When we left Laredo we had a 4.5 hour drive to get to Seminole Canyon SP. Along the way we mainly saw Texas ranch gates but you could rarely see the actual ranch house. We also went through two different Border Patrol inspection stations where they didn’t seem to care too much about us Canadians. When we reached Del Rio we stopped at an HEB Plus grocery store to stock up which was a really interesting store due to all the Mexican food items they carried. Sharon was in shopping heaven especially in the bakery area where we bought Conchas (not that good), Empanadas (great for breakfast), and Pan de Polvo aka Mexican Wedding cookies (very good). Also their Diesel was really cheap at $2.28 versus $2.59 at most other stations. Next we stopped at the Amistad Recreation Area Visitor centre where we learned all about the dam at Amistad to control the water flow from the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Devils Rivers, built in 1969. Prior to this dam being built rain run off would cause wide spread flooding. The Monarch butterflies also migrate through this area. Then we read about the Pecos River Pictograph style dating back up to 4000 years ago and this is what we would see at Seminole Canyon. They had some wall panels showing the paintings in Panther Cave (100’ long and 18’ high in the actual cave) and since that was only accessible by boat we took shots of the wall mural. On the way to Seminole we saw parts of the Amistad reservoir and some of the massive train bridges that went across the gorges.
We arrived at Seminole Canyon SP and setup for our 4 night stay. We soon realized the next day that this was our favourite park on this trip so far due to the MTB and hiking trails, phenomenal views of the canyons and rivers below and the Chihuahuan Desert wild flowers that were now partially in bloom due to the rain from Saturday (see collage). We started our MTB ride (just over 11 KMS) on the Rio Grande Trail which was a road way with some large rocks and then we transitioned to the lower end of the Canyon Rim Trail which was narrow and very rocky so much more challenging but the pay off at the end was the view of the Rio Grande River. The uphill portion towards Panther Cave lookout required a bit of walking the bikes. We could see the Panther in the cave but it was still cloudy so we decided to have lunch and see if the sun would come out which it partially did. In our zoomed in photo you could just make out the 9’ Pecos Style Pictograph of the Panther and some of the other figures. We met Chris and Diane (from Pennsylvania) at the lunch spot and they were also on Mountain Bikes and they were just across from us in the campground. We took the Rio Grande trail back to Middle Fork Trail and then went down the Presa Overlook trail over the Southern Pacific transcontinental rail bed which was completed in 1883 to see Presa Canyon and Seminole Canyon where the water stops. This trail was also challenging on the bikes but the view was worth it. It was getting quite hot out now so we were glad when we made it back to our campsite. That night we had a great sunset and joined Chris and Diane to go to the top of the hill and view the sunset and the cloud colours. Later we sampled some of the Mexican Bakery items we purchased in Del Rio.
The next day we decided we would hike the Canyon Rim Trail instead of biking and we did about 13 KMS. This gave us a chance to take lots of flower pictures (some that you saw in the prior collage) and spend more time enjoying the canyon views. We saw some rock rings which were originally Native American wickiup structures. In our collage of fossils that we saw you will also see a Sotol plant that’s sharp leaves had actually scratched the rock from the high winds this area gets. Part way through the trail we caught up to Chris and Diane who were also hiking so we finished the last half with them. Later that night we had another nice sunset and then had a campfire at Chris and Diane’s site.
The park rangers do guided rock art walks to the Fate Bell Pictograph site but they only do them Wednesday to Sunday so we made sure we got on the first tour on Wednesday morning. The tour was quite busy due to the lack of tours Monday/Tuesday. The first thing we saw was a sculpture that was like a modern rendition of the rock art that included the catapult like rod they used to throw the spears. As we made our way down to the Fate Bell Annex and Shelter the ranger told us stories of the native ways of life and of the early settlers. Once up in the Annex he explained the process to make the rock are paint with hematite and animal fat for the paint to stick to the rocks. Since these paintings date back to 4,000 years ago they are still trying to determine what some of them mean but it is amazing to see something relatively intact after all these years. There were also markings done by the railroad workers as the transcontinental railroad was finally joined just 3 miles away from this location. Next we moved in to the shelter area and the ranger explained why they chose this cave as they would have the sun in the morning since it faced East but by noon when the sun was hot they would be in the shade. The layers of ash from their early fires were over 10’ deep. One rock had been used as a workbench and the oils from human skin had made it incredibly shiny and smooth. Beside it were some Pictographs (sculptured art) and the square in the left hand corner actually has each corner facing one of the directions on the compass! In the ash piles you could still see some of the grass material they would have used to sleep on in the cave. The last painting had different colours to it and showed a circle of people performing some sort of dance ceremony, they could tell this because the feet were facing different directions.
The next shot below you will saw why did you include this, well it’s called Coprolite and it is 4000 year old poop! The ash in the cave preserves the Coprolite and they can actually still analyze it to determine what the natives were eating back then. The next shot shows how the cave was already sheltered from the sun at 11:30 AM when the tour finished. In the canyon floor we saw a water pool in the rock that looked like a giant foot. Next we did the 1 km Windmill Nature Trail where we saw the remains of the windmill and the spring water used by the Indians, the railroad workers and the ranchers. We finished off with the Museum in the visitor centre and it had displays on the sheep ranch industry. Also outside they had the remains of an earthen oven. They would roast desert plants like Sotol and Lechuguilla in these ovens as it could take up to two days to make the plants edible. They would dig a pit, line it with rocks, start a fire and once it died down the rocks would be hot, cover the hot rocks with green vegetation and then place the food on top and cover with more vegetation and soil. This would ensure the food didn’t burn from the rocks and it would steam due to the moisture in the green vegetation. I’ll finish this section off with the next selection of beers sampled. Again it was really hard to pick a winner from these choices, I really liked the Hard Wired Nitro Coffee Porter, the O’Dell Brewery IPA, and the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. I guess I’ll select the Coffee Porter as the winner.
The next morning we left Seminole Canyon SP but we had fantastic memories of our time there, what a magical place! A short distance away was Langtry where they had the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Centre and Museum. The lady was incredibly helpful on information related to Big Bend National Park where we were heading next (4.5 hour drive). They also had a small but interesting Museum where they had Judge Roy Bean’s Revolver, his life history and how he became Justice of the Peace in 1882, diorama’s of his life events, information on the building of the transcontinental railroad and the bridges built (8th Wonder of the World), and the story of the Judge’s obsession with actress Lillie Langtry. Outside they had a replica of the Jersey Lillie Saloon where the Judge dished out his unconventional justice. They also had a rare 10’ Model P Eclipse Windmill sold around 1900 that was a critical element in establishing West Texas by providing the much needed water supply. They also had a replica of Judge Roy Bean’s house which he called the Opera House to try to lure Jersey Lillie to come to Langtry. In addition they had an immaculate garden area that had samples of all the local cactus and flowers from this Chihuahuan Desert area so we’ve included a collage of some of the plants. Further down the road we saw the town of Dryden Texas and the General Store where you could get your Feed and your Beer;-) Our next post will be on Big Bend National Park (not sure when) where we were lucky to dry camp (boondock) in the actual park and we spent 6 days there. We’re currently working our way through the North Western area of Texas.
Thanks for the insight of this area, love the canyon.
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Gorgeous photos – it definitely has amazing geography!! I loved the cactus flower photos especially. You may already know this but “conchas” in Spanish means “shells”. Well, that was disappointing that they were so bland. I used to scarf those things down in Mexico with my coffee in the morning!!
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Thanks again Joel and Sharon for the very informative blog and the wonderful photos…I didn’t expect to find so many interesting sights in the area of the Rio Grande as well as in that part of Texas..very much a trip worth considering!!
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