Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988 Page: 22
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From Hueco, the route ran down to what is now Overland
Street in El Paso. It wasn't called El Paso then, but bore the
name of Franklin. The real El Paso was across the river, Paso del
Norte, now known as Juarez.
The Hueco station was abandoned after one short year along
with other stations on the Upper Road. All the traffic was
shifted to the Lower Road, which was better protected by the
military posts along that route. That was the time of the
Apache, and traveling through unprotected country was, literally,
worth your scalp. But there were still travelers along the
upper way, because names from the 1860s and 1880s are found
at Hueco, pecked or scratched into the rock.
By 1898, the Apache had been rather firmly confined to
reservation lands, and Hueco Tanks was claimed as a ranch by
Juan Armendariz, a wealthy Ysleta politican and one-time
sheriff of El Paso County, and Benigno Alderete.
Armendariz's godson, Silverio Escontrias, was brought
down from La Luz, New Mexico, to run the ranch. He apparently
got title to the land, and it remained in the family until
1956. The Escontrias house, built in 1900, still stands at Hueco
J. R. Davis of Pecos, Texas, bought the ranch in 1959, and
hauled three old army barracks into the area. A cafe and bar
were opened for visitors, who paid a small entrance fee if
anyone was around to collect. The ranch was sold three years
later, and the plague of the desert, the land developers, descended
on the scene. A huge earth dam was bulldozed up
between the West and North Mountains of the tanks, completely
destroying what may have been a prehistoric Indian
There were Grand Plans afoot, those days of the 60s. The
whole place was going to be Disneyfied, with a Frontier Town
and a lake, golf course and zoo. And, of course, an area that
would be filled with tickytacky ranchettes.
The ghosts of the old Indians must have been spinning
rapidly in their graves. Thankfully, the wild visions of the landdestroyers
were shot down in mid-flight.
El Paso County got the property by the mid-60s and
operated it as a county park, complete with concessionaires.
Complaints flooded in to the local papers, and there was a time
when plans were discussed whereby the Tiguas would come in
to operate the park. By this time, though, the natural beauty of
the park was too well-known to allow it to fall into the hands
of local government, and the State Legislature made it a State
Park. Hueco Tanks was transferred to the state by special deed,
and the state later bought an additional 121 acres from a realtor
who had sold Hueco Tanks to the county in the first place.
Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, which now covers some
860 acres, was opened officially to the public in May 1970. It
operates today under the watchful eye of Texas Parks and
Wildlife Rangers, who look on it as a treasure held in trust for
the thousands of people who come to visit-and for their
grandchildren yet unborn.
And the park has treasures still.
A pithouse village dating from about 1 1 50AD was found in an
archaeological dig in 1972 and 1973, along with a prehistoric
water control system, complete with check dams. The researchers
suspect a sophisticated irrigation system, and investigation
into the matter will continue if and when anything like an
adequate budget happens.
Bob Miles, Park Superintendent, says that the estimated 3000
to 5000 petroglyths and pictographs scattered through the Park
remain Hueco Tank's true treasure. There are more yet to be
found in another ongoing research project that will take many
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The big hope on the wish-list right now is that
in interpretive center and museum will be
added sometime in the future.
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This volcanic upthrust jutting from the bed of a one-time
inland sea, this home for Man since time's beginning, has really
changed very little in several thousand years. Under Parks and
Wildlife supervision, improvements have been made as
unobtrusively as possible, and yet everything has been planned
to make the Park comfortable for visitors.
There is a 20-unit camping area, with electricity, water and a
picnic table at each unit. There is even a restroom with hot
showers for the long-term campers, an addition that would have
made the eyes of the old stagecoach people bug out in unbelieving
If you are just there for the day, there are more than 50 picnic
sites, most of them with shade shelters. A barbecue at sunset in
Hueco Tanks is something you will long remember.
There is hiking, rock climbing and just plain old-fashioned
exploring. There is so much to see and do that a day or even a
week isn't time enough. Happy news is that vehicles are not
allowed on the south side of the Park, so there is plenty of room
to Get Away From It All. And this, mind you, within 28 miles
of the overdeveloped sprawl of El Paso.
There is no public drinking allowed at Hueco Tanks, which
makes it a grand place to take the family. The summer months
see guided tours, evening slide shows and living history programs,
and the thousands who visit here each year testify to the
The big hope on the wish-list right now is that an interpretive
center and museum will be added sometime in the future, and the
eyes of the Park staff light up as they tell you how this will allow
them to tell the story of Hueco Tanks and the role it played in the
history of our Southwest even better than they do it now.
Alex Apostolides is an archaeologist, and the writer and producer of
The Edge of Texas radio show in El Paso, Texas.
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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/m1/22/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.