Is Texas All Desert? (Areas and Regions)

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Suppose movie and pop culture imagery is anything to go by. In that case, you might think that Texas or a large part of it is desert. This is far from the truth. Texas is known for its intense climate, but you would be remiss to assume that this equates to desert status.

Texas as a state does not classify as a desert. Regions in far west texas do have a desert-like environment. However, the Trans-Pecos region is officially classified as a desert. This is due to the low annual precipitation level. The majority of Texas is classified as having a humid subtropical climate.

Stone desert desert landscape in the mountains in Texas in Big Bend National Park cacti and desert plants. - Texas View

Areas Of Texas Considered Deserts

The northern Chihuahuan Desert spills over into part of west Texas. The area of this desert within Texas is Big Bend Ranch State Park Chihuan desert is also home to the Trans-Pecos region. The majority of the Chihuahuan desert is located in Mexico.

Big Bend State Park

  • The largest state park in Texas
  • Part desert region
  • Contains the most extensive protected portion of the Chihuahuan Desert
  • Spans over 800,000 acres
  • Prehistoric rock paintings (from 3000 years ago) can be found here
  • Cinnabar and silver were found in the area
  • Abandoned cinnabar mines can be found in the park
  • The upper 69 miles of the Rio Grande River are within the park’s boundary.
  • The park is home to over 450 bird species.
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Trans-Pecos Region Part of the Chihuahuan desert

  • The only fully desert region in Texas
  • Located west of the Pecos River
  • The land area of 31,47 square miles
  • Nine counties within the region are: Terrell, Reeves, Pecos, Presido, El Paso, Jeff Davis, Hudspeth, Brewster, and Culberson
  • Population of 919,421
  • Of the entire population, 93.5% are in El Paso
  • The one place in Texas where you can find both mountain and desert habitats
  • Contains diverse vegetation
  • Up to 268 species of grass
  • Around 447 woody plant species

While some areas in Texas are classified as desert or desert-like regions, the majority of the Texan landscape is anything but. Less than ten percent of the entire land area of Texas is desert. This is nowhere near enough to classify the whole state as a desert.

On the contrary, Texas has more lush scenery than one might expect. A portion of the largest desert in America is found in Texas, which could be the reason for the misconception.

Flowering Torrey Yucca in Chihuahuan desert of Big Bend National Park Texas US. - Texas View
Flowering Torrey Yucca in Chihuahuan desert of Big Bend National Park, Texas, US

Characteristics Of A Desert

For an area to be officially classified as a desert, it must fit specific criteria.

Desert Classification:

  1. Described as “arid” or “dry.”
  2. Receives less than 16 inches of precipitation per annum
  3. Sparse vegetation
  4. High evaporation levels often exceed the annual precipitation
  5. Often cloudless due to the high levels of evaporation
  6. Extreme daytime temperatures
  7. Fluctuations in temperature
  8. Very loose soils lacking minerals and moisture

Is It Bad For Areas In Texas To Be A Desert?

A desert may seem like a harsh and unwelcoming environment; to be fair, it is. However, this doesn’t mean that it is a place with nothing to offer. Like so many environments, deserts have their own unique ecosystem.

Particular plant life and animals would not be able to thrive in conditions other than a desert. Sometimes, however, when the conditions within the deserts reach record highs or lows, certain animals and plants may have a more difficult time sustaining themselves than they usually would.

Movies Filmed In Texas Deserts

At some point, you may have associated Western films with Texas and vice versa. Below are some movies which have used the desert landscape of Big Bend National Park and Trans-Pecos:

  • No Country For Old Men
  • Fandango
  • All The Pretty Horses
  • Barbarosa
  • Young Guns Of Texas
  • Last Of The Wild West
  • Cowboy
  • Home Fries
  • El Paso
  • Viva Villa!
  • Paris, Texas.
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Cacti of Big Bend National Park. Stone desert desert landscape in Texas in Big Bend National Park cacti and desert plants. - Texas View

Climate And Terrain Of Texas

Texas is known for having intense heat in summer and sometimes even winter months. The western regions of Texas are more prone to aid and desert-like conditions. In contrast, the areas further east are more prone to humid conditions.

According to Kȫppen Climate types, Texas has eight types of climates. The majority of Texas (almost two-thirds), mainly on the eastern side, has a temperate (humid sup-tropical) climate.

Characteristics of a humid subtropical climate are:

  • Warm to hot summer
  • Cool to mild winter
  • Thunderstorms
  • Heavy rainfall
  • Flooding

When picturing Texas, many people may have images of tumbleweeds and dry flatlands (thanks, Hollywood). But Texas has a rich biodiversity that spans the majority of its land area.

Ocotillo is not a true cactus. For much of the year the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. - Texas View

Precipitation Levels In Texas

Precipitation levels in Texas differ pretty drastically from east to west. The annual precipitation in arid western areas such as El Paso is less than 14 inches.

In contrast, regions in the east, such as Beaumont, receive over 54 inches. On the whole, Texas receives an average annual rainfall of 27.25 inches.

Texas Desert FAQs

Are Parts Of Texas At Risk Of Becoming Desert?

With the current climate crisis, some believe Texas is at risk of becoming a desert state. The rising climate has seen water levels dropping and spring producing fewer bubbles.
Climatologists are well aware of this, and they have plans and funding to ensure this does not come to fruition. This will also not happen in the blink of an eye. Conversely, climate change has also been responsible for flooding in certain Texas areas.

How Many Deserts Are There In The United States?

The United States is home to four major deserts. These deserts are; the Chihuahuan Desert, The Great Basin, the Mohave Desert, and the Sonoran Desert. All of them are located on the western side of the country.

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Author Profile
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Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.

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