AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Amarillo has been colloquially referred to as a “halfway point to anywhere,” as well as “the center of the known universe” due to its unique position in the United States and its central location in “the big boxy part at the top” of Texas. Halfway across the historic Route 66 and nestled one short drive away from four neighboring states, Amarillo is considered a hallmark of the American West.
And the American South. And the Great Plains.
The Texas Panhandle exists in a somewhat nebulous state in that government departments, researchers, and locals appear to disagree on whether the region should be considered western, southern, or central in the U.S. However, the Texas Panhandle isn’t the only region that provokes these conversations; they happen all across the state.
Where is Texas, anyway, and why do so many people disagree?
The answer may seem noncommittal: It depends on who you ask, and why.
Texas covers over 268,597 square miles of land, reaching as far west as a stone’s throw from the White Sands National park in New Mexico, as far east as the Toledo Bend Reservoir, as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, and as far north as the Rita Blanca National Grasslands. It houses both tropical beach destinations to the south and the frigid, awesome expanse of the Llano Estacado in the Panhandle.
That vast size comes with an immense collection of wildlife, industry, and culture, which means that different groups categorize the regions of Texas depending on their scope and focus.
Even the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department splits Texas up into two separate regional maps. While the TPWD says there are seven major natural regions of Texas, its personnel and program assignments are divided into eight regional districts. These separate maps can be illustrative of why regional designations might shift due to priorities: One focuses on the natural environmental formations of different parts of Texas, while one was made with more of a focus on wildlife and administrative specialists.
(Above: Regional maps via the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
While both technically live along the Gulf Coast, a teacher in Houston may find the natural region map more effective for a lesson plan while a researcher in Brownsville may find the district map more useful for finding an expert on a local bird.
On a national level, differences in regional maps often work in a similar way. As noted by the National Geographic Society, regions are areas of land with common features, whether they are natural or artificial. They can be designated by forests, wildlife, or climate as well as language, government, or culture.
Regional division maps from the National Geographic Society view Texas in the context of its geographic position on the continent. In that case, Texas is a part of the Southwest.
Agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service consider regions based on topography and geographical features.
In regional boundaries from the USDA, Texas is considered the southernmost part of the Great Plains.
(Left: Regional map via the USDA)
Meanwhile, the United States Census Bureau groups the country with statistics in mind. As noted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the bureau splits the country into four geographic regions and nine divisions based on geographic proximity.
Texas falls into the large “South” chunk in this regional map, but it also falls into the “center” of the U.S. Because of that, Texas is considered to be part of the West South Central region of the country.
So, is Texas part of the Plains? The West? The South? Yes. Depending on geographic location, local opinion, and purpose, Texas is a part of all of those regions and more. Altogether, the simplest answer to the question of “Where is Texas, anyway?” may be just what its resident jokesters say: The center of everything.