life was easy for the workers. Many miners, especially the Mexican migrants endured brutal working conditions and often didn’t get access to the nicer amenities provided in the company town.
Production began to taper off during the late 1930s, with the mining company filing for bankruptcy in 1942. When the mine closed, everything was left behind and workers moved on to find more work.
Today, there’s a lot left to explore. Some of the terrain can be challenging and the town is quite remote. Fun fact, Terlingua was the site of the first famous championship chili cookoff in 1967. This tradition still carries on bringing in over 10,000 chili lovers to the area on the first Saturday of every November. If you want to do some exploring, and fancy yourself some Chili, Terlingua is the perfect abandoned ghost town for you.
Tucked away in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Contrabando is an isolated quaint little ghost town that’s just a stone’s throw away from the Mexican border.
There are numerous Adobe structures in and around Contrabando were used in the 1985 film “Uphill all the Way”. Since then, numerous other films such as Lone Star and Dead Man’s Walk would use the scenic desert ghost town as a location to shoot.
In the fall of 2008, widespread flooding caused significant damage to many of the movie props left behind, however, the original Adobe structures were left intact.
The location is quite isolated from much else, making it a serious road trip for those who want to check it out. Explorers be wary, the property nearly borders Mexico. Border patrol agents are likely monitoring the area.
9. Hope Outdoor Gallery
Out of the ruins of a failed house development, Hope Outdoor Gallery is now an urban playground for artists, photographers, and curious passersby. Located directly across the Austin airport, Hope Gallery is one of the more popular abandoned places in Texas.
Over the years artists have painted murals across massive concrete slabs that almost resemble a giant set of stairs from a distance. If you’re in the Austin area, be sure to check it out. The community has embraced this area and occasionally holds community events around the gallery.
If you’re not a lover of graffiti you may want to skip this spot, but those who can appreciate a bit of street art might want to shoot this around the golden hours.
10. Royse City Futuro House
The 1960s was a weird time, full of creative expression, that went beyond just art and fashion. Architect Matti Suuronen built dozens of UFO sci-fi style homes throughout the country to draw in tourists on vacation to rent.
The UFO-shaped homes were extremely durable and prefabricated, making it easy to mass-produce them when needed. While the fiberglass structures were hardy, many homes were demolished due to zoning laws and pushback from the public.
Today, it’s estimated there are only 50 or so left. Unfortunately, the UFO structure in Royse City has been vandalized and graffitied over the years. However, someone painted the UFO with a fresh coat of bright orange paint, giving it a much-needed facelift.
Be sure to check this location out, as the number of UFO homes left from the 60s is only getting smaller.
11. Abandoned Campground
Near the far end of the San Angelo State Park, this sad little campground has been abandoned since the late 90s. Not much is know about the site or why it was abandoned, but many believe it’s due to lack of funding. The site is considerably overgrown with old toilets, a firepit, and a small pavilion. If you do explore the area be sure to wear boots and long pants as there are tons of cacti and snakes in the area.
12. Palace of the Golden Orbs
Commonly referred to as the “Palace of the Golden Orbs”, the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace boldly stands out from all the other buildings around it. It’s hard to miss this five-story monstrosity that supports a massive 40-foot golden orb.
The property encompasses nearly 11 acres which were supposed to have numerous other eye-catching structures on it. When the Buddist owner Master Cheung died, the estate was thrown in disarray. The current leader of the religious sect lives in China and was not able to secure citizenship.
The property is still owned and maintained by the Wu Wei Tien Tao Association, with landscapers, alarms, and security watching over the property. The temple is best photographed from outside, as the interior is unimpressive and monitored with alarms.
13. Stardust Motel Sign
This old sign is one of the few last remnants of the early days of America road trips. While there is no more Stardust Motel, the sign’s retro style makes it stand out from everything else around it. While the sign alone might not be worth a trip in the desert, consider stopping by to check it out if you’re in the area.
The sign is located in a little town call Marfa, home to old folks who never left and eccentric artists who use the old buildings and desert landscape as a source of inspiration. Marfa is also known to experience strange glowing lights in the area. This phenomenon is so well documented that there are even designed places visitors can go to view the famous “Marfa Lights.”
14. Saint Dominic Cemetery Ruins
All that remains of St Dominic’s Church is half a wall and its crumbling archways. The church was built sometime in the mid-1800s when settlers put down roots in the area. The small town did well on its own, but frontier life was far from easy.
Later the isolated little town of D’Hanis would catch a break. In 1881 a major rail line making its way towards California would pass through just a mile north of the settlement. The town subsequently left everything behind and re-established itself closer to the railroad. This is the same railroad that runs along Route 90 today.
St Dominic’s Cemetery and its ruined church is all that remains of the original site of D’Hanis.
15. Mariscal Mine
Another Gem nestled in the center of Big Bend Park is the remains of the Mariscal Mine. At the turn of the century, Mariscal MIne would produce over 106,000 pounds of mercury, accounting for a quarter of all mercury in the country. Demand for mercury was high, especially during World War I where was used for blasting caps and detonators.
The mine employed roughly 40 miners, mostly Mexican laborers who fled their country during the Mexican Revolution. They constructed crude homes out of brush and rock nearby where they could sleep and recharge after long hours in the hot Texas sun.
The mine changed hands a few times over the years, where an overzealous entrepreneur invested heavily back into the mine. Unfortunately, his price prediction in mercury was wrong and the mine was closed in 1943.
Mariscal Mine is one of just many historic places in the area, and definitely worth exploring. Avoid taking anything to help preserve the area for others, and don’t touch any brick structures as many are still highly poisonous with high concentrations of mercury.
16. Chief Drive-in Movie Theater
The Chief Drive-In movie theater is just one of many abandoned drive-ins located throughout the country. As the population in the nearby down declined, so did the need for a drive-in. Fast forward to our digital age and fewer people were venturing out to see movies.
Unlike other outdoor screens, the Chief Drive-In’s large metal structure had enough room for dressing rooms and prop storage for live performance if a film wasn’t playing that night. Today the area is barren, with only the decaying remnants of the screen still visible.
17. Abandoned Branch Davidian Pool
All that remains of the infamous 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian complex is this crumbling concrete pool. If you’re familiar with the massacre or remember it on the news it’s a somber and unique place to visit. While nothing much of interest is left, there are numerous memorials also nearby that you can visit.
The pool is considered private property, but you should have an issue visiting the site.
18. Bexar County Juvenile Home For Boys
Rumors of hauntings swirl around this shell of a building that was once an asylum for troubled boys. It’s tough to separate fact from fiction as there are a lot of conflict stories about what went on here. Of all the abandoned places in Texas, this might have one of the darkest histories. Folklore and ghost stories aside, here’s what I was able to dig up.
The facility was constructed in 1915 and operated as a poor farm. Shortly after its inception, it switched gears to house and reform young male offenders. Conditions were particularly brutal inside, with accounts of beating, and even murder took place here.
The facility was home to violent offenders such as Jesus Samudio, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his co-worker. He confessed that he beat Charles Watson over the head with an iron bar and dumped his body in the near river over an argument about washing milk cans.
The property was abandoned around the late 90s, either due to budget issues or asbestos exposure. The facility is right next to an active corrections facility, making it more suited for seasoned explorers.
19. The Baker Hotel
The Baker Hotel towers over the surrounding town of Mineral Springs, dominating the skyline and small-town buildings around it. In the 1930s, people from across the country would flock to Mineral Springs to experience the “healing” properties of their mineral water.
To accommodate the travelers, Texas hotel tycoon Theodore Basher Baker drafted the plans for what would come to be the Baker Hotel. The hotel was finished in 1929 and featured lavish finishings and ornate architecture.
A massive swimming pool filled with mineral water was the first thing that would greet you in the hotel lobby. Like Baker, the pool was Olympic in size, and would be the first swimming pool in the state of Texas.
The Baker Hotel and healing spa would boom throughout the 30s, celebrities and the wealthy would attend galas, events, and private spa sessions in the hotel. Much like the mineral springs, funds of the Baker hotel were slowing drying up.
As the 1930s came to a close, doctors were promoting the discovery of antibiotics and penicillin. These new advancements cast a steep shadow on benefits from spring water. The hotel would remain in a state of decline until closing for good in 1972.
Today there are plans to restore the hotel, but as for now, it sits in a state of decay.
20. Aldridge Sawmill
Nestled in the Angelina forest, massive concrete ruins jut up from the ground wrapped in vines and covered in brush. These modern-day ruins are all that’s left of the Aldridge Sawmill. Named after Hal Aldridge in 1890, the sawmill would be pivotal in providing lumber to areas before the establishment of a local railroad.
Using the Neches River, pine lumber could be transported all across Texas. The river was also important for the operation of the mill boiler, which required water to work effectively. The mill was extremely successful, producing nearly 75,000 feet of lumber each day. This success however would be the mills downfall. On August 25, 1911, the mill caught fire destroying everything.
Just a year later the Mill would be rebuilt and employ 500 workers from the nearby area to keep it up and running. But fire would soon ravage the mill again. In 1914 an arsonist damaged the mill, with another fire five years later completely wiping it out a second time.
By 1920 the owner had moved, and the small company town of Aldridge was abandoned.
21. Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant
It’s hard to imagine that these overgrown concrete structures once produced over 393,000,000 pounds of TNT. Now a nature preserve, the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant was established in 1942 in partnership with Monsanto to produce explosives.
During the mid-1950s, Longhorn would assemble rocket engines for Nike-Hercules and Falcon rockets
The plant was massive, and the span of its ruins tell the tale. The property was nearly 8500 acres with nearly 500 buildings, making it one of the largest military factories in the state. Notably, in 1987, the plant was used to destroy nuclear-capable missiles after the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
After 55 years of service, the Army determined Longhorn was in excess of its needs and closed the in 1997. The area was deemed a Superfund site due to land contamination caused by years of industry. Even with the site being a wildlife preserve, the cleanup still continues.
22. Old Crawford Mill
One of the most iconic abandoned places in Texas is hands down the Old Crawford Mill. Made famous from its debut in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), the old mill hasn’t gotten much love since its time on the silver screen. In the movie, the Crawford mill was a sick playground for the members of the Hewitt family.
The location is a cool place to shoot, especially if you remember all the angles it was filmed during the movie. While there’s not much left inside today, who’s to say whackjobs aren’t skulking around in it at night. Explore with caution.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Texas, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.