Life on the Frontier
The Presidio
The Governor's House
A Military Outpost
Farming and Ranching
Religious Life
Domestic Life
Games and Entertainment
The King's Highway
Trade with the French
Trade with the Caddo
The Kings Highway
During the Spanish colonial period, a road that connected a place to Mexico City—the seat of royal authority—was called a camino real, or “royal road.” There were several caminos reales in northern New Spain during the colonial period, including the camino real to California, the camino real to Santa Fe, and the camino real to Texas, which was called El Camino Real de los Tejas. Los Adaes was the capital of the Province of Texas, so El Camino Real de los Tejas connected Los Adaes to Mexico City. Roads during the colonial period were not like modern roads today. It is probably best to think of a camino real as a transportation corridor. During rainy seasons, the higher areas of the corridor were used. Under threats of attack, the safer, more exposed route within a corridor was used. Roads were also important cultural transmitters. Travel was slow and travelers took time to visit along the way, exchanging information.
Horse shoeTalavera ware from PueblaAsian porcelainMain plaza of Mexico City, 1700s
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Eyewitness Accounts
The following are direct quotes from translations of travelers along the camino real and other roads in the area. Pierre Marie François de Pagès was traveling alone from Nacogdoches back to Los Adaes: “A few days afterwards I observed a party of savages before me, when that involuntary fear of them entertained by Europeans, . . . prompted me to skulk from the path, . . . to avoid their company. The moment, however, I alighted from my mule, I was accosted by a couple of their women, who requested I would supply them with some of my Indian corn. I very readily shared with them what little I had, but the reader may guess my surprise, when, after several days, they returned to testify their gratitude, by making me a present of cakes made of wild fruit. I afterwards fell in with men of the same village, from whom I received much kindness, who were at great pains to put me in the best path, and to instruct me as to the places most convenient for feeding my mule, as well as for my own accommodation” (Pagès, Pierre Marie François de 1793, Travels Round the World, in the Years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771. volumes 1–3. Second edition, cor. and enl. J. Murray, London, page 63). Pagès was traveling alone—something that most tried to avoid—somewhere west of the Sabine River when he had this encounter with the Indians, probably a Caddo group. Pagès made the following remarks about the trip from Los Adaes to Mexico City and San Antonio: “According to my best information relative to the road from hence to Mexico, it is a journey of no less than five hundred and fifty leagues; and to the second Spanish settlement two hundred and fifty, by a way difficult to be found, and across rivers, many of which are extremely dangerous in their passage. I was assured, that though at times a small party of two or three savages will undertake and accomplish this expedition, yet, with the encumbrance of baggage, it would be deemed highly imprudent to attempt it with fewer than ten or twelve persons in company” (Pagès, Pierre Marie François de, 1793. Travels Round the World in the Years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771. volumes 1–3. Second edition, cor. and enl. J. Murray, London, page 56). Herbert Eugene Bolton, Spanish borderlands historian, was remarking on his horseback ride on the camino real between Natchitoches and Los Adaes, sometime before 1915: “I have ridden . . . on horseback, in mud fetlock deep, over the historic trail from Natchitoches, the old French outpost of Louisiana, to Los Adaes (now Robeline), the Spanish outpost of Texas” (Bolton, Herbert 1970a, Texas in the Middle Eighteen Century. University of Texas, Austin, page vii [reprint of 1915 edition]).
Suggested Reading
Foster, William C. 1995 Spanish Expeditions into Texas: 1689-1768. University of Texas Press, Austin.

McGraw, A. Joachim; John W. Clark, Jr., and Elizabeth Brown, editors 1991 A Texas legacy. The Old San Antonio Road and The Caminos Reales. A Tricentennial History, 1691-1991. Texas State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, Austin, Texas.