To Travel. To Write. To Explore.
Pictographs At Semimole Canyon
On Sunday, I joined twenty curious individuals to see the pictographs on the Fate Bell Shelter Canyon Guided Walking Tour at the Seminole Canyon State Park & Historical Site in the Big Bend Country region of Texas. The scheduled tours began at the park’s headquarters on the open deck overlooking the Seminole canyon. Many of us had walked through the museum prior to our hike to gain more insights on what life was like back in the days. As the size of the crowd increased so did the number of people asking, “Have you been to ____ yet?”
Our well-knowledged guide provided us with expected by safety tips and if she runs, we’re to run as well (yay! a tour guided with a fun sense of humor).
The first stop was in a short distance of the starting point. We paused as the park ranger told us about the Maker of Peace statue created by Bill Worrell. When we finished taking photographs, she led us single file down the rock and concrete path to the canyon floor.
A narrow stream flowed from natural springs further up the canyon (one spring fed pool is visible from the Windmill Nature Trail) that will eventually empty into the Rio Grande/Amistad Reservoir. There are times of the year when basin is dry, and during the rainy periods (they do not have the typical rainy season) the water can rise several feet.
The Fate Bell Shelters are the canvas for the Pecos River rock art. Archeologist have carbon dated the pictographs and discovered they are over 4,000 years old. This series of paintings are considered to be some of the oldest known pictographs in North America.
As we walked from the first set of pictographs, a raven flew over head and called out to us as he perched on a cliff further down the canyon. He watched us and stayed within sight of us as we explored each set of drawings on the limestone walls.
The Seminole Canyon is seven miles long and opens to the Rio Grande/Amistad Reservoir that also serves as the border between Mexico and the United States. According to our guide, we were three miles from Mexico.
The weather was perfect for the bees; not to hot, not to cold. They were active at the entrances to the hive within the rock overhang (shelter ceiling). We were a safe enough distance from causing them any harm and no one felt threatened or asked to stay behind. I’ve seen bees create hives in many locations, but this may have been the first time I saw them in limestone rock.
Based on the information collected from these sites, the people in this region were hunters and gathers. They found mats, sandals, baskets and additional items made from the grasses and other plantlife (several of these items are in the museum at the state park).
With the harsh terrain of the area, I was not surprised to learn that the unique style of the rock art painting appears only in portions of the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Devils rivers. As the I’ve heard several of the locals say, “It’s sharp and prickly here” referring to the vegetation and wildlife. It’s sad to note that the exact meanings of the paintings went to the graves of the artists of that time period. What is know is that they were carefully planned out and the colors painted in layers.
We followed the tour guide up and down flights of stairs to access the shelters and get a closer look of the artwork. In random spots the handiwork of vandals was left as a reminder of the significance of preservation of the ancient artifacts. One individual asked the age of the red colored drawings. The park ranger stated it’s 1970’s crayon.
To entice you to learn more about the ancient rock paintings, take the tour and discover how archaeologist are working hard to preserve the artifacts, I am leaving out many of the finer details.
- Wear hiking shoes with good traction
- Bring water to drink
- Remember your camera
- Don’t touch the artifacts
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing
Websites for the curious:
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historical Site
Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center
Amistad National Park Service
The following books were recommented to me. I did purchase Rock Art of the Lower Pecos written by Carolyn E. Boyd and recommend it as well. The White Shaman Mural is on my wishlist. (Amazon affiliate links)
Where I resided:
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historical Site
Trails (distance is round trip):
ADA Birding Trail – .1 mile
Canyon Rim Trail – 7.5 miles
Middle Fork Trail – 1 mile
Presa Overlook Trail – .56 mile
Rio Grande Trail – 6 miles
Windmill Nature Trail .75 mile
Number of Campsites: 46
- State parks is a distance from gas and groceries. Be sure to stock up prior to arrival.
- Closest laundry mat is in Del Rio (43 miles).
- To date, this is one of the cleanest campgrounds I’ve parked my camper.
Learn more about this historical site, their camping facilities and guided tour at www.texasstateparks.org.
To Write. To Travel. To Explore.
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