Texans and people writing about Texas often find it helpful to subdivide the large state's area into regions, such as north Texas, south Texas, east Texas, west Texas, and central Texas. Each of these regions has its own geographical and cultural identity.
While most Texans have a general understanding of the meaning of terms like "east Texas" and "west Texas," there are not any places that are organized as and named "East Texas" or "West Texas" as such, and any two people are likely to describe the boundaries of these regions differently. Nevertheless, these region names are used constantly, so it helps to lay them out on a map, even if for nothing else than as a starting point for discussion.
Since the mid-to-late 1960s, the counties of Texas have been organized into 24 separate area-wide councils and commissions. With names like "East Texas Council of Governments" and "South Texas Development Council," these voluntary-membership organizations provide insight into the regional identity of their members. Our map below consolidates these 24 area bodies into a total of seven regions.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services consolidates the 24 area councils of governments into 11 regions. In east, central, and south Texas and on the Gulf Coast, the HHS regions align with ours. In north and west Texas and the Panhandle, our three regions become five HHS regions, with somewhat different alignments. The Texas HHS regions can be viewed as you hover over our map.
|Region Name||Number of
|Upper Gulf Coast||13||6,087,133||12,189||499.4||39.1||33.5||17.7||6.9||2.8|
The Texas Panhandle derives its name from its proximity to the distinctive handle-shaped section of neighboring Oklahoma. It consists of the northwesternmost 26 counties in Texas: Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Childress, Collingsworth, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Donley, Gray, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher, and Wheeler. These counties make up the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the region called North Texas does not include the counties at the most northern latitudes; those are referred to as the Panhandle. Instead, north Texas refers to the area that is north of the central part of the state. It includes, roughly speaking, the metropolitan areas of Dallas-Fort Worth and Wichita Falls and their surrounding counties. North Texas does not include Abilene to the west, Waco to the south, or Tyler to the east.
Our map of the regions of Texas places 29 counties in north Texas. These include:
East of the Trinity River, Texas begins to take on a Southern appearance that resembles its neighbors, Arkansas and Louisiana. A dense pine forest known as the Piney Woods covers the entire region. so much that "Piney Woods" and "east Texas" can usually be used interchangeably.
Our map of the regions of Texas places the following 38 counties in east Texas:
Although Houston and the counties surrounding it are unquestionably in the southern half of the state, their region's climate, geography, and demographic makeup is dissimilar from the region called south Texas. By the same token, although the Houston area is definitely in the eastern part of the state, it is not usually considered part of east Texas. Instead, this area makes up its own region. We call it "Upper Gulf Coast" to distinguish it from the coastal counties of south Texas.
The Upper Gulf Coast region consists of the 13 counties that belong to the Houston-Galveston Area Council: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton. This same group of 13 counties is referred to as the Gulf Coast region by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
The counties of Walker, Liberty, and Chambers are also commonly considered to be part of east Texas.
South Texas consists roughly of the territory from the San Antonio metropolitan area to the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico.
Our map of the regions of Texas places the following 47 counties in south Texas:
There are probably more definitions for west Texas than for any other region of the state. Its eastern boundary has been defined as far west as the Pecos River and as far east as the Brazos River. Our concept of west Texas is based on the five principal metropolitan areas it contains: El Paso, Lubbock, Abilene, Midland/Odessa, and San Angelo.
Our map of the regions of Texas places the following 70 counties in west Texas:
The central region of Texas lies in between the state's three largest metropolitan areas - Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio - and along its three largest interior rivers: the Trinity, the Brazos, and the Colorado. The limestone peaks of the Texas Hill Country make up a large part of central Texas, but the region also includes a large amount of flat land.
Our map of the regions of Texas places the following 30 counties in central Texas:
The same four groups of 30 counties are administered collectively as the Central Texas Region by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.