During his five-plus years as president, Lyndon B. Johnson returned to his family ranch in the Hill Country 74 times, totaling 490 days–more than a quarter of his presidency. Because of the amount of time he spent there, the family ranch became known as the Texas White House. It was noted that as soon as Air Force One would cross the Red River, Johnson’s shoulders would begin to relax, knowing his boots would soon touch down on the land that he loved.
Although he reached the highest elected office possible, LBJ came from humble beginnings. He grew up poor and split his time between the family ranch near Stonewall where he was born and the town of Johnson City where he grew up. The tough times Johnson experienced growing up served as the inspiration for many of his legislative acts: upholding civil rights, improving education, helping the poor and protecting the environment.
In 1972, a month before LBJ died, the Johnsons donated their home and 690 acres of the family ranch to the National Parks Department. The national park consists of two parts: the Johnson City District (in Johnson City) that includes a visitor center, LBJ’s boyhood home, the Withers & Spaulding General Store, the Johnson Settlement and the Johnson Ranch District (near Stonewall) that includes the president’s first school, a reconstruction of LBJ’s birthplace, his grandfather’s farmhouse, the Texas White House and the Johnson Family Cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird were both laid to rest. The two parts of the park are a short 14-mile drive apart.
In 2008, the park began allowing private vehicles to access the ranch. A scenic drive through the pastures of the working ranch will wind you around the property sharing information about LBJ, Lady Bird and different aspects of the ranch including the show barn and the airstrip. The cattle roaming the property are direct descendants of the president’s own herd of Hereford cattle.
The ranch also has the president’s Lockheed JetStar C-140B, a much smaller jet assigned to him as vice president, which he joking referred to as “Air Force One Half.” The former hangar of the jet houses a small museum, gift shop and a collection of the Johnson’s automobiles, including the infamous Amphicar he would use to surprise visitors. Johnson used the amphibious, German-made auto to take unwitting visitors on tours of the property. As they approached the lake, he would pretend the brakes went out and plunge into the water. The gift shop is also where you can purchase tickets ($3 each) to take a tour of seven of the 28 rooms of the Texas White House. The last tour of the Texas White House begins at 4:30 and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park closes promptly at 5 pm.
Insider Tip: There is a state park and a national park for Lyndon B. Johnson. If you want to skip the national park portion in Johnson City, you can head down the road to the state park for a free driving permit to the LBJ Ranch. The state park is located directly across the river from the LBJ Ranch and has a visitor center with a museum and many other features worth checking out.
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park Visitor Center is located in Johnson City, Texas. Take Highway 290 to Johnson City and turn onto Avenue F (you should see signs). Go two blocks and turn right onto Ladybird Lane. The parking lot and visitor center are on the left. To get to the Ranch, leave from the Park Visitor Center, take Highway 290 14 miles westbound to the LBJ State Historical Park. The national park is open every day of the week 8am – 5pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years days.
For more info visit nps.gov/lyjo/index.html