Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
The park preserves ancient rock hollows called huecos, which naturally gather rainwater as well as provide shelter. Because the huecos create a wet environment, there exists rare ecosystems that are not usual for the desert. From rock paintings found on the huecos, archaeologists have determined that an indegious group of hunter-gathers lived here about 10,000 years ago. In 1970, the state of Texas opened Hueco Tanks State Park, adding nature trails and campsites for guests. The Hueco Tanks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are State Archaeological Landmarks.
Backstory and Context
The first residents of the Hueco Tanks archaeologists and historians know about lived there about 10,000 years ago, right at the end of the Pleistocene ice age. What is known about them comes from studying artifacts and petroglyphs that they left behind.
It is noted that an agricultural society began to surface around 1150. According to the Interpretive Guide to Hueco Tanks State Park, the Jornada Mogollon left behind "[p]ottery shards, stone tools, bedrock mortars and prehistoric water control features." Additionally, the Jornada Mogollon painted pictographs that depict "[a]nimals, birds, and large-eyed figures that may represent rain or storm deities." There are also images, over 200 in fact, that feature mask like pictures. Archeologists have not yet determined what the meaning behind them is, but they can still be seen throughout the park.
When Spanish settlers came to the area, they used the tanks for refreshment and shelter. Additionally, according the the park's Interpretive Guide, "The Kiowa, Mescalero Apache and Tigua are among the groups of Native Americans who used Hueco Tanks historically and consider it a meaningful part of their past and present heritage. Pictographs of handprints, dancing figures, horses, weapons and human figures in European-style clothing represent important images in historic Native American lore – images that presumably represent stories of celebration, tradition, conflict and change."
Around 1898, Silverio Escontrias established his ranch and residence at Hueco Tanks. An important community leader in the El Paso area the Escontrias resided at their ranch at the tanks for over fifty years. In fact, the Escontrias' adobe home serves as the park's interpretive Center.
The park opened to the public in 1970 and is a National Historic Place and a State Archaeological Landmark.