Hueco Tanks State Historic Park

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Photo: Brian Stansberry

Location: Located in western Texas, 32 miles northeast of El Paso

Photo: Ancheta Wis

Significance: Hueco Tanks State Historic Park, opened in May of 1970, is named for large natural basins or huecos that have trapped rain water in an arid landscape. It is considered sacred for providing sustenance in an outstanding rocky area. There are many sacred rock paintings of deities, sacred masks and other figures along with historic trails and archaeological sites. it is also the place where the last Indian battle in the United States took place.

The Threat: Excessive tourism, in particular, rock climbing

Preservation Status: Rock climbers consider this one of the greatest bouldering areas in the entire world and it has been a favorite with climbers since the park was opened. Recreational use is considered secondary because of its historic and sacred significance and according to The Access Fund website, “climbing exists in a precarious state with further restrictions and closures always a possibility.” Illegal climbing bolts lead to a one-month closure of the park to climbers in 1988 and it was entirely closed for several weeks in 1992 because of litigation by an archaeological society. The current Use Plan calls for restricted climbing with a certified guide for all areas except North Mountain. The Access Fund believes that climbing and respectful protection can exist side by side. They are working to train more certified guides so that more climbers can use the park. However, the sacred resources of the area are always in danger as long as climbing is allowed. This is a site that needs an active Site Stewardship Program to monitor climbing activities.

For More Information: Sacred Sites Newsletter Volume XV, Number 1, Fall 2004

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