Fort Griffin State Historic Site lies in what is known in Texas as the Big Empty. The wide open spaces where you’re likely to see more deer than people during a weekend. North of Abilene, the fort was built along the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, after the Civil War as the Red River Indian Wars were escalating. Today, you can visit the remains of the fort. see the Texas State Longhorn herd, fish and camp along the river and explore this historic river valley.
We visited during Easter Weekend, since we heard that the jackrabbits of this area were the some of the largest in the state! However, you would have thought it was Thanksgiving, because there were wild turkeys everywhere we looked, and we could hear them all around us at dusk and again at dawn!
If you don’t follow me on Instagram at @Havingfuninthetexassun, you missed my story but I’ll tell it here. We were headed out to the park when we spotted a truck pulled over with a smashed in windshield, and a huge tom turkey lying in the road! Those giant drumsticks had flown into his windshield!
Fort Griffin has been the permanent home of the official Texas Longhorn Herd, since 1948. The herd dates back to the cattle acquired by J. Frank Dobie and donated to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Click HERE to read more about the herd.
During the Spring, Summer and Fall, Fort Griffin offers the Horns and Tales Longhorn Program every Saturday at 2pm at the cattle pens. Program is FREE with park admission.
The Park Interpretive Center
Operated by the Texas Historical Commission, Fort Griffin is not a Texas State Park, and passes are not accepted. Admission is $4/adult and $3/students and 5 and under are FREE. A Family Fee is 3 admissions for $8.
If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Jane working at the desk, who grew up in the area and is a wealth of knowledge about the history of Fort Griffin and the area! Get a map and be sure to take time to ask her to tell you a little about it!
Enjoy the air conditioning as you browse the exhibits.
My son putting on some of the Texas settlers clothings.
The Park offers complementary first-come use of their golf carts, since it’s such a big place to explore!
These are some of the Officers Quarters.
It’s amazing how small the buildings and the bed were!
At one time, there were over 90 buildings here at the fort, although now there are only the remains of a few. Most of the buildings were built quickly, using wood from the cottonwood trees that grow along the Brazos River. Only 6 of the buildings were made of stone, and of course, the wood buildings didn’t last very long.
The Fort Parade Grounds.
Fort Griffin is part of the Texas Forts Trail. If you love visiting the old forts, click HERE for more information.
I love the ruins at the Fort.
We had fun taking pictures, and just look at how blue the sky is in the Big Empty!
That same blue sky is filled each night with billions of stars out here! Fort Griffin has one of the darkest skies in Texas, and the park often offers star parties. Star Party dates are listed on the website calendar and Upcoming Events.
For the best viewing of the stars and to see the Milky Way, visit on a moonless night. Click HERE for a calendar of the moon phases!
If you would like to see some of those amazing images of the Fort at night, and trust me you do, click HERE!
We didn’t see any wildlife while touring the fort, but don’t doubt that it is there. Watch where you step, especially in shady places where animals might try to get out of the sun!
Some of the old hardware is still lying around.
The Friends of Fort Griffin recently rebuilt this old chimney, once part of the Barracks.
We were at the Fort over an hour, and were the only ones there, so we could really take our time walking around and exploring everything!
The Fort Griffin Fandangle is the oldest running outdoor musical in Texas, telling the story of Fort Griffin. It runs for 2 weekends in June at the Prairie Theater in Albany! Click HERE for more information.
To learn a little more about the Texas Indian Wars, click HERE to visit Texas Beyond History’s website on the Red River War.
The Friends of Fort Davis have also rebuilt the Bakery.
Unlike Fort Richardson in Jacksboro, which has been completely rebuilt to the smallest details, even with fake food on the tables, I really love the contrast of the ruins at Fort Griffin. The bakery, which was almost completely rebuilt, even has a working bakery!
After we returned the golf cart, we were able to drive down to the tank where many of the longhorn cattle were resting. There were several families down here fishing, as well.
The Jackson-Ward House, built in 1874.
Each Fall, the Fort Celebrates Living History Days.
This is my youngest back in 2011, when he was only 3 years old! The cannoniers let him help them count down before they fired the cannon (once he moved, of course). I absolutely love the firing of the cannons, and the huge smoke rings that slowly waft up after they are fired!
There are 30 campgrounds at the Fort, and we were staying in one for the weekend. They accept reservations, but sites are chosen on a first come basis. When we arrived, we lucked into a site next to the playground, and a short walk to the restrooms.
My 10-year-old is earning his Weblos Outdoorsman Badge, which includes setting up a tent without adult help.
The moon was full during our stay, which was beautiful to see! The full moon does hamper seeing the stars, however. After we went to bed, we were serenaded all night by coyotes, which were music to my ears but a little upsetting to our pup at first! She quickly calmed down.
We spotted this plane crop-dusting, and pulled over to watch him for a few minutes. When he flew near the windmill, and closer to us, my daughter grabbed the camera to get this great picture!
Jane also gave us a few maps of other things to see outside the fort grounds, one of them is what use to be the town of Fort Griffin. Called “the flats”, it was once the largest town west of Fort Worth, and not known for it’s Sunday School service. Known as “Babylon on the Brazos”, legendary western characters such as Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and more all hung their hat in Fort Griffin at one time or another.
What remains of the town is now on private property, the Collins Creek Ranch. You can drive past the old town but they ask that you not park and walk around.
This old jail with the cactus growing on top may be one of my favorite buildings!
If you’d like to read more about The Flats, click HERE to visit the Legends of America website.
If tent or RV camping is not your thing, but you want to experience the Big Empty, consider staying at Collins Creek Ranch! They have cute little cabins, many in the historical buildings! Click HERE to visit their website.
Fort Griffin marks the spot where two huge cattle drives crossed! Click HERE for a great article from the Texas State Historical Association on the Texas cattle drives!
We stopped at this old bridge across the Brazos River to take a few pictures.
We then took a drive out on some of the prettiest of Texas dirt roads to find the marker of the Commanche Indian Reservation.
Click HERE to read more.
The Reservation was set next to Camp Cooper, which was under the command of Lt. Col Robert E. Lee. This was his first command of a fort. Click HERE to visit the Texas State Historical Association’s website and read more.
The fertile land of the Brazos River Valley was a beautiful green, but deeper in summer it’s a hot area with little shade and water. Droughts and grasshoppers were a constant nuisance to farmers in the area. In 1875, Fort Griffin was hit by the Rocky Mountain Locust Plague, where millions of locust turned the skies black, and in a few hours ate everything in sight, leaving behind nothing on the trees, or ground. Click HERE to read more about it.
We also found this still standing rock wall.
Starving, we made the drive into Albany, which is a cute little town with a historic square.
Things To Do in Albany
The Old Jail Art Center is a surprising art museum located in the old jail next to the Shackelford County Courthouse. Click HERE to read more.
The Fort Griffin General Merchandise or “Beehive” is a neat place to visit for a good steak! The first of the two Beehive Steakhouses, the other is in Abilene. Click HERE to visit their website.
Vintage Vanilla Soda Fountain makes fun malts and milkshakes! Click HERE to visit their website.
Fort Griffin State Historic Site
1701 N Us Highway 283, Albany
Click HERE to visit their website.
Keep Having Fun in the Texas Sun!
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