Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in in western Texas in an area of the Guadalupe Mountains. The park contains 86,367 acres of land that once was home to hunter-gather Native Americans. The first Spanish explorers arrived in the area in the 16th century, but these groups did not stay long. They introduced horses into the area, which greatly benefited the nomadic Apache tribe that moved through the Guadalupe Mountains area. When Americans settled the area, it created turmoil with the Mescalero Apache tribe. American settlement of the area began in the 1840’s and the 1850’s, but it was not until the 1960’s, when a long time inhabitant of the area named Wallace Pratt donated land to the park area that it’s establishment could begin. The area was designated as a national park and opened to the public in 1972.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park holds a portion of the Guadalupe Mountains, including the range’s highest peak and the highest peak in Texas, known as Guadalupe Peak, which reaches 8,751 feet in elevation. It also holds the peak of El Capitan, which was used throughout the area’s history as landmark during travel. The park is located about 25 miles from Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is located in New Mexico, about ten miles from where the Guadalupe Mountains end. The northwestern area of the Guadalupe Mountains extends into New Mexico near the Sacramento Mountains. This area of the range is bordered by the Pecos River in the east, Four Mile Canyon in the north, and in the west by many area including Big Dog Canyon, Middle Dog Canyon, and Piñon Creek. The mountains mainly consist of limestone, so there are no significant bodies of water at higher elevations. The park holds one area with a significant amount of surface water, known as McKittrick Creek in McKittrick Canyon, which is located in the eastern area of the range.

The climate in the Guadalupe Mountains, and in much of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Preserve, varies depending upon the season. During the winter, the mountains experience cool or cold weather, which can last until the spring season, and summers are typically hot or mild with cooler temperatures lasting through the fall season. The winter and spring season often bring high winds that can be damaging and thunderstorms typically occur during the late summer months.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Preserve holds three types of ecosystems and habitats including desert, deciduous forest, and alpine habitats. The desert habitat contains pinyon pines, grasslands, and juniper trees, while the forested habitat contains trees like maple, oak, and ash. These trees are able to survive in the area by receiving water from springs that are fed by high elevation wetlands. The alpine habitat occurs at elevations higher than 7,000 feet and contains dense forests of trees including ponderosa pine trees and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir trees, among other species.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Preserve offers many activities to visitors including horse riding, hiking, and camping at the Pine Springs Campground. One of the most popular hiking trails, known as Guadalupe Peak Trail, takes visitors through different habitats and over the Guadalupe Peak. Visitors can also view the Frijole Ranch House, which has been restored and converted into a museum, or visit the Pine Springs Visitor Center.

Image Caption: Guadalupe mountain national park. Credit: Joyradost/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)