A Brief History
During the Spanish colonial period in America, royal roads tied far-flung regions with Mexico City. One such road was El Camino Real de los Tejas, which provided the primary overland route to the Red River Valley, in what is now Louisiana, from Mexico across the Rio Grande.
Settlers, missionaries, and soldiers followed various roads and trails along the 2,500 miles of this route to populate the settlements, missions, and presidios of East Texas and Northwest Louisiana.
El Camino Real de los Tejas connected a series of Spanish missions and posts, from Mexico City to Los Adaes, the first capital of the Texas province. It linked a variety of cultural and linguistic groups, and served as an agent for cultural diffusion, biological exchange, and communication. Routes used by Spanish explorers that became the camino real followed established Indian trails and trade routes, and its development had irreversible impacts on the native people of Texas and Louisiana.
Spanish entradas and the establishment of missions and presidios along the camino real routes indicated Spanish claims to the region, part of the larger 17th century power struggle among Spain, France, and England to control North America. The road served as an agent of change, being a conduit for exploration, trade, migration, settlement, and movement of cattle and other livestock.
The camino real provided access to armies on the move for more than 150 years, including those of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States, and helped determine the southern and western boundaries of the United States and Mexico. Thousands of American immigrants into Texas arrived via a section of the camino real known as the San Antonio Road. Their presence and activities led to revolt against Mexico, and to Texas independence and eventual statehood.
Use of El Camino Real de los Tejas fostered the mix of Spanish and Mexican traditions, laws, and cultures with those of America, resulting in a rich legacy reflected in the people, landscapes, place names, languages, music, and arts of Texas and Louisiana today.
Links to More History
Read stories about the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, and learn about important places along its stretch and the people who traveled it. Browse the wayside exhibits that are installed along the way to tell some of those stories. If you want to know even more, find books to read in our bibliography and dig into research related to the trail.