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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Hueco Tanks

Guest - February 23, 2015

Hueco Tanks State Park, TX: Just off the beaten path and east of El Paso is the beautiful and interesting Hueco Tanks State Park. Upon our first visit we discovered a fascinating history and culture in a geologically unique area. So get ready for 7 awesome things you didn’t know about Hueco Tanks State Park.

Image Source: Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site Facebook

1. Hueco is not the same as Waco – In this case, “hueco,” still pronounced “whey-coe,” is a natural rock basin where rainwater collects. These cracks and pockets hold rainwater for days even weeks depending on the location and size. The park gets it name from the thousands of these present on-site. In the desert environment, these pools made life possible for the Native Americans who lived here.

Image Source: Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site Website

2.This park is home to thousands of pictographs. – Throughout the past 10,000 years the Hueco Tanks area has been home to many people. Clues about their past and stories about their lifestyles are left on the walls in the form of pictographs and petroglyphs. A multitude of images appear including animals, figures with large eyes, and an incredibly large amount of masks. In fact, it is one of the largest groupings in North America.

Image Source: Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site Facebook

3.The infamous boulders are millions of years old. –  Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, the park consists of three mountains. These mountains were formed around 35 million years ago. Their formation is the result of a mass of hot magma pushed upward and then cooled under a layer of limestone. Since then, the forms have changed and altered as the limestone wears down from wind and rain, creating the sculpted rock that is there today.


4.World-class bouldering can be accessed throughout the park. – While you need a guide to access some areas in the park, North Mountain is self guided with only 70 permits giving out daily. The park is also home to the Hueco Rock Rodeo, which just held its 22nd bouldering competition attracting professionals including Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson.

5.Throughout the years over 200 species of birds have been recorded at Hueco Tanks. –Around 44 species may breed here, including the prairie falcon, burrowing owl, white-throated swift, ash-throated flycatcher, blue grosbeak and Scott’s oriole. Many wading birds, waterfowl and shorebirds stop at the park during migration periods. Migratory songbirds spend time here in the spring and fall. More than 20 sparrow species overwinter at Hueco Tanks.

6.Conflict happens. With avid birders, hikers, and climbers all sharing such a special place, conflict is bound to happen. Throughout the years park staff and visitors from various recreation communities have not always seen eye to eye. However, groups like the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition, Access Fund, and American Alpine Club have all worked within the area to help all users learn how to enjoy the park responsibly.


7.YOU can make a difference at Hueco Tanks State Park. Pictographs, petroglyphs, artifacts, and the living organisms in the huecos are all part of the spirit of Hueco Tanks. Protecting them is largely in the hands of the visitors. The Climbers of Hueco Tanks Co. has establish a climbing coalition to help climbers care for their climbs while also preserving and caring for the park. Their ethics for the park can be found online. Also check with park information and stay up to date on park closures. And as always, remember to leave no trace!

Until next time,

Court and Nick

Leave No Trace’s Courtney and Nick Bierschbach are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, and Smartwool.


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