By John and Betty Oglesbee
The environs around San Augustine County are a sight to behold in all seasons, but particularly in the Fall, when nature exhibits her full regalia of autumn color. Not only is this rural East Texas county blessed with verdant forests, hills, valleys and mellifluous streams and rivers, but a myriad of 18th and 19th century homes, churches, cemeteries, and historical markers add charm and adventure to travelers enjoying a fall foliage tour. San Augustine has been widely acknowledged as the Eastern Gateway to Texas for centuries. El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, the earliest land-route traversing the heart of Texas, crosses San Augustine County directly through the City of San Augustine. Originally known as the Ayish Bayou District, pioneer settlers decided in 1832 to found a town, and chose the site of the Ayish Bayou as its location. A court house square, surrounded by streets and blocks, was laid out according to the American plan, believed to be the first in Texas so designed. San Augustine's name was derived from the Presidio de San Augustin de Ahumada, honoring the Viceroy of Texas, Augustin de Ahumada, Magues de las Amarillas.
Present-day San Augustine County is a near-mirror image of the natural setting experienced by the early settlers. A genuine feeling of historic ambience permeates the landscape in all directions. There is a sense of freedom, where clean air and the quiet openness of a rural setting prevail. In October and November, a kaleidoscope of brilliant color among hardwood trees and forest plants comes alive. Elegant sassafras, dogwood, and sumac dazzle the eye with varying shades of red. Hickory, oak, and sycamore present a contrast of golden color amid the dark green towering pines. The lowly Chinese tallow is transformed into a patchwork of mottled reds and yellows. Queen of fall foliage, the red maple, lifts her lofty head among the rest. She shares her royalty with sweet gum and black gum, both resplendent in shades of crimson and bright gold.
The traveler's journey should begin at the San Augustine County of Chamber of Commerce, 611 West Columbia, located on El Camino Real de los Tejas and the legendary Ayish Bayou. This historic stream, the "chosen site of centuries," was selected first by the Ais Indians for their hunting, fishing, and campgrounds, then by the Spanish priests for Mission Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de los Ais, and finally by the American settlers for the townsite of San Augustine. At the Chamber office, friendly people are available to answer questions, provide area maps, and make helpful suggestions.
Suggested Fall Foliage routes include:
1. Hwy. 21 East (El Camino Real de los Tejas) toward Toledo Bend country to Milam, Texas, then north on Hwy. 87 to FM 353. Proceed west on the serpentine FM 353 back to San Augustine. Another good view in this area off Hwy. 21 East is FM 330, the Geneva-Sexton Road.
2. Hwy. 147 South to Broaddus and Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Don't miss crossing the long bridge over Rayburn Lake a few miles south of Broaddus.
3. Hwy. 96 North to the San Augustine County line and Hwy. 96 South to the 103 overpass provide multiple vistas of fall foliage.
4. Hwy. 21 West to Chireno crosses the historic Attoyac River and provides splashes of brilliant color along the way.
5. Hwy. 147 North to Shelbyville offers a journey through the rural countryside across Little Rascal Creek and abundant fall color.
6. FM 711 North to Hwy. 7 provides a scenic and tranquil respite for travelers of a rural bent.
7. Travel south from San Augustine on FM 1277 to Hwy. 103 through the bucolic countryside for a contrast of plush mown meadows and verdant timber lands.
Come and enjoy a delightful, long-to-be-remembered fall foliage tour in San Augustine County during October and November 2011!
Fall Foliage Tour in Historic San Augstine County, Texas
Original route of El Camino Real de los Tejas NHT Several miles east of San Augustine (Photo by J. Oglesbee)
Fall foliage, Lake Jane, Fairway Farm, San Augustine (Photo by J. Oglesbee)
The historic Ayish Bayou in San Augustine, Texas (Photo by J. Oglesbee)
A typical forest in the fall, San Augustine County (Photo by J. Oglesbee)
Typical fall foliage, the sassafras San Augustine County Chamber of Commerce has the Annual Sassafras Festival the last weekend in October each year. (Photo by J. Oglesbee)
The Halfway House, Chireno, Texas Folks coming from Nacogdoches to San Aug. will see this historic stagecoach inn on the left, 13 mi from San Augustine (Photo by J. Oglesbee)