We love Texas State Parks. They’re a bargain if you opt for an annual Texas State Park Pass. For $70, you don’t have to pay the $6 daily entrance fee, which applies to both campers and day-use visitors. You also get a 50% discount for four nights of camping. The pass pays for itself in less than a week.
We’re currently camped at Hueco Tanks State Park just east of El Paso, TX. We were here last year but since it’s between Carlsbad, NM and our next destination in Apache Junction, AZ it made sense to stop in again. Besides, it’s a beautiful park with few visitors and lots to do.
Wednesday, March 30 – Ranger Led Tour
We arrived on Monday, March 28. I thought we could forgo the ”movie” since we saw it on our visit last year. Unlike other Texas state parks, Hueco Tanks is a special place with unique rules: most of the park is off limits to visitors without an authorized guide, the park gate is closed and locked before sunset after which all campers are required to remain in their campsites, only a limited number of people are allowed into the park each day, etc. All of this is explained in a film that visitors are required to watch before entering. After you’ve seen the film, you get a card that allows you to return for up to year after which you must view the film again.
Last time we were here, I explored sections of the park opened to unescorted visitors but today I’m going on a ranger-led hike into the restricted area.
Our guide is a Texas State Park Ranger. He’s a native American and has lived in this area his entire life. He explains the history of Hueco Tanks and how it was used by both indigenous people before the arrival of white men as well as ranchers and settlers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He also explains much of the local flora and fauna.
Hueco Tanks was a popular place throughout recent history. Most of the pictographs within the park have been defaced by graffiti, much of it by ranchers and cavalry men during the mid-1800’s. Our guide leads us to a small cave (not the one pictured above) containing a pristine set of pictographs. The only way in is to lay on your back and worm your way through a small crevice underneath a large bolder. There’s only room enough for two at a time. Once inside, the pictographs are visible on the ceiling just a couple of feet overhead.