Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl

MOTHER NEFF STATE PARK. Mother Neff State Park, the first state park in Texas, is on State Highway 236 and the Leon River sixteen miles southeast of Gatesville in eastern Coryell County. It was named for Isabella Eleanor Neff, mother of Governor Pat M. Neff, who willed the first six acres of the park to the state in 1916. Governor Neff deeded the rest of the 259-acre park to the state in 1934. The park was developed during the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was under the administration of the Texas State Parks Board until 1963, when it became part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In the 1980s Mother Neff State Park averaged 130,000 visitors per year. Among the facilities available at the park were campsites, picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. Recreational activities included fishing in the Leon River, but swimming was difficult because the steep riverbanks limited accessibility. The hiking trail provided many opportunities to study birds, wildlife, and plants, and playground equipment was available for children. The park's open-air pavilion was a popular site for family reunions and outdoor weddings. Other nearby points of interest included Lake Belton, twelve miles to the south, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, and the American Railroad Museum in Temple.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, "MOTHER NEFF STATE PARK," accessed May 22, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox