How to find Fort Phantom:
From I-20, take exit 288 (if travelling west. if travelling east, take 286C). Head North on West Lake Road. It’s a good 10-12 mile drive. Don’t use the GPS addresses on the Ft. Phantom Hill website or Google – they’re crap.
Just keep going North on West Lake Road/FM 600. You’ll pass a big junk yard on your right and an abnoxious gate to a ranch that says “We Don’t Dial 911”. You may see a small boat stranded in the dirt – don’t get in it.
You’re almost there when you see a blue sign for Ft. Phantom Hill Baptist Church, and the Forth Phantom Cemetery.
The Fort is right off the road, you can’t miss it.
Ok, I had to get the directions out of the way first because this place is tough to find! My family and I, in a 3 car mule train, drove up and down West Lake Rd while our GPS’s screamed “You have reached your destination!” right in the middle of the dang road. Fortunately I still had an internet connection so I Googled everything I could find on driving directions to Ft. Phantom, and all they said was “This place is hard to find! But worth it.”
So when we did find it, I decided to write useful directions for finding Ft. Phantom.
There are only ruins left of the old stone Fort. I’ve always especially loved ruins. As a kid driving through the country on vacations, I was always most intrigued by the abandoned barns and leaning houses wearing away in the wind. There’s a story in ruins, in the fragments of what were. They’re like physical memories, scars in history slowly fading away as time surges relentlessly forward.
The aptly named Ft. Phantom was built in 1851 and was only manned for 3 years. Not surprising considering the intense weather and ruthless droughts synonymous with West Texas.
From the pamphlet: “Heat in the summer was often over 100 degrees. There was never enough rain and not enough grass to feed the horses and cattle…Hailstorms and tornadoes in the spring and fall, ice and snow in the winter, and the wind never seemed to stop blowing.”
Sound familiar, my fellow West Texans??
So soldiers missions were to build the fort, then maintain the fort. That is literally it. There weren’t many settlers to protect, no nearby railroads and they didn’t even have much trouble with the native tribes.
Aside from the volatile weather, life at Ft Phantom Hill must have been pretty boring. That’s probably why Lt. Givens ordered everyone to abandon the fort in 1854, and then torched the place.
My theory is that he burned it to the ground because he didn’t want to risk being sent back!
Ft Phantom is a really cool place to visit. It’s a completely self-guided tour, and you can wander around wherever you want. It’s a great place for photographers and history nerds (like myself!) So take a drive through the desert and go check it out.
Here in the ruins
Where we’re destined to be.
They are our past
and our future.
Thanks for reading! =)