Texas Pecos Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Big Lake

Big Lake once had a big lake, a 2,100-acre natural depression that filled with rain and spring water. For centuries it attracted Indians, Mexican traders and cattle drivers. After 1900 it attracted Anglo settlers and the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway of Texas, which established the town of Big Lake on its line. The springs dried up, and today the depression remains the state’s largest dry lake. In 1923 another kind of liquid (petroleum) turned Big Lake into a boomtown when the Santa Rita No. 1 well blew in 14 miles west of town. A replica rig and state marker designate the site, just off US 67, as the discovery well of the Permian Basin. A working scale model of the Santa Rita No. 1 highlights oil boom-era exhibits at Big Lake’s Hickman Museum. Housed in a 1937 rock home, the museum also chronicles Indian and ranching history. After the oil boom Big Lake became the seat of Reagan County which still governs from the historic 1927 courthouse. The former county seat, now the ghost town of Stiles, features ruins of its picturesque 1911 native stone county courthouse, visible just off state highway 137.