Traveling to The Lower Rio Grande

United States' flag
North America » United States » Texas » Comstock
April 2nd 2009
Published: April 3rd 2009
Edit Blog Post

Bridge over  Pecos RiverBridge over  Pecos RiverBridge over Pecos River

This very tall bridge over the Pecos River just up river from where it enters the Amistad Reservoir shows the deep canyon walls, beautiful green water, and surrounding desert.
Seminole State Park and Amistad National Recreation Area were a wonderful surprise. The State Park was at one end of the Amistad Reservoir where the Pecos River flows into the Rio Grande. The Devils River also flows into this reservoir somewhat downstream. The absolutely gorgeous lake and canyons would have been enough of a reward for the visit.

The second reward was the Native American history in the area. The rivers cut deep canyons through limestone in this section. At bends in the river, there are cuts in the sides of the canyons that served as living spaces for humans up to12,000 years ago. There is much evidence that these hunter-gatherers lived in the rock shelters and created “rock art” or petrographs. Because of the remote location of these shelters, the area has been remarkably well preserved. Some of the art is shown in the accompanying photos.

This area is also known for good fishing. There was a huge bass fishing tournament taking place while we were there. And of course, it was wonderful for birding and other appreciation of nature.

Our second, four day stop on the way to the Lower Rio Grande Valley was the Falcon
A Tributary enters the AmistadA Tributary enters the AmistadA Tributary enters the Amistad

This break in the wall shows how a tributary wore down the limestone and entered the river. We were trying to imagine the rivers before they were flooded.
Dam and Reservoir, the second major dam on the lower Rio. Both the Amistad and Falcon should have been great for kayaking, but, alas, strong winds and rain associated with a cold front followed us as we traveled east down the river.

The final portion of our southwest trip will be largely spent in Mission, Texas at an RV resort we visited two years ago. We will be staying for a month at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park adjacent to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. In our next travelblog, we look forward to sharing with you some of the natural wonders found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as the some of the dilemmas associated with “homeland security” issues and the fence currently being constructed along the Rio Grande River.

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 23


Junction of the Pecos with the Rio Grande.Junction of the Pecos with the Rio Grande.
Junction of the Pecos with the Rio Grande.

The Pecos flows into the Rio at this point. These canyon walls are several hundred feet deep. They must have been quite amazing without so much water. The maximum depth of the reservoir is over 200 feet so, in places, the canyon would have appeared to be twice as deep before flooding.
Jon with the Pecos River Bridge in the BackgroundJon with the Pecos River Bridge in the Background
Jon with the Pecos River Bridge in the Background

This photo was taken at a boat launch on the Pecos River where fishing boats launched as well as kayaks!
Spirit of Seminole CanyonSpirit of Seminole Canyon
Spirit of Seminole Canyon

This sculpture was created recently to capture the spirit of the pictographs found in rock shelters along the canyon. The human body with a deer head, hunting tools, and a bird spirit demonstrated the equality and thankfulness that these people felt with the beings that sustained them.
The Statue in front of State Park Headquarters.The Statue in front of State Park Headquarters.
The Statue in front of State Park Headquarters.

This photo was included to show the size of the statue. It is located very near the top of the canyon so that its spirit should preside over the canyon and river. At the State Park Headquarters, the elevation is such that the river is not back-flooded.
Walking toward a once-inhabited rock shelterWalking toward a once-inhabited rock shelter
Walking toward a once-inhabited rock shelter

We took a guided tour of a rock shelter at the state park (the only way one could see it). The canyon walls were an almost pinkish orange in places with a wash of black over much of the walls.
Entrance to the rock shelterEntrance to the rock shelter
Entrance to the rock shelter

The interior of the rock shelter is coming into view. Families lived in the open shelter with the river flowing below them. They were protected from precipitation but not wind or predators. Archeological digs have shown that they did not have pottery. Early Native Americans preyed on huge bison, elephants, and many other animals that eventually became extinct. Later generations depended on deer and rabbits as well as many plants and insects.
In the rock shelterIn the rock shelter
In the rock shelter

The guide that led this tour is showing us the entrance to the home for millennia of generations This rock shelter is called the Fate Bell shelter after the long time owner of the land on which it is found.
A PictographA Pictograph
A Pictograph

The “inks” used in the pictographs were ground up minerals. The black seen in these shapes was made from manganese dioxide, which also colors the cliffs. Iron oxides provided the reds and yellows while whites were created from calcite. Apparently the artists mixed colors to get the appropriate shades.
Living SpaceLiving Space
Living Space

The “floor” of the rock shelter consisted of small particles of the limestone of which the canyon wall was constructed. There were many fossils in the limestone dating from the Cretaceous period at which time this part of Texas was covered by a shallow sea.
Red PictographsRed Pictographs
Red Pictographs

Like the statue shown above, the pictograph shows a being that is part man and part other animal. It is believed that the figure is a shaman who is showing his people what the “other” world is like. There are suggestions that the shaman may have used peyote or something similar to reach the other place.
One more pictographOne more pictograph
One more pictograph

Many of the pictographs show animals, spears, and designs.
Forrest Kirkland Drawings of PictographsForrest Kirkland Drawings of Pictographs
Forrest Kirkland Drawings of Pictographs

During the 1930s, Kirkland made copies of many of the pictographs in the Fate Bell Shelter to preserve the work. The flooding of the reservoir inundated many other sites. Also, some pictographs have been destroyed by graffiti, although because the site is relatively remote, many are still intact.
More ShamansMore Shamans
More Shamans

One of the figures shown has a deer head while another may have the head of a mountain lion
Mortar holes in the RockMortar holes in the Rock
Mortar holes in the Rock

The hole in the rock is a mortar where materials were ground for millennia. The surface of the rock was shiny and smooth; it almost looked varnished. It is thought that this was caused by millennia of exposure to plant oils and animal fats and other materials.
Panther CavePanther Cave
Panther Cave

We hiked to a high point on the reservoir to look across Seminole Canyon to Panther Cave, which contains more beautiful pictographs. One can only reach it by boat. We could have taken the kayaks out there but the weather became nasty.
Closer to Panther CaveCloser to Panther Cave
Closer to Panther Cave

Some of the pictographs are barely visible above the brush in front of the shelter
Further up Seminole Canyon Further up Seminole Canyon
Further up Seminole Canyon

This shows a branch of Seminole Canyon and the current water level.
Langtry, Texas and the museum honoring Judge Roy BeanLangtry, Texas and the museum honoring Judge Roy Bean
Langtry, Texas and the museum honoring Judge Roy Bean

Judge Bean was one of the early enforcers of the law in the area west of the Pecos.
The Bean MuseumThe Bean Museum
The Bean Museum

Langtry could have been the location for many western movies about Judge Bean and the society around him.

Tot: 1.242s; Tpl: 0.097s; cc: 10; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0195s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 3; ; mem: 1.3mb