County Magazine | February 13, 2023
I’m always up for a good day trip, but sometimes life calls for an extended getaway. When this happens, I’ll load up my camping gear and set out on an adventure. This happens frequently in the spring when the weather improves and I’m in dire need of a post-winter break. While Texas state parks are an obvious choice and national parks offer some great escapes, I’m always delighted to find an incredible county park that beckons me in with a touch of history and nature. This happened on a recent trip in Anahuac, where I found myself bedding down with the first soldiers of the Texas Revolution and a swamp full of alligators.
Anahuac is the county seat of Chambers County, which sits just east of Houston on the other side of Trinity Bay. Locals say there are more alligators than people in Anahuac, which is how this town became the official “Alligator Capital of Texas.” Just south of the historic district and right on the water’s edge sits Fort Anahuac Park, a small but important park that is owned and stewarded by Chambers County. I circled through and picked out a camping spot for the night right next to a row of RV hookups. Every September, this park fills with thousands of patrons for the annual Gator Fest, but on this spring day, I felt like I had the entire place to myself.
I walked to the edge of the bay and stared out at the brackish water, wondering how many alligators were truly lurking just underneath the surface. For my own safety, I deemed it too cold to swim. I meandered past the boat ramp and fishing pier, where I found a really cool boardwalk and observation tower right in the middle of the marsh. I constantly scanned the water for gators, but the real wildlife show was in the sky as hundreds of birds migrated overhead.
I walked back to my campsite and noticed a number of historical markers and displays recounting the fascinating story of this park and the fort that stood on this ground. I learned that in October of 1830, back when “Tejas” was part of Mexico, the government sent a general to Anahuac to establish a garrison and stop the influx of Anglo settlers coming from the United States. As you might imagine, this general was not well liked, and in 1832 he arrested William B. Travis and his law partner for attempting a hoax to release and recapture runaway slaves. This led to a series of gun fights and skirmishes known as the “Anahuac Disturbances” that some call the “First Shots of the Texas Revolution.” To mark the site, Chambers County has erected a monument with two soldiers taking the “First Stand” for Texas.
I was amazed that I had never heard this story or visited this park before, but I was happy that there are folks in Chambers County working to make sure this story lives on. My job was to live through the night camping right next to the gator-infested marsh.
Texas Counties Delivers
by Chet Garner
Read about Texas counties’ rich history, culture and service to their communities in each issue of County magazine. Watch Chet on PBS’ “The Daytripper” and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ChetTripper. He can also be found on YouTube and Facebook @thedaytrippertv.