Guadalupe Mountains, Texas on the map. National Park Guadalupe Mountains (Texas state) on the map of US

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Guadalupe Mountains, Texas on the map. National Park Guadalupe Mountains (Texas state) on the map of US

Below: The lonesome sound of coyotes barking and howling is a familiar night chorus in the West.

 

Guadalupe Mountains, Texas

Established: 1972   Acreage: 76,293

 

The Guadalupe Mountains stand like an island in the desert, silent sentinels watching over the most extensive fossil reef complex known to man. The mountain range resembles a massive wedge—rising in Texas, its arms reach northward into New Mexico. At its 4V stands El Capitan, a 2000 foot sheer cliff. The park lies astride these mountains' most scenic, rugged portions. The highest point in the Guadalupe Mountains is Guadalupe Peak at 8751 feet (2667 meters). It is also the highest point in the state of Texas.

 

The Guadalupe Mountains are part of one of the best examples of an ancient marine fossil reef on earth. About 250 million years ago a vast tropical ocean covered the area. Over millions of years, calcareous sponges and algae combined with other lime-secreting marine organisms and large quantities of lime that precipitated directly from the seawater to form the 400-mile long, horseshoe-shaped Capitan Reef. The sea dried up and the reef subsided and was entombed for millions of years, until a mountain-building uplift in the area exposed a part of the fossil reef in the Guadalupes.

 

For the past 12,000 years the mountain caves, springs, plants and wildlife provided shelter and sustenance to various groups of people. Spanish conquistadors passed near the Guadalupes on trips from Mexico in the late 1500s and found Mescalero Apaches living there. After the mid-1800s came explorers and pioneers whose culture conflicted with that of the Indians. In 1849 the US Army began a campaign against them which lasted for 30 years. Amidst this conflict, Butter-field stagecoaches carried mail through the mountains on the nation's first transcontinental mail route.

 

At the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains lies the Chi-huahuan Desert. Although only a tiny portion of the desert is preserved within the park, its vast, arid plains dominate the views from the mountains. At first glance the desert may appear a barren wasteland, but it is full of life. Agaves, prickly pear cacti, walking-stick callas, yuccas and sotol thrive in this hot, dry environment. Wildlife prospers too. Lizards, snakes, kangaroo rats, coyotes and mule deer are frequently seen.

 

The many deep, sheer-sided canyons of the Guadalupe Mountains hold an impressive diversity of plant and animal life, which is perhaps best seen in the McKittrick Canyon. Situated between the desert below and the highlands above, McKittrick has a mix of plants and wildlife found in the desert, canyon woodland and highland forest.

 

In the mountain high country thrives a dense forest of pine and fir trees, a relic of ancient times, when the climate was cooler and moister. Throughout this wilderness roam mule deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, vultures, mountain lions, black bear and elk. A herd of 50 to 70 elk live in the park, the descendents of animals brought down from Wyoming and South Dakota. The native population was driven to extinction in the early part of this century when man encroached on the elk's territory. Today, the elk within the park are protected from all but natural predators, such as the mountain lion.

Guadalupe Mountains, Texas on the map. National Park Guadalupe Mountains (Texas state) on the map of US