You don’t have to travel very far around Central Texas before you find the many historic buildings tied to Texas-born President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
As the 36th leader of the United States, he made huge strides in transforming a nation in the way of education, civil rights and poverty, leaving behind a brightly glowing legacy and park that serves in his memory.
The Texas Hill Country is still home to LBJ and his early family, starting in Stonewall just on the edge of Johnson City. Here is where you’ll find Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site, the birthplace and early living space for the future Senator and President.
A Working Ranch in the Heart of the Hill Country
Located just off Highway 290, 16 miles before you reach Fredericksburg, the historic site is a great stop along the way to other great Hill Country towns. It has been kept up over the years by friends of the Johnson family looking to keep his memory alive and also the Texas Parks and Wildlife. But the plans for a tourist-friendly park and ranch started much earlier than present day, when LBJ and Lady Bird were still alive.
Under the condition that the ranch still serve as a working ranch and not just some remnant of generations of yore, LBJ set aside the wide open range just on the edge of the Pedernales River and in 1965 the land was accepted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the park was opened in 1970.
717.9 acres of sprawling Texas landscape that was home to LBJ and his wife in their finals days is now open to the public, offering self-guided tours around most of the drive-able portion of the park and a guided tour of the Texas White House. By the end of your trip you will walk away with a deeper understanding of the man behind such movements as early healthcare reform and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The land is still used to raise Hereford (cattle), which are descendants of President LBJ’s registered herd. It doesn’t take long on the tour to find a few lazing about, which is part of the charm of visiting such a historic ranch. Picnic areas and nature trails make this a park you could enjoy all day if you wanted, a great reason to get out of the car and stretch those legs.
A President’s Birthplace and Final Resting Place
Once you get into the park and stop in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Visitor Center for your maps and permit, you’re on your way to a trip back through time, starting with Trinity Lutheran Church, LBJ’s earliest church congregation.
Continue along Ranch Road 1 to Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse that taught the young mind of the future President, a place he would return to when signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act year later.
Right down the road you’ll be able to explore the reconstructed birthplace of LBJ, complete with a recorded tour that you can enjoy as you see the humble beginnings of the politician. Across the street under the shade of decades-old Live oak trees is the Johnson Family Cemetery, which is where LBJ was laid to rest in 1973.
Watch out for those cows, and continue on to the longest stretch of the drive, where you drive around the outskirts of the President’s landing strip for his Presidential jet. You’ll see livestock along the way, and the pens and corrals by the show barn near the end of Bailey Road.
Come back toward the Hangar and Visitors Center to get a spot on the Texas White House guided tour, your chance to step into the home of Lyndon Baines Johnson in the final years of his life. You’ll also be able to view exhibits and informational videos here, which is a great place to bring the kids to continue the education.
Step Back in Time at the Living History Farm
One of the best parts of the visit is a chance to stop by the Sauer-Beckmann Farm Living History Farm, which dates back to the early 1900s. It was purchased from the Beckmann Family in 1966 and was restored to its current condition, where time has stood still ever since.
It’s a relic of the past that serves to transport visitors to a time period when LBJ was born and reared, a great chance to relive the early days and put you in the right mindset for a tour of the historic park.
In the end, you’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for the man who came from such humble beginnings and changed the country so much.
And be sure to stop by nearby Johnson City to visit Johnson’s boyhood home and Johnson Settlement, more family homes that tie in historically to the region.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
199 Park Road 52, Stonewall, TX 78671
Open 8am-5pm daily except holidays.