Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 21
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horsemen, lots of livestock on both sides of
the river, and hundreds of migrating
birds-but there is very little evidence of
man's passage that we can get to. Some of
the old campsites are still home to the local
population. Just before we enter Santa
Elena Canyon we visit two sites on the park
side of the river. A short, precipitous
scramble brings us to a dugout on the silt
bank above a tributary creek. A sort of slit
trench into a slight rise retains some of the
rocks that reached up to a roof of river cane
or thatch. This ruin was once a permanent
dwelling and was probably home to a family
that farmed the riverbank maybe a
hundred years ago.
Below it and closer to the roar of the
rapids at the canyon mouth is an Indian
site, again covered with chips derived from
the making of points. Here, once, was a
large rock mortar. River runners loved to
hike up to see it. It has been stolen.
The canyon is a play of
light and shadow.
For the rest of the trip we leave the
Indians in peace. They rarely if ever entered
the canyon, whose walls rise up to
1500 feet. The-river dodges back and forth
between the walls leaving grassy sandbars
in the curves, or laps sheer walls on both
sides. At the Rockslide rapid, the only one
of consequence on the trip, the boatmen
carefully scout the narrow passages and
treacherous currents for a route through
the house-sized boulders. Hundreds,
maybe thousands of years ago part of the
canyon wall just let loose and tumbled into
the narrow gorge. With time the river
made a path thi3h the rocks and man
developed flexible boats that could survive
the bumps and scrapes of the passage.
The canyon is a play of light and
shadow, warming and cooling us to the
canyon wren's cascading song. When we
emerge from the canyon, as though passing
through a gateway, we are ready for a cold
drink and a hot bath, but not really for our
trip back in time to end. Perhaps future
generations will still be able to take delight
in following in the Indians' footsteps, that
is if ours leaves them anything to find.
Sarah Whitson is a contributing writer from
C Historical Locator Listing
W-y * Don't Forget *
to add these fine establishments
to your summer travel itinerary -and be
* Texas Proud * Texas Loyal
200 E. Cotter
P.O. Box 8
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Miles Opera House
2nd & Robinson
Miles, TX 76861
8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Ambassador Plaza Hotel
1312 S. Ervay
Dallas, TX 75215
1-800-442-4839 in Texas
400 Locust St.
P.O. Box 1148
Sweetwater, TX 79556
Far Flung Adventures
. I ,
* Raft Trips in the Canyons of Big Bend, Taos Box,
Arizona's Salt, Rivers of Colorado and Mexico
* Photo and Naturalist Seminars
* Whitewater Rafting Schools
* Texas River Music with Steve Fromholz
and Other Greats
* Sales of River Equipment and Accessories
BOX 31 TERLINGUA, TEXAS 79852 (915) 371-2489
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988, periodical, Summer 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434/m1/21/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.