Some of the pictograph sites
at Hueco Tanks are difficult to access. Our guide had us crawling
under and through some pretty tight spaces in caves and overhangs. That
was fun, the best part of the tour to me!
Here are some of the crevices and
entered and the pictographs we saw in them.
One of the best pictographs on our tour was also the most difficult to
access. We came to
a large rock formation with a cave that had several shallow openings.
The first photo shows one of the tour participants peering into the cave:
One by one we entered through an equally
tight space on the other side of the cave:
Fortunately, none of us was claustrophobic! There isn't much
clearance between those rocks.
The guide directed us to lie on our backs and wiggle our way about
feet into the cave to see the pictograph on the ceiling inside. I took
this photo of the ceiling about three feet in, before I got to the painting:
Keep in mind that I was lying on my back and had only a few inches of
room to spare above my face.
I kept wiggling my way back into the cave and voilá:
All of a sudden I could see these drawings!
I wasn't sure I could get in and out of there, as inflexible as I am,
but I did and it was worth it. Many of the more exposed paintings in the
faded as they've weathered and aged through the millennia but that one
was untouched and brighter. Cool!
I wish I could remember which culture left which pictographs and what
they probably meant (the ones that aren't obvious), but I wasn't taking
notes and simply don't recall all the details.
The frog figure below is
located near the ground in the crevice above (behind the plant) and
tells other people that this was a
good place to find water, according to the tour guide.
I took the first two photos on the way to this site:
Small dry hueco (basin) on the
left and a hole dug for food preparation on the right
We returned to the interpretive center after that site.
ANOTHER CONSIDERATION IF YOU VISIT HUECO TANKS
In addition to all the restrictions I've already mentioned, consider
the weather and terrain if you plan a visit to this park --
especially in the winter or summer months.
This week the temperatures have been pretty chilly in the El Paso
area, often below freezing at night and only in the 30s and 40s F.
during the day. The sun feels warm
but if it's windy, dress for the wind chill. Hueco Tanks is located at 4,500
to 4,800 feet in elevation and is exposed to desert winds. Although I had on a fleece jacket I was chilly during most of the
tour because we were inside caves or in the shade most of the time -- all
those rocks retain the cold. The guide had us sit or stand at each site for
fifteen or twenty minutes while he talked.
If we'd kept moving more, the three of us visitors would have been more
Consider that if you plan a visit to Hueco Tanks in the winter.
Walking around in the sun at my own pace or climbing rocks would have
been more fun for me and I would have been warmer. Spring and fall are the best times to visit this
park, when temperatures are less likely to be too cold or too hot.
You can see more photos of drawings and read a lot of cultural history
about them in the pdf file
link on the park website (a 31-page, 3.8
We left the park soon after I returned to the truck at 1:30 so
we could get some lunch back in El Paso. Jim was tired of sitting in the
truck at that point, so I didn't even consider taking a hike around
I'm not sure I'll ever be able to talk Jim into going back to Hueco
Tanks. If I ever
return by myself I now know to do some things differently, like make a
reservation to explore North Mountain, watch the mandatory video, go on
a pictograph tour led by another guide, and leave Cody at home (i.e., in
So many rules . . .
Next entry: fun in Austin
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil