Surprises in Avery Canyon
SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
Avery Canyon empties into the Tornillo a bit east of the park road between Persimmon Gap and Panther Junction. From there the chasm works its way into the higher ground to the south, forming a watershed from Grapevine Hills all the way across to Quail Spring, and up to the Chisos range itself.
This eroded, carved up basin consists of numerous branches, runs and feeders, with an occasional spring to supply water for the desert wildlife. Before then, they did the same for ranch livestock and prior to that, supplied the vital substance for a short-lived army post called Camp Neville. The seep there now only flows occasionally, as well as do the others save for Quail Spring, which still flows in fairly reliable fashion.
Each of these dry waterways form a small world unto themselves; fitting because of the mish mash of geological oddities they must overcome individually. Some are broad with gentle banks making for easy navigation, while others are rough and narrow, and can be treacherous to anyone this side of a burro or mountain goat.
When one studies an old topographical map of the area, the first question likely to mind is why the roundabout construction for the supply route to Camp Neville. From a distance the terrain appears mostly flat and indistinguishable, little more than a sea of greasewood mixed in with cacti and mesquite.
The answer lies in these incisions forming Avery Canyon, and the marked differences found in the terrain each exposes. What one would consider the shortest, quickest route is impassable other than to someone on foot who knows what they are doing.
However, this same route is also the most unusual and picturesque, and full of anomalies of all sorts. Coming away from Neville Spring, the run starts with a good-sized pour off or two among shale rock, forcing the sojourner among yet even more unstable rock and dirt to detour around.
Then, you come around a bend and within a few more steps walk into a completely different environment, made up of multi-hued boulders, clefts and solid stone extending up and away to both sides. To your left one sees the upper points of Grapevine Hills, which in turn supply this rainbow-like exhibit as the crevice cuts through their outermost reaches.
The photograph enclosed can do no real justice as to what is offered, but will have to do to illustrate the bizarreness of it all. In one frame is multi-hued rock, high ground on the horizon, a stunted, dead mesquite which once grew out of solid rock, assorted cacti and brush, and a large chunk of almost coal black petrified wood.
Mind you, all in a single photo. One never really knows what they will find in Avery Canyon.
Which is why I continue to come here, time and again.
God bless to all,
Ben H. English