Guadalupe Mountains National Park
|Guadalupe Mountains National Park|
Sign at the entrance
|Location||Culberson County and Hudspeth County, Texas, USA|
|Nearest city||Carlsbad, New Mexico|
|Area||86,367 acres (34,951 ha)|
|Established||September 30, 1972|
|Visitors||159,360 (in 2012)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas and contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet (2,666.7 m) in elevation. Located east of El Paso, it also contains El Capitan, long used as a landmark by people traveling along the old route later followed by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line. Visitors can see the ruins of an old stagecoach station near the Pine Springs Visitor Center. Camping is available nearby at the Pine Springs Campground. The restored Frijole Ranch House is now a small museum of local ranching history and is the trailhead for Smith Spring. The park covers 86,367 acres (134.95 sq mi; 349.51 km2) and is in the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns National Park which is located about 25 miles (40 km) to the north in New Mexico. Numerous well-established trails exist in the park for hiking and horse-riding. The Guadalupe Peak Trail offers perhaps the most outstanding views in the park. Climbing over 3,000 feet (910 m) to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the trail winds through pinyon pine and Douglas-fir forests and offers spectacular views of El Capitan and the vast Chihuahuan Desert.
The park also contains McKittrick Canyon. During the Fall, McKittrick comes alive with a blaze of color from the turning Bigtooth Maples, in stark contrast with the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. A trail in the canyon leads to a stone cabin built in the early 1930s, formerly the vacation home of Wallace Pratt, a petroleum geologist who donated the land in order to establish the park.
Throughout the last thousands of years, the Guadalupe Mountains have a long tumultuous history. Archaeological evidence has shown that people lived over 10,000 years ago in and among the many caves and alcoves. The first humans to live here were hunter-gathers that followed large game and collected editable vegetation. Artifacts that support this include projectile points, baskets, pottery, and rock art.
The first Europeans to arrive in the area were the Spanish in the 16th century, but they did not make serious attempts to settle in the Guadalupe Mountains. The Spanish introduced horses into the area; and nomadic indigenous tribes of the area like the Apaches soon found horses to be an asset for hunting and migrating. Mescalero Apaches were nomadic and followed game and harvested the agave (or mescal) for food and fiber. Mescalero is Spanish for mescal-maker. Agave roasting pits and other artifacts of Mescalero culture can be found in the park.
The Mescalero Apaches remained in the mountains through the mid-19th century, but they were challenged by an American transportation route at the end of the American Civil War. During the 1840s and 1850s many people immigrating west crossed the area. In 1858, Pinery Station was constructed near Pine Springs for the Butterfield Overland Mail. The Butterfield Overland Mail traveled over Guadalupe Pass located at 5,534 ft (1,687 m) above sea level. The 9th Cavalry Regiment was ordered to the area to stop Indian raids on settlements and mail stage route. During the winter of 1869, Lt. H.B. Cushing led his troops into the Guadalupe Mountains and destroyed two Mescalero Apache camps and were eventually driven out of the area and into US reservations.
Felix McKittrick was one of the first European settlers in the Guadalupe Mountains; he worked cattle during the 1870s. McKittrick Canyon is thought to be named after him. Frijole Ranch was the first permanent ranch house; it was constructed in 1876 by the Rader brothers. Frijole Ranch House was the only major building in the region; it served as a community center and regional post office from 1916 to 1942. Today, the Frijole Ranch House has been restored and operates as a cultural museum. In 1908 Williams Ranch House was built, and it was named after one of its inhabitants, James Adolphus Williams. Judge J.C. Hunter from Van Horn, Texas consolidated most of the smaller ranches in the area into the Guadalupe Mountain Ranch. In 1921, Wallace Pratt, a geologist for Humble Oil and Refining Company, was impressed by the beauty of McKittrick Canyon and bought the land to build two homes in the canyon. Both constructions were used as summer homes by Pratt and his family up until 1960. Wallace Pratt donated about 6,000 acres (24 km2) of McKittrick Canyon which became part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which was dedicated and formally opened to the public in September, 1972.
The Guadalupe Mountains reach their highest point at Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, with an elevation of 8,751 feet (2,667 m). The range lies southeast of the Sacramento Mountains and east of the Brokeoff Mountains. The mountain range extends north-northwest and northeast from Guadalupe Peak in Texas into New Mexico. The northeastern extension ends about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Carlsbad, near White's City and Carlsbad Caverns National Park; the southwest tip ends with El Capitan about 90 miles (140 km) east of El Paso. The mountains rise more than 3,000 feet (910 m) above the arid floor of the Chihuahuan Desert. with an elevation of 8,751 feet (2,667 m). The Guadalupe Mountains are surrounded by the South Plains to the east and north, Delaware Mountains to the south, and Sacramento Mountains to the west.
The northwestern extension, bounded by a dramatic escarpment known as "The Rim", extends much further into New Mexico, to near the Sacramento Mountains. The range is bounded on the north by Four Mile Canyon; on the east by the valley of the Pecos River; and on the west by Piñon Creek, Big Dog Canyon, Valley Canyon, Middle Dog Canyon and West Dog Canyon. Much of the range is built from the ancient Capitán Reef that formed at the margins of a shallow sea during the Permian Period. For detail on the area's geology, see Delaware Basin. As the range is built up almost entirely of limestone, upland areas have little or no surface water. The only significant surface water is McKittrick Creek, in McKittrick Canyon, which emerges from the eastern side of the massif, just south of the New Mexico border. Elevations at the base of the range vary from 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above sea level on the western side to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) on the east. Several peaks on the southern end exceed 8,000 feet (2,400 m).
The Guadalupe Mountains experience relatively hot summers, calm, mild autumn weather, and cool to cold weather in winter and early spring. Snow storms, freezing rain, or fog may occur in winter or early spring. Frequent high wind warnings are issued during winter through spring. Late summer monsoons produce thunderstorms. Nights are cool, even in summer.
There are three major ecosystems contained within the mountain range. First of all, deserts exhibit salt flats on the western side of the National Park and creosote desert, with low elevations on the east covered with grassland, pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) and junipers such as alligator juniper (J. deppeana) and one-seeded juniper (J. monosperma). Secondly, canyon interiors such as McKittrick, Bear, and Pine Springs Canyon on the southeast end exhibit maple, ash, chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and other deciduous trees. These trees are able to grow in the desert due to springs of water recharged by wet uplands. Finally, alpine uplands known as 'The Bowl' exceeding elevations of 7,000 ft (2,100 m) are clothed with denser forests of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), southwestern white pine (Pinus flexilis), and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii subsp. glauca), with small stands of aspen.
The range contains many world-class caves, including Carlsbad Caverns (the best known) and Lechuguilla Cave, discovered in 1986. The history of the range includes occupation by ancient Pueblo and Mogollon peoples, and by the Apache and various Anglo outlaws in the 19th century.
- "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
- "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
- National Park Service. History of Guadalupe National Park. United States Department of the Interior.
- "Elevations and Distances in the United States". United States Geological Survey. April 29, 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- "El Capitan". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Powell, A. Michael. Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press. [ISBN 978-0-292-76573-3]
- Butterfield, Mike, and Greene, Peter, Mike Butterfield's Guide to the Mountains of New Mexico, New Mexico Magazine Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-937206-88-1
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