The Guadalupe Mountains are part of a marine fossil reef named the Capitan Reef. The Capitan Reef was formed some 260 to 270 million years ago when the area was covered by a vast tropical ocean. Geologists come from all around the world to study the fossil rich remains of this reef that was formed of calcareous sponges, algae, and lime seeping from the sea water. Other above ground portions of the reef are the Apache Mountains, due south of the park and the Glass Mountains to the southeast. The spectacular Carlsbad Caverns north of the park in New Mexico is also part of the reef formation.
For many years, these mountains were the exclusive domain of the Nde, or Mescalero Apache. Then in the mid 1800s settlers moved into the area from the east. Conflicts arose between these settlers and the Nde, that lasted for over 30 years. By the 1880s most of the Apache had been driven out of the area.
Today Guadalupe National Park offers spectacular scenery and a variety of recreational opportunities. The high country, including Guadalupe Peak which at 8749 feet (2667 meters) is the highest peak in Texas, offer a vast forest of ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, Douglas fir and aspen and is home to elk, deer, black bear, mountain lions, and a variety of birds like eagles and falcons. The park also offers canyons with maple, walnut, ash, oak and chokecherry trees that explode with color in the fall months. McKittrick Canyon has been described by many as the most beautiful place in Texas. Another part of the park is dominated by the Chihuahuan Desert which stretches hundreds of miles south into Mexico.
Fondest memory: Hiking in McKittrick Canyon. Beautiful!!
Occupants of the Frijole Ranch Home:
- Walcott Family - They constructed a 4-room dugout in the 1860's.
- Radar Brothers - In 1876 the bachelors operated a small cattle ranch.
- Smith Family - This large family (10 children) lived on the property from 1906-1942 and expanded and added various other buildings. They had a 15 acre orchard of apples, peaches, apricots, plums, figs, pecans, blackberries & strawberries. In time they built a bunk house for hired help, a spring house for water protection & storage, and a barn. The Frijole Ranch was the largest building complex in the area and served as a community center for dances & social events.
- J.C. Hunter - A successful businessman, county judge & treasurer who purchased 43,000 acres including the ranch and attempted to make it a park. His son inherited the property and eventually sold it to the National Park Service.
- Ranger Residence - from 1969-1980
- Park Office - 1981-1991
- Museum - After many renovations, the park office turned museum in 1992
There have been many historic settlements in the Guadalupe Mtns. area, but the easiest to access, now turned museum, is the Frijole Ranch named after the nearby Frijole springs. The springs have been the lifeblood of the area providing necessary water for orchards and ranches through the years.
The ranch house contains a cultural museum and traces the human history of the area from more than 10,000 years through the present.
Favorite thing: I would recommend starting out in the visitors center, as it gives a history of Guadelupe Mountains, and there are some national park representatives to answer any questions and give tips on back country hiking. When we visited, it was windy and cold, and with 3 kids, we didn't feel like doing any hiking (after just coming from Carlsbad Caverns). The landscape is quite surreal, and the hiking trails looked great from what I saw on the map. I wish that I could provide more information :-(
The main Headquarters Visitor Center is located in the Pine Springs-Frijole area, which is located off highway 62/180 and 55 miles southwest of Carlsbad. At the visitor center be sure to pick up maps and trail information, as well as watch the audiovisual programs, and look at the exhibits. From these you can learn about the park's history and natural environment. You will also find a bookstore in the Headquarters Visitor Center. Information can also be found at the visitor center located at McKittrick Canyon off US 62/180 on the eastern edge of the park, as well as the Dog Canyon Ranger Station in the north, which is only open sometimes. If you plan to backpack, camping is allowed in designated sites only. Permits are required, but they are free and may be obtained at any of the visitor centers. For more information write: Superintendent, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, H.C. 60, Box 400, Salt Flat, TX 79847, or telephone 915-828-3251.
Appreciate nature & look for different perspective in life; well, if you can't find it, at least look for some cacti to focus your attention on & take some great pix ;-).
Guadalupe Mountains has more than 1000 plant species in the park of about 86,800 acres. 2/3 of the park is designated wilderness & can only be accessed by hiking. For anyone interested in hiking, this is certainly the place to explore!
Off the Guadalupe Peak trail rises a swirling tower known here as El Capitan. Twisted like a pretzel and rising like a sponge, this lifeless rock is among the park's most recogizable landmarks.
Of course it would have helped had the clouds not enshrouded both the peak and El Capitan!
Favorite thing: The trails directly behind the Pine Springs Visitor Center are generally along level ground and pass through much of the desert-loving plant life that is prevalent around and within the park. Mule deer are generally noticeable around the shrubs of all elevations, and the quick eye will detect an occasional javelina (or peccary), the wild pigs of the American desert. Black bears and cougars frequent the park but generally retire to the higher slopes. For the most part, the park is a desert, so trees are less common than the hardiest plants that survive in these arid conditions.
Favorite thing: As I said there are mountains here. Real mountains. Even I was skeptical before arriving. Of the park's 135 square miles, there are only 80 miles of trail leading you into the high country for starters, or along the Permian reef. As usual with high altitude settings, it is generally best to acclimate yourself before doing serious activities and certainly before much climbing.
These mountains are not well known and therefore attract relatively few visitors. The Chihuahua desert extend up over the mountains, making for a mountainous desert landscape. From the main visitors center a large network of trials radiate out.
Fondest memory: It was cloudy and cold at the visitors center so most of the visitors were dissapointed. But after climbing up only 300 meters the trail rose above the clouds. Don't let the clouds below discourage you from climbing higher - the mountains take on the character of Islands.
The Museum is small but includes old artifacts and photographs of previous inhabitants and day-to-day activities of the ranch.
No admission is charged.
Admiring the forces of nature from afar.
Stark, powerful & perhaps unpredictable! Very challenging ;-)
Favorite thing: Look out for the Yucca. The Soaptree Yucca has adapted itself to the harsh environment of the desert by elongating its stem & thereby keep its leaves above the sand.
Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers