Terlingua, Texas

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Terlingua, Texas
Census-designated place
Terlingua in 1936
Terlingua in 1936
Brewster County StudyButte-Terlingua.svg
Coordinates: 29°19′17″N 103°36′57″W / 29.32139°N 103.61583°W / 29.32139; -103.61583Coordinates: 29°19′17″N 103°36′57″W / 29.32139°N 103.61583°W / 29.32139; -103.61583
Country United States
State Texas
County Brewster
 • Total 11.0 sq mi (28.5 km2)
 • Land 11.0 sq mi (28.5 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 2,891 ft (881 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 58
 • Density 5/sq mi (2.0/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
FIPS code 48-72248[1]
Maverick Mountain, approx. 4 miles east of Study Butte-Terlingua - indicative of the surrounding terrain
Another panoramic view
Old Church in Terlingua, 1973

Terlingua is a mining district and census-designated place (CDP) in southwestern Brewster County, Texas, United States. It is located near the Rio Grande and the Texas villages of Lajitas and Study Butte, Texas, as well as the Mexican village of Santa Elena. The discovery of cinnabar, from which the metal mercury is extracted, in the mid-1880s brought miners to the area, creating a city of 2,000 people. The only remnants of the mining days are a ghost town of the Howard Perry-owned Chisos Mining Company and several nearby capped and abandoned mines, most notably the California Hill, the Rainbow, the 248 and the Study Butte mines. The mineral terlinguaite was first found in the vicinity of California Hill.

The population of Terlingua as of the 2010 census was 58.[2]


According to the historian Kenneth Baxter Ragsdale, "Facts concerning the discovery of cinnabar in the Terlingua area are so shrouded in legend and fabrication that it is impossible to cite the date and location of the first quicksilver recovery." The cinnabar was apparently known to Native Americans, who prized its brilliant red color for body pigment. Various Mexican and American prospectors reportedly found cinnabar at Terlingua in the 1880s, but the remoteness and hostile Indians deterred mining.

A man named Jack Dawson reportedly produced the first mercury from Terlingua in 1888, but the district got off to a slow start. It was not until the mid-1890s that the Terlingua finds began to be publicized in newspapers and mining industry magazines.[3] By 1900, there were four mining companies operating at Terlingua.[4][5][6][7]


Due to its proximity to Big Bend National Park, today Terlingua is mostly a tourist destination for park visitors. Rafting and canoeing on the Rio Grande, mountain biking, camping, hiking, and motorcycling are some of the outdoor activities favored by tourists.

On the first Saturday of November, over 10,000 "chiliheads" convene in Terlingua for two annual chili cookoffs: the Chili Appreciation Society International and the Frank X. Tolbert / Wick Fowler World Chili Championships. In the late 1970s the Chili Cook-Off sponsored a “Mexican Fence-Climbing Contest” to spoof the U.S. government's planned reinforcement of the chain-link fence separating El Paso, Texas, from Cuidad Juárez, Mexico, and San Ysidro, California, from Tijuana, Mexico. The fence the “chili heads” used was constructed by undocumented Mexican workers who labored annually for the Cook-Off organizers at five dollars a day plus meals and rustic lodging.[8] Among the founders of the first chili cookoff in 1967 was car manufacturer Carroll Shelby, who owned a 220,000-acre (890 km2) ranch nearby.[9]

Terlingua features in Wim Wenders' movie Paris, Texas. Travis is brought there to the German physician.


Terlingua is served by the Terlingua Common School District, which serves Terlingua Elementary and Big Bend High.


This area has a large amount of sunshine year round due to its stable descending air and high pressure. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Terlingua has a mild desert climate, abbreviated "Bwh" on climate maps.[10]


  1. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Terlingua CDP, Texas". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ Dumble, E.T. (1900). "Cretaceous and Later Rocks of Presidio and Brewster Counties", Transactions of the Texas Academy of Sciences for 1899, Together With The Proceedings From The Same Year. The Texas Academy of Sciences. Retrieved May 20, 2009.  Describes c. 1894 and 1897 examinations in the area.
  4. ^ Kenneth Baxter Ragsdale (1976) Quicksilver: Terlingua and the Chisos Mining Company, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, p.14-17.
  5. ^ American Mining Congress (1905). "Quicksilver Deposits of Terlingua District, Brewster County, Texas" Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Session of the American Mining Congress, El Paso, Texas, November 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1905. pp. 184–194. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  6. ^ Hill, Benjamin Felix (1902). The University of Texas Mineral Survey, Bulletin No. 4, October, 1902: The Terlingua Quicksilver Deposits, Brewster County. Austin: The University of Texas. Retrieved May 20, 2009.  Includes numerous c. 1902 photos of area mining operations.
  7. ^ Photo (c. 1905) of the Terlingua Mining Company's furnace in Simonds, Frederic William (1905). The Geography of Texas. Boston: Ginn & Company. p. 104. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  8. ^ Miller, Tom. On the Border: Portraits of America’s Southwestern Frontier, p. 102.
  9. ^ Egan, Peter (September 2008). "Viva Terlingua!". Road & Track 60 (1): 107–109. 
  10. ^ Climate Summary for Terlingua, Texas

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