Abilene The first settlement in this area sprang up 10 miles south of Abilene, in an area known as Buffalo Gap. The name came from the gap in the Callahan Divide through which the migrating buffalo passed. Long known only to hunters, cattlemen and cavalry troops, the settlement began to grow in the late 1800s. In 1881, Abilene sprang up to the north along the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Merchants and ranchers named the town Abilene, hoping to rival the famous cattle shipping point of the same name, Abilene, Kan. By 1882, Abilene had enough people and spirit to petition for an election to move the county seat from Buffalo Gap. The U.S. armed forces began its long relationship with West Texas in 1852 with the building of Fort Phantom. The site, near the present location of Abilene, was plagued by difficulties including poor water and inadequate building materials. By 1854, the post was abandoned. During World War II, the military established an Army training camp near Abilene. Located a few miles southwest of the city, Camp Barkeley once housed more than 60,000 men. This camp adjoined Tye Army Air Corps Base, a training command for fighter pilots. Both installations were closed at the end of World War II, but soon Dyess was founded, continuing the tradition of the relationship between the armed forces and Abilene. Culture Abilene boasts many cultural activities, including The Grace Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, two community theater groups and the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. The Paramount Theater, a restored early-1900s movie palace shows classic movies and film festivals. Institutions of higher learning contribute to the cultural development of the city through performances, galleries and events. Community Abilene has a home-rule type of city government with a mayor, a city council and a manager. There are seven city council members, including the mayor. The city has two hospitals with a total of more than 700 beds and about 250 physicians. There is one local newspaper published daily. There are numerous radio stations and four television stations. Cable television service is available. Abilene has four libraries, one public and three affiliated with colleges and universities. Location and Climate Located in Taylor County, Abilene is a west central Texas city about 183 miles west of Dallas and 250 miles north of San Antonio. It is the center of a 19-county area called the Big Country and considered the economic hub in this part of Texas. Near the geographic center of the state, Abilene is easily accessible by five major highways--Interstate 20, Highways 80 and 84 east and west, as well as Highways 83 and 277 north and south. The climate is temperate with average lows of 64.5 degrees Fahrenheit and average highs of 84.1 degrees. Relatively low humidity keeps the West Texas sun from being too oppressive. Average yearly rainfall is 23.25 inches and the elevation is 1,750 feet. Abilene is in the Central Time Zone. Economy Abilene is the hub of wholesale, distribution and retail trade. It thrives on agriculture, ranching, military facilities and oil industries. Retail and travel markets are active. Jobs are plentiful in the area in a variety of fields, but some wages may be lower than in other metropolitan areas. Call the Texas Employment Commission at 672-4361. Religion Its many beautiful religious facilities have given Abilene the nickname, The City of Churches. There are about 175 churches, including Protestant, Jewish and Catholic faiths. Shopping From large chain department stores to small boutiques or roadside stands, Abilene offers shoppers a paradise with more than 2,000 merchants. The city has one enclosed mall, many open-air shopping centers and a Mexican-American boutique and restaurant center. Many specialty items are created here. One shop features custom made western hats, while another crafts saddles so detailed, it takes a full year to complete one. Another western art form thrives through handcrafted boots made from every conceivable material. Parks Abilene State Park covers 500 acres along Cedar Creek. The park was once a resting place for Comanche Indians. Visitors today find modern camping and recreational facilities nestled among 4,000 native pecan trees. Buffalo and Longhorn cattle can be found near the park at Lake Abilene, where there is boating, fishing and swimming until sundown. Oscar Rose Park is the largest park in the city with more than 69 acres. It is at South Seventh and Barrow and is the site of the Fine Arts Museum, the Abilene Community Theater and the Repertory Theatre. Recreation Abilene operates five recreation centers on a year-round basis and two public swimming pools seasonally. There are 20 baseball or softball fields in the parks systems and 15 fields for football or soccer. Numerous facilities are available for tennis, running and weightlifting. Scuba diving is also popular. Golfing enthusiasts will find seven golf courses, four private and three public. The Fairway Oaks Championship Course has hosted many of the greats in American golf. Indoor recreation includes more than 400 restaurants, 31 movie theaters, three auditoriums, two bowling facilities and 13 youth centers. Abilene Zoo Featuring more than 250 species of birds, mammals and reptiles, a total of 935 animals, the Abilene Zoo has won awards at state and national levels. The zoo's theme is to compare animals of the North American plains to those in similar habitats in Africa. The zoo has more than 13 acres and is on State Highway 36 at Loop 322. It is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Call 676-6085. Expo Center The Taylor County Expo Center, at the intersection of S. Eleventh and Loop 322, serves as an entertainment center for events such as rodeos, circuses, concerts and livestock shows. Annual Events/Attractions: Each year, Abilene hosts the West Texas Fair and Rodeo, the Hardin-Simmons Intercollegiate Rodeo, Abilene Festival of the Arts, Abilene Livestock Show, Horse Show and McMurry University Indian Village. Hunting and Fishing Texas wildlife is abundant, but much of it is on private land. Permission to hunt must be obtained from the landowners. Hunting and fishing licenses for residents and nonresidents can be obtained. Write the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX, 78744 or call toll-free in Texas (800) 792-1112. Places to Go Buffalo Gap Historic Village This historic site is the original seat of Taylor County, 15 miles south of Abilene on FM 89. A historic village with country store, arts and crafts shop and depot grace a rural setting. Visit the Perini Cattle Company, a working ranch and enjoy a chuck wagon meal. Buffalo Gap Historic Village has many authentic original buildings in the complex, mostly over 100 years old. Among the 19 buildings is a log cabin, which is the oldest structure in the area. The first courthouse and jail houses a history of the area including western and Indian artifacts. The town was selected the county seat when Taylor County was organized July 3, 1878. It was the only town in a county of 200 people. Buffalo Gap was built with gun ports due to Indian threats, and walls with Civil War cannon balls between the large stones for stability. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places and has a Texas State Marker. Old Settler's Reunion Ground When not used for celebrating the annual Settler's Reunion in July, these grounds are used for flea markets and Blue Grass Festivals. The park has three historical markers--one about Buffalo Gap, one about Buffalo Gap College and one about the 1863 Indian fight. Fort Phantom Hill The ruins of this early 1850s fort are part of the Texas Forts Trail. Once a post for the Texas Rangers, it is 10 miles north of Abilene on FM 89. Lake Fort Phantom Hill is eight miles north of Abilene on FMs 600 and 12082. It offers free boat ramps and overnight camping. Amarillo See nearby Alibates National Monument, the Panhandle Plains Museum, Boy's Ranch, Palo Duro Canyon-site of the show Texas, the Amarillo Livestock Auction and other attractions, as well as some of the best shopping in the country. Arlington Home of major league baseball's Texas Rangers; Six Flags Over Texas theme park; and Wet 'N' Wild, a 47-acre water park. Big Bend Country The Big Bend Country is home of Big Bend National Park, a preserved wilderness area with more than 740,000 acres of spectacular beauty. Campers and photographers find the area an experience of a lifetime. Here is rugged, primeval land untouched by civilization, yet subtly engineered by the U.S. Park Service to provide maximum safety and accessibility to the outside world. Carlsbad Caverns N.M Spectacular, world-famous caverns, tours held daily. The restaurant serves lunch 750 feet underground. Also, see the Living Desert State Park. Dallas Entertainment center of Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. This city, Texas' largest, also has excellent shopping. Del Rio Gateway to Mexico, offers all-year outdoor vacation fun at nearby Lake Amistad. Excellent fishing, sailing, skiing and hunting. Fort Worth At 130 miles due east of Abilene, Fort Worth remains the cradle of the Texas cattle industry. The city retains much of its rich, western heritage while establishing itself as a center of high technology, finance and world-class attractions and entertainment. Graham Possum Kingdom Lake, historic sites, hunting, fishing and camping. Guadalupe Mountains Texas' newest national park is here. Camping is available at Pine Spring Canyon and designated backcountry sites. Most of the park is accessible only by trails. Mexico Traveling into Mexico can be fun and easy provided certain regulations are followed. If you are driving your own vehicle, you must purchase Mexican auto insurance. Short-term policies are available on the Texas side of the border. When visiting a border city, only a statement of intent is required by the border patrol. A tourist card is required for visits beyond the border cities or for visits longer than 72 hours. The Mexican government issues the card with proof of U.S. citizenship. Monahans Monahans Sandhills State Park is 4,000 acres of wind-sculpted sand dunes, which form West Texas' answer to the Sahara. A museum and interpretive center, picnicking, camping and dune buggy rides are park attractions. San Angelo Known as the trading post of West Texas, San Angelo is just 90 miles south of Abilene on Highway 277. It is known as an oil center, cattle market and the world's largest wool market. The town has three big lakes attracting visitors from throughout the state. San Angelo is also home to Goodfellow AFB. Fort Concho is the best-preserved frontier fort in Texas and illustrates the early days and development of the San Angelo area. Of special interest to visitors are the fine antique shops. San Angelo is known as an antique center with art galleries and western wear shops. Annual events include the stock show and rodeo held the second weekend in March, and Lambfeast a lamb cook-off highlighting the sheep industry is held the third weekend in April. The Fiesta Del Concho, an annual River Celebration, is the third week in June and the Roping Fiesta is the second weekend in November. Sweetwater Sweetwater is 40 miles west of Abilene. It is a growing community, which began as a favorite camping place for buffalo hunters and Indians. The area was named Sweet Water for the clean taste of nearby Sweet Water Creek. The abundance of lakes in the area provides plenty of recreational activities. Oak Creek Lake is high enough for all types of boats and offers a full spectrum of water activities. Lake Sweetwater has a large park area and picnicking and camping facilities, along with an 18-hole golf course. Lake Trammel, 11 miles south of the city, is perfect for the fisherman seeking peace and quiet. No speedboats, skiing or swimming is allowed. Annual events include livestock shows, arts and crafts festivals, and cutting-horse activities. One unique annual event is the Rattlesnake Roundup, which draws participants from around the world. Stamford Known almost the world over as the home of the world's largest amateur rodeo which is judged according to the number of amateur entries each year, Stamford is 38 miles north of Abilene on U.S. Highway 277 and State Highway 6. Many recreational facilities are available such as public tennis courts, swimming pool and Little League ballparks. A fine private country club with an excellent nine-hole golf course and Lake Stamford with good fishing and the water sports complement Stamford's recreational facilities.