Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988 Page: 21
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In keeping with the
The estimated 3000 to 5000 petroglyphs and pictographs scattered through the Park remain
Hueco Tank's true treasure.
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This expedition outlined a road that roughly paralleled the
present Texas-New Mexico line after crossing the Pecos River.
The road went from Alamo Spring in the Cornudas Mountains
through Hueco Tanks and into El Paso, and it became known as
the Upper Road.
The third expedition opened what came to be known as the
Lower, or Military, Road, by way of Forts Stockton, Davis and
The lure of California gold had drawn some hardy souls ahead
of the official pathfinders. Col. Neighbors reported finding
tracks and worn-out livestock along the expedition's route.
Some of those adventurers found their way to El Paso by way of
Hueco Tanks, where they drank their fill and moved on. Some
of them scratched their names beside the ancient Indian rock
writing, and a few even left written accounts.
One of them was Benjamin Butler Harris, who wrote The Gila
Trail: The Texas Argonauts and the California Gold Rush. Harris
was a member of a party led by a Captain Isaac H. Duval.
The Duval party was one of the first to cross Texas on its way
to California, and it consisted of 52 men mounted on horses and
leading pack mules. The Duval group met Col. Neighbors'
expedition at Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River, and then
continued west by way of Hueco Tanks.
Harris described the Tanks, seen from a distance, as "a piled
range of blooming roses and snowballs." He noted the rock art in
his journal, describing the ancient Indian pictographs as depicting
a battle between Indians and Mexicans.
The first serious visitor to record any of the Hueco rock
writing was the U. S. Boundary Commissioner, John Russell
Bartlett. Bartlett wrote a fascinating two-volume report with an
e Apache also
de their marks
the Hueco Tanks.
imanche Cave in
e Huecos has a
iral telling of an
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extremely long-winded title: Personal Narrative of Explorations
and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, Chihuahua,
Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary
Commission During the Years 1850 to 1853. He took a side trip to
Hueco Tanks, and this is what he had to say about it:
"Rambled over the great rocky mass to see what could be found
of interest. Discovered several pools or tanks of clear and beautiful
water, where it had collected from rains or the melting of
snows. The formation here is granite in places, rising from a
hundred to a hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding plain,
and covered with huge boulders, piled up in every imaginable
He went on to tell about the rock art and included several
sketches. The park rangers are fairly certain about the location
of his camp site, because Bartlett's name, or what looks like it, is
carved on a panel that also contains the much more ancient rock
Other travelers had this unfortunate urge to carve their names
in the rock, and it's interesting to see some of the older ones. But
it's a practice that's absolutely frowned upon today by the park
rangers. In fact, one idiot was caught recently as he was
spraypainting his doubtful claim to immortality on the rocks. He
spent the next weekend removing the paint, and one can only
hope he learned a lesson from the experience.
The Butterfield Overland Mail established a stagecoach station
at Hueco Tanks in 1858. It was the next-west stage stop from
Alamo Mountain. The route swung southwest from Alamo and
curved around Cerro Alto down an almost-staircase that was
cursed by everyone who had to rope the coaches down it.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988, periodical, Spring 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45435/m1/21/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.