Western Trips

Western Trips

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cattle Drives and the Fort Worth Stockyards

Visiting the historic Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth Texas is a western adventure in itself. Add to that the cattle drives which take place twice daily at 11:30A and 4P.

fort worth stockyards
Fort Worth Stockyards
During these cattle drives the drovers, real cowboys, drive their longhorns along East Exchange Avenue past the front of the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange Building for what is a real trip back to the 1800's.The best place to view these daily cattle drives is in front of the stockyard's Visitors Center.

Fort Worth Texas was established in 1849 on a bluff overlooking two forks of the Trinity River. The fort became the last large settlement of civilization along the famous Chisholm Trail. The settlement was referred to as "Cowtown" beginning in the 1860's.

The area of the Fort Worth Stockyards was a stop for cattle heading from Texas to the Kansas rail heads.This was a regular stopping off point along the Chisholm Trail.The stockyards was also a major sheep and hog marketing center considered the largest in the southwest.

The Fort Worth Herd

The Fort Worth Herd is made up of fifteen Texas Longhorns, each steer representing one decade from Fort Worth's colorful past. Yes, there are indeed stockyards still existing at this historic site. When the herd is not being driven down Exchange Street they are kept in the expansive wooden stockyards north of the Cowtown Coliseum.

the stockyards in fort worth texas
The stockyards at the Ft. Worth Stockyards
Today's Fort Worth Stockyards is a National Historic District. In a big way the stockyards give you the feel of what small town America once look like. Things to do in the stockyards are geared for people of all ages.

The Fort Worth Stockyards are located  at the intersection of Main St. and Exchange Avenue about four miles north of the downtown area.

The Fort Worth Stockyards and the Railroad

A cattleman must get his herd to market. When the Texas and Pacific Railroad reached Fort Worth Texas in 1876 it made the town an important cattle herd destination. This same combination, cattle and railroads, built earlier towns such as Abilene, Wichita and Dodge City Kansas. Ten years after the railroad's arrival, Fort Worth had four stockyards doing business near the tracks.

Packing plants were built to go along with the stockyards including those from Swift and Armour. It was said that the Swift Company plant in Fort Worth, constructed in 1904, employed about 1,700 people during it's busiest years. The ruins of the old Swift packing plant are located east of the stockyards behind chain link fences. Each of the packing companies received a one third interest in the stockyards. The first decade of the twentieth century was the time of the stockyard's largest growth.

fort worth stockyards livestock exchange
Livestock Exchange Building
Another interesting fact about the Swift packing company is that it's founder, Gustavus Swift, invented the refrigerated rail car. The Swift packing plants were considered to be state of the art at the time being highly insulated. For instance, the upper floors of the Fort Worth structure had double brick walls.

The Armour plant, adjacent to the Swift plant, was the first of the two to close in 1962. The Swift plant closed in 1971.

The Decline and Rebirth of the Stockyards

The decline of the Fort Worth Stockyards went hand in hand with the closing of the Armour and Swift packing and processing plants. What happened to this area after the plant closings is a fascinating story.

During the 1970's Fort Worth created a restoration committee to plan for redevelopment of the district.Both public and private funding would be sought. Today, the Fort Worth Stockyards is promoted by the North Fort Worth Historical Society.

stockyards hotel fort worth
Stockyards Hotel
Events are held in the stockyards all year with two of the biggest being the Chisholm Trail Days each June and the Pioneer Days each September. The Fort Worth Stockyards holds many historic markers, is filled with unique restaurants, shops and museums. The Stockyards Museum was opened in 1989 in the Stockyards Exchange Building. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10A to 5P.

At the Stockyards Station you'll want to visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. This museum's stated goal is to honor the men and women who have shown excellence in the business and support of rodeo and the western lifestyle in Texas. This museum also exhibits the Sterquell Wagon Collection which consists of over sixty horse drawn coaches and wagons.

Below are links to more Western Trips articles you may enjoy...

Revisiting the Old West Cattle Trails

Remembering the Shawnee Trail

See One of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona

A West Texas Adventure in San Angelo 

texas cowboy hall of fame
Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
While the packing plant workers and the herds are gone, what remains today is a living museum of cowboy and ranching culture. Historic buildings are a big part of a stockyards walking tour as are ongoing events.

In addition to viewing the twice daily cattle drive there are opportunities to sit on a live steer and have your picture taken. What can be more western than that? The Fort Worth Stockyards make an ideal trip stop for the entire family.

If your Texas vacation or weekend trip includes visiting Fort Worth you'll want to add the stockyards to your trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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