While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


E. H. Johnson

SOUTH TEXAS PLAINS. The South Texas Plains, which occupy the southern tip of Texas, may be separated from the rest of the state roughly by a line drawn from Del Rio eastward to Austin and from Austin southeastward to Corpus Christi. This is a region characterized by considerable variety. Climatically, the South Texas Plains region is subhumid to dry. Topographically, it consists of the three major divisions characterizing the Coastal Plain at large: the Interior Inner Lowlands Belt, the Coastal Belt, and the Central Dissected Belt. The Interior Inner Lowlands Belt, although sculptured into Upper Cretaceous outcrops, is largely covered with younger alluvial materials carried out from the erosion of the Edwards Plateau. Lying adjacent to the Balcones Escarpment, the Interior Lowlands Belt is characterized by black soils that extend from Austin to San Antonio and thence westward, although discontinuously, to Uvalde. Those areas having typical black-earth soils are highly important for farming purposes. The Coastal Belt comprises the low, flat country just interior from the coast. South of Falfurrias, this belt is blanketed with a thick cover of sand, some of which occurs as "live" or active dunes. Most of the sand area, however, is stabilized by vegetation, which, where the sand is deepest, includes live oak and, to the southward where the sands are shallower, mesquite shrubs and grasses. Still farther south in the Coastal Belt is the lower Rio Grande country, consisting of a smooth undulating to very slightly rolling upland of black-earth soils and the lowland of the Rio Grande, including its delta area.

Occupying the wide extent of variegated intervening country between the Inner Lowland Belt and the Coastal Belt is the Central Dissected Belt, which is further divisible into a number of sub-belts. Interior from the low Coastal Belt is a fairly wide strip underlain in considerable part by calcareous clays. South of the Guadalupe River this strip comprises the caliche plateau-a rolling upland with shallow soils underlain by a thick accumulation of caliche. The interior edge of the caliche plateau is an inward-facing scarp known as the Bordas Escarpment. The vegetation of the caliche plateau comprises one phase of the chaparral growths of South Texas. North of the Guadalupe River this strip includes a lowland in which the town of Yorktown is situated and which is continuous with the Brenham-Schulenburg Prairies; this lowland is characterized by black earth. Interior from the caliche plateau and its plains extension northeastward is a series of plains developed on the soft, unconsolidated formations of the Lower Tertiary. One of these plains includes the Winter Garden area. Near the interior margin of the Central Dissected Belt is a ridge of deep sands formed from the outcrops of the Carizzo sands and characterized as far south as the Lytle area by the presence of hardwoods. Toward the Rio Grande, the Central Dissected Belt merges into the dry country known as the Brasada, characterized by a vegetative growth of the chaparral type. The South Texas Plains region is important for its production and reserves of oil and natural gas. The fault-line fields, including Luling, Darst Creek, and Salt Creek, are well known in the history of the oil industry. Production in this district is from the top of the Edwards limestone of the Lower Cretaceous. The other two important oil and gas districts of the South Texas Plains include the Laredo district and the Corpus Christi, the latter also being known as the Lower Gulf District. See also GEOLOGY.


William Bollaert, Observations on the Geography of Texas (London, 1850). Zachary Taylor Fulmore, The Geography of Texas (n.p.: Rand, McNally, 1908). Terry Jordan, Texas: A Geography (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1984). Frederic William Simonds, Geographic Influences in the Development of Texas (Austin: Journal of Geography, 1912).

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: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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, E. H. Johnson, "SOUTH TEXAS PLAINS," accessed May 26, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ryslr.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 29, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...