Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Buried history

June 8, 2009, 7:46 am

Somewhere below the shifting gypsum sand dunes west of Guadalupe Mountains National Park are the buried remains of a wagon train. It was lost during the time, nearly 150 years ago, when thousands of settlers, soldiers, gold-seekers and others traveled west through this particular area along the Emigrant Trail.

In September of 1998, Congress authorized a 10,123-acre addition to the national park. The area was designated the Salt Basin Dunes, an ever-changing landscape, constantly being shaped and sculpted by the winds. Patterson Hills separates the sand dunes from the western escarpment of the park.

The principal features of this addition to the park are the white gypsum sand dunes, but the area also contains red quartzose dunes, archeological sites, portions of the historic Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Route and old well sites and windmills from the ranching era. Prior to National Park Service ownership, the area was a cattle ranch. A small portion of the area, some 226 acres, is co-managed with the Nature Conservancy and Hudspeth County for conservation.

In the September-October 1969 issue of True Treasure magazine, an article by Eugene Anderson tells of his chance sighting from the air that revealed a wagon train in the gypsum sand below. It appeared to Anderson that an attempt had been made to circle the wagons, as if for protection from an Indian attack.