There is a treasure in the Hill Country of Texas. A true historical treasure.
Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, was born and raised in the Hill Country of Texas. Having lived and gone to school in the small town of Johnson City, founded by his family in the 1870s, President Johnson continued to return to the area throughout his life. In 1951, he purchased the 1500 acre ranch that was owned by his widowed aunt and it soon became known as “LBJ Ranch”.
The Johnsons spent a great deal of time here, 25% of his presidency was spent at the “Texas White House”. And once he retired, he lived on the ranch full time until his death in 1973.
In 1972, President Lyndon B. Johnson donated all this land to us, and thousands enjoy this park every year. As much as we love history, I kick myself for not visiting the Ranch sooner! There is so much to do and see here.
You must first stop at the Visitor’s Center to obtain a pass to enter the park. There is an audio CD that provides you with a wonderfully narrated self-guided tour of the Ranch – I highly recommend you take the tour with the CD to hear all the colorful stories.
One of the first stops on the tour takes you to the Junction School. LBJ only spent a small amount of time at this particular school, though he came back as President to sign an education bill into law here. The school is set up the way it was when a 4 year old Lyndon had attended for just one year.
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Winding along the Pedernales River, you will pass LBJ’s reconstructed birthplace and the family cemetery.
As the CD provides you with stories of his time and music from his era, you can’t help but slowly be taken back in time, to the relaxing pace of a Texas Hill Country ranch.
Especially as you pass right by these beautiful Hereford cattle. Did you know that LBJ was actively involved in running a cattle operation? The tour takes you to his prized show barn where you can meet some of these gorgeous animals up close.
You can talk to some of the ranchers that keep the cattle operation alive today – one told us stories of how President Johnson would bring guests directly from their plane to the show barn and proudly show his cattle to visiting dignitaries before allowing them to settle in for their stay.
We also spent some time playing with these 10 day old goats – so fun!
Moving on down to the house, you drive past the airstrip where the President would be flown in on this smaller plane, which he affectionally called “Air Force One-Half”.
In the hanger, you can stand right on the spot where President Johnson held many important press conferences.
You can also check out the Johnson’s collection of cars, including this funny one that can be driven in water to become a boat. President Johnson loved to take visitors for rides in this car, pretend the brakes had gone out before splashing into the river, only to become a boat. It was fun stories like these that brought LBJ Ranch to life.
While the Ranch tour is free, there is a small admission fee to tour The Texas White House. Having just opened to the public in 2008, only a few rooms are available to walk through, though more are opening up as time goes on. Park Rangers are stationed throughout the house and will answer any questions you have and provide you with the history of the rooms or the unique objects in the rooms.
When we visited in March, we were able to see LBJ’s office, as it was in the late 1960s. A Park Ranger showed us where he was when he made that very difficult decision to enter into the Vietnam War, and the position he was in knowing his daughter’s new husband would very likely be drafted as well. We walked though sitting rooms filled with amazing gifts from his time as President. And we walked through both LBJ’s and Lady Bird’s bedrooms, both set up to reflect the era. Honestly, you could feel the history seeping in these rooms.