Hueco 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.
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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/01.
Updated 5/02.
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