PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
By Carla Charter
SALT FLAT, TX. – The Guadalupe Mountains National Park boasts a unique history along with its natural beauty. “We are internationally famous for a marine fossil reef which was created 260-270 million years ago, during the Permian period. We continue to have geologists from academia and commercial world to study the fossils reef. The reef includes fossils of a number of types of sponges and 500 types of invertebrates including sharks. Pieces of sloth hides which have been found in caves from the last ice age as well.” said Michael Haynie, Park Ranger at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
The mountains were populated over 10,000 years ago but the names of those who lived there have been lost to time. Haynie said the Spanish were in the region of the Rio Grande and the Pecos in the 1500’s “They were up and down the river exploring inland, but whether they went through the mountains is not known,” Haynie stated.
Antonio De Espejo explored the Pecos River, which was within eyesight of the mountains it is unknown whether he went into the mountains,” he stated. Diego de Vargos on an expedition to find salt deposits visited a rugged canyon in search of water in 1692, a canyon which is now a part of the park. De Vargos is believed to have been the first non-native visitor to the area.
Ranching in the foothills and grassy regions of the area, began during the Civil War period and continued through the 1960’s. The Frijole Ranch House still exists and serves as a history museum for the Guadalupe Mountain National Park which was established in 1966.
During the Civil War era, there were conflicts between the Americans and the Apache who were living in the mountains. Buffalo soldiers were sent to the region after the Civil War to make it safe for settlers moving west which meant more skirmishes with the Apaches.
The land was also once part of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route. Ruins of Pinery Station, the mail route stop, still exist at the park. Traces of the Overland route are still visible in some places in the park.
The park today offers visitors strenuous high-country hikes which take 6 to 8 hours. “When you reach the summit, you can see over 100 miles on a clear day,” Haynie said. Animals which may be seen at the park include a wide variety of birds, mule deer, elk and black bears. There have also been a few reported sightings of mountain lions, according to Haynie. Tent camping and dry RV camping with no hook ups are allowed at the park.
The temperature moderates in the fall not a lot of strong winds not a lot of precipitation. Mid October to mid-November are the peak time for fall foliage. “We are busy on the weekends so if possible, visitors might want to visit on the weekdays,” Haynie said.
More information about Guadalupe Mountains national Park can be found at https://www.nps.gov/gumo/index.htm