Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Guadalupe Peak from Hunter Peak.jpg
Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, as seen from Hunter Peak
Map showing the location of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Map showing the location of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Location in the United States
Map showing the location of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Map showing the location of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Location in Texas
LocationCulberson County and Hudspeth County, Texas, United States
Nearest cityDell City, Texas
Coordinates31°55′N 104°52′W / 31.917°N 104.867°W / 31.917; -104.867Coordinates: 31°55′N 104°52′W / 31.917°N 104.867°W / 31.917; -104.867
Area86,367 acres (349.51 km2)[1]
EstablishedSeptember 30, 1972
Visitors225,257 (in 2017)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is an American national park in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas, east of El Paso. The mountain range includes Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet (2,667 m), and El Capitan which was used as a landmark by travelers along the route later followed by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line. The ruins of an old stagecoach station stand near the Pine Springs visitor center. The restored Frijole Ranch contains a small museum of local ranching history and is the trailhead for Smith Spring. The park covers 86,367 acres (134.9 sq mi; 349.5 km2)[1] in the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, about 25 miles (40 km) to the north in New Mexico. The Guadalupe Peak Trail winds through pinyon pine and Douglas-fir forests as it ascends over 3,000 feet (910 m) to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, with views of El Capitan and the Chihuahuan Desert.

The park also contains McKittrick Canyon. A trail in the canyon leads to a stone cabin built in the early 1930s as the vacation home of Wallace Pratt, a petroleum geologist who donated land to establish the park.

Dog Canyon, on the northern park boundary at the Texas-New Mexico State line, is accessed via Carlsbad, New Mexico or Dell City, Texas. Camping is available at the Pine Springs campground and at Dog Canyon. A public corral for livestock is available by reservation.

Gypsum sand dunes lie on the west side of the park near Dell City.[3] A rough four-wheel drive road leads to the Williams Ranch.[4]


Sign at the entrance of the Park
Guadalupe Ranch House
Map of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Wallace Pratt Lodge

For thousands of years, the Guadalupe Mountains have had a tumultuous history. Archaeological evidence has shown that people lived over 10,000 years ago in and among the many caves and alcoves. Hunter-gatherers followed large game and collected edible vegetation. This conclusion is supported by the discovery of projectile points, baskets, pottery, and rock art.[5]

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 area. The Spanish introduced horses; nomadic indigenous tribes like the Apaches soon found them an asset for hunting and migrating. Mescalero Apaches 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. They 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 serves 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 houses there. Both were used as summer homes by Pratt and his family up until 1960. Wallace Pratt donated about 6,000 acres (9.4 sq mi; 24.3 km2) of McKittrick Canyon which became part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which was dedicated and formally opened to the public in September, 1972.[5]

Geography and climate[edit]

McKittrick Canyon from a distance

The Guadalupe Mountains reach their highest point at Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas,[6] with an elevation of 8,751 feet (2,667 m).[7] 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.[8] 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.[6] 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.

Manzanita Spring

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, sleet 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.

Climate data for Pine Springs weather station, Texas. (Elevation 5,600 ft or 1,700 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 74
Average high °F (°C) 53.7
Average low °F (°C) 31.7
Record low °F (°C) 4
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.69
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center[9]


McKittrick Canyon Trail

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 strobiformis), and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii subsp. glauca), with small stands of aspen.[10]

The range contains many large cave systems, including Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave. The history of the range includes occupation by ancient Pueblo and Mogollon peoples, and by the Apache and various outlaws in the 19th century.[11]


Animals that inhabit this national parks include elk, gray foxes, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, striped and hog-nosed skunks, badgers, sixteen species of bats, mule deer, and cougars. Birds of this park include great horned owls, chickadees, sparrows, barn owls, woodpeckers, turkey vultures, greater roadrunners, hummingbirds, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, wrens, and grosbeaks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  3. ^ "Salt Basin Dunes". National Park Service. August 13, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  4. ^ "Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Williams Ranch" National Park Service. March 31, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  5. ^ a b National Park Service. History of Guadalupe National Park. United States Department of the Interior.
  6. ^ a b "Elevations and Distances in the United States". United States Geological Survey. April 29, 2005. Archived from the original on January 16, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  7. ^ "El Capitan". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  9. ^ "Seasonal Temperature and Precipitation Information". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Powell, A. Michael. Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press. p. 91; ISBN 978-0-292-76573-3
  11. ^ 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

External links[edit]