Tanks State Historic Park
- As we headed from Guadalupe Mountains to Tucson, we
read about the possible stops along the way. As we neared
El Paso, we passed the entrance to the Hueco
Tanks State Historical Park. We were in a road
construction area and we didn't want to get the RV
stranded in a place we couldn't turn around, so we
continued down the road. A couple miles later we saw a
large trucker parking lot and decided we'd stop, unhook,
and take the Explorer back for a short visit. We were a
little nervous about leaving the RV in the parking lot.
After checking to make certain that it was okay to leave
the motorhome, we headed to the park.
Having read an article in Texas Magazine about the park,
we were aware of it's popularity. As we approached the
entrance to the park we noted that only a limited number
of people are allowed in the park each day. This park
contains two very different attractions: rock climbing
and history. The rock climbers come for the unique shape
of the rock and the interesting natural handholds up the
rock face. The historians come for the rich history of
people who have lived in the area since prehistoric
times. These people left interesting rock art. A
controversy is raging over access to the park. People
interested in preserving the rock paintings are concerned
about the destruction of the art by climbers.
- The Park
- Thirty million years ago a dome of
uplifted molten rock came to the surface.
Over time, weathering has caused cracks and
holes to form in the rock. For more than
10,000 years, humans have come for the water
that fills these holes or huecos. The area is
filled with more than 3000 pictographs which
are painted on the rock walls. Many are
hidden in crevices and caves. Unlike many
areas that contains black pictographs, many
of the rock art found at Hueco Tanks is in
color. The colored paints were made from
minerals and plant dyes in colors such as
red, yellow, green, and blue.
The pictographs at Hueco Tanks represent the people who
visited the area for shelter, food, and water over many
years. The earliest rock art was created by ancient
hunters and gatherers. They often depicted animals and
hunting scenes. They also create geometric designs.
- A Guided Tour
- As we walked into the visitor center, we
noticed a group of four people ahead of us.
They were told that only three passes were
left for the day. Since their group was too
large, the two of us got in! Before getting
our passes we had to complete a short
orientation about the park.
- We expressed an interest in the unique
rock art and were told that a volunteer might
be available to guide us through the "guide
only" part of the park with some of the best
examples of rock painting. Many of the pieces
of art are difficult to locate without a
guide. A high school science teacher named
Steve who volunteered at the park was eager
to share his knowledge about the area.
- The pueblo agricultural people came next.
Most of the rock art found at the park is
from this time period. The people reflected
their religious beliefs in the form of
painted masks. Some are outlines and others
are solid mask images. The park contains the
largest concentration of painted masks in
North America. They also represented their
life of agriculture.
- The Plains Indians including the Apaches
used the oasis at varies times leaving
pictures of events and rituals. Many
ceremonies and dances are shown in their rock
art. They also represented the arrival of the
Spanish people. The area still has religious
significance for people in the area. The
picture on the right shows rock art in the
lower left corner and a recent "offering" in
the upper right ledge. Our guide noted that
the park service is careful to respect the
religious significance of the area.
- Finally, the Spanish, Mexicans, and Anglo
settlers passed the site. They often left
names and dates.
- We really enjoyed our day at Hueco
Tanks State Historical Park. Larry liked it so much
that he bought a shirt that contained the design found
below. After reattaching the Explorer to the RV, we
headed to Las Cruces, New Mexico. That night we went to a
great restaurant with Annette's uncle Barry.
- Updated 5/02.
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