Last March, a survey for additional Native American rock paintings, also known as pictographs, began at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site. One year later, previously unknown pictographs in 29 locations at the site have been discovered using D-Stretch image enhancement technology.
Using the results of the new D-Stretch images, Hueco Tanks has issued a closing order for the 29 areas where previously unknown pictographs were discovered. These areas will remain closed to recreational activities in order to protect these resources from potential impacts.
“We are pleased to be in a position to utilize advances in technology to enhance our stewardship of the special resources at Hueco Tanks,” said Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks. “This project helped us identify and understand areas of unique sensitivity needing special protection. Safeguarding the irreplaceable cultural resources of Hueco Tanks is a shared desire among stakeholders at this site.”
The action is designed to protect these fragile resources from potential impacts from recreational use and affects a small fraction of the numerous climbing areas. A list of closed climbs has been provided to the guides and to visitors on the North Mountain.
“Climbers come from every corner of the world to experience and connect to the recreational, cultural and natural resources that Hueco Tanks provides,” said Ian Cappelle, chairman of the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition (CHTC). “The new survey and use of the D-Stretch technology provides a definitive accounting of any previously unidentified rock art in conjunction with climbing routes in the park which can be used to educate climbers as to where they are able to climb without harming the cultural resources of the site.”
The majority of the pictographs found are in the Jornada style, named for the prehistoric Jornada Mogollon culture of western Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico. These Native Americans were the first farmers in the region and it is believed that they created these paintings about 550 to 1,000 years ago for use in prayers for rain.
Hueco Tanks is an important asset to the El Paso area as a place to recreate and is a significant cultural resource that reflects at least 10,000 years of area and regional history. Due to its importance to the local community, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has devoted considerable efforts toward the documentation of cultural resources at Hueco Tanks.
Some studies include a comprehensive ground survey for archeological deposits around the base of the mountains and a large rock imagery inventory project. The results of these investigations help state parks staff determine where recreational activities can occur at the site without impacting identified rock imagery.
For more information about Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, visit the TPWD website.