It has been home to native tribes, Spanish explorers, vaqueros, ranchers, buffalo soldiers, stagecoach drivers, and oilmen. It is home to sand dunes, salt flats, hidden caves, deep canyons, dry lakes and the highest peak in all of Texas. In addition to remnants of prehistoric barriers reefs and ancient tectonic uplifts, this park includes thousands of years of human history from early cave art to the remnants of the wild west. It has been the site of wars fought by the U.S. Army and those between local citizens themselves, but the most recent battle was the one to establish this park at all, a battle that is still being waged to this day. At nearly 45 years old, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is full of the history and controversy that make West Texas what it is today.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is not only located on the Texas-New Mexico border but is also across that border from another national park some 62 miles away: Carlsbad Caverns. The Guadalupe Mountains are the same range Carlsbad Caverns are located under and one of the most iconic ranges in this area of the American southwest. Guadalupe Mountains also shares the border with New Mexico’s Brokeoff Mountains Wilderness Study Area. Local ranchers and those who would exploit the minerals and other natural resources beyond the park still oppose it, but conservationists, archaeologists and scientists have shown again and again the importance of this park.
Nearly a week after American, British and Canadian troops began making their heroic D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed off on the creation of Big Bend National Park half a world a way. The American military and Big Bend always had a close relationship, from the end of the Mexican-American War when the military was used to buffalo soldiers survey this land to the cinnabar mines of the early 1900s that provided mercury and quicksilver needed for soldiers in World War II. Fort Stockton, a former military town, is still one of the closest cities to this remote park in west Texas. While it doesn’t have as many visitors as some of the more well-known parks out west, it is no longer one of the least visited national parks in the country, thanks in part to a historic 1960s visit by Lady Bird Johnson, a native Texan and America’s first lady at the time of her trip. Today, Big Bend National Park is still proving the adage that everything is bigger in Texas.
Those wanting to get out of the heat of the American southwest might want to check out this underground gem. Carlsbad’s underground is usually around 56 degrees, even when the surrounding New Mexico desert is reaching the 100s. While the most popular activity here is touring the caves underground, Carlsbad is also a haven for bats and those wanting to catch a glimpse at the night sky. While caves are features in many national parks, Carlsbad is one of only three where the cave is the main focus point and the second national park designated primarily around a cave. It also remains the only national park in New Mexico. This park has also received international attention and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The property began as a slave plantation and was used as a sort of resort for the German nobles. However, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels was elected to lead the Adelsverien colony in May 1844 and decided to open it up to German immigrants. Those who moved to the colony deposited an amount of money to pay for their transport and then arrived in Galveston to settle the area. Later, a group known as the Society of Forty or Darmstadt Society purchased some of the land owned by the Adelsverein society. The Society aimed to colonize 200 German families on the nearly 4 million acres known as the Fisher-Miller Land Grant. The Darmstadt members were told they would receive financial compensation from the Adelsverein. Between 1844 and 1847, more than 7,000 Germans came to settle Texas in these areas, most from provinces including Nassau, Hanover, Hesse and western Thuringia.
However, the Adelsverein Society found itself in financial ruin by the end of the decade and the start of the Civil War prevented future immigration to Texas from Europe. When the funds ran out and Civil War hostilities began, many of the German immigrants returned to their homeland after years of crop failure, disease and discord. Still, many more remained and immigration from Germany to Texas resumed following the Civil War. By the 1890s, the Germans were among the largest ethnic group in Texas, but the onset of the World Wars led many to hide their culture until their language and customs were all but forgotten. Despite their attempts, Texas still has a strong German heritage.
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