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We Wanna Know: Where does West Texas Begin?

Gary Nored/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Texas is a huge state – we can all agree on that. But in a place this big, how do you decide where a part of Texas begins? The answer we came up with might surprise you.

Some places in Texas are unambiguous. When you’re in say, San Antonio, Marfa or Galveston, you just know it. But in other parts of the state, the boundaries are less well-defined.

For example: How do you know when you’re in West Texas?

Producer Michael Marks set out to tackle this question.

After a long and winding road – that included some pit stops with the Texas Standard staff – he found the answer in a surprising place: a map of oak tree growth in Texas.

And here’s an interactive version of the map.

“You can see a clear line where they just stop,” Marks says. “It’s a sharp edge where there are oaks to the east and none to the west.”

That edge, he thinks, is what separates West Texas from the rest of the state.

Oaks need more rainfall than they can get in West Texas, which is what gives the western part of the state its iconic blend of mesquite trees, red dirt and cowboy culture.

“It starts just east of Wichita Falls, then down to the outskirts of Abilene and San Angelo, then bulging a little further west as you move south,” Marks says of the line of oaks. “So places like Junction, Brownwood and Graham are out. Sonora is teetering right at the edge.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above. And tell us where you think West Texas starts by joining the conversation on Twitter

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.