The Hueco Tanks State Historical Site lies about 30 miles northeast of El Paso. We had seen a preview of the general area when we arranged to go to the home of a nice fellow who races his dragster at the El Paso Speedway, and also happens to be the local distributor of Sunoco race fuel. Casey and his family (see photo) got a big kick out of filling our little race car from his private stash. He didn’t even want to charge! (This season we had been transporting a NASCAR show car for a client who wanted it displayed it at their local distributors and for their best customers. Unlike many of our typical mobile marketing tours, this one was focused more on customer appreciation than building brand recognition.)
What Do Hueco Tanks Hold?
Hueco Tanks refer to the hollows in the rocks that fill with water when it rains. Hueco means “hole” or “hollow” in Spanish. Historically, these holes have provided a source of water for whoever inhabited this area at the moment. Archeologists believe that ancient people visited this area as long as 10,000 years ago, and many signs such as tools and arrowheads have been found. Around 600 AD people began to practice agriculture, and live in small settlements. The unique features and geology of the site that have attracted people here for thousands of years continue to draw us here.
The Jornada Mogollon
One group, who probably lived here around 1150, the Jornada Mogollon, left most of the petroglyphs. Their paintings include religious masks, caricature faces, geometric designs, figures who seem to be participating in rituals, with characteristic dress and adornment. Other paintings show animals or typical symbols of weather (rain, lightning) or important crops like corn. Their distinct archaeological tradition is particular to this tip of western Texas, parts of Southern New Mexico and nearby parts of Mexico as well. Along with the Anasazi and Hohokam, the Mogollon tradition is one of the “big three” cultures in the Southwest. Texas Beyond History has a great write-up on what life may have been like here in the village of semi-subterranean houses at the edge of the Hueco Tanks.
Later Inhabitants of the Area
Later, the Spaniards arrived in the El Paso area, and they along with members of the Apache, Kiowa and Tigua tribes left their marks here as well. (The Europeans wrote names and dates rather than drwaing pictures.) In the mid 1800s, there was a stop here on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route. People stopped to get food and change out their mules. These days, people visit the area for rest, relaxation and reflection. Wildlife and bird viewing reveal a surprising variety of creatures. Unfortunately, many of the petroglyphs have been damaged by graffiti. To try to protect things as much as possible, the park limits the number of visitors. Reservations are required on weekends, and guests must watch an orientation video on the importance of preservation. The park interpretive center is located in a historical ranch on the site. Entrance fee is $7. Tours are available with rangers. The park is open daily.
October to April:
8 a.m. – 6 p.m
May to September:
Friday through Sunday 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.