When many people first come to this country, they tend to believe it is a young land mostly untouched and undiscovered by man. Something inherent to the desert and these mountains excite the imagination, causing one to feel as if they walk a place where no one has ever been before.

But in truth this is a very old land brimming with human history lost to time, no longer told because of ancient tongues that no longer exist. Wherever you wander and whatever you may see, other feet have trod and other eyes have seen.

Nowhere is the more prevalent than along the river, for here is the most reliable and copious deliverer of the real desert gold known as water. Inside the national park itself, from below Lajitas down to Boquillas, are dozens upon dozens of settlements of different cultures and time lines.

Most have been forgotten, very few in total sum have even had the simple dignity of being noted on a map. Where one happens to stumble upon a ruin or a grave? Trust me, life once abounded in both dream as well as the reality of human existence.

For the curious and uninitiated, the easiest way to see these lonesome spots is along the River Road between the Castolon and Hot Springs areas. Most involve a bit of walking, but others can be enjoyed from the comfort of a vehicle.

The road itself is a living thing of sort, as its track has been changed numerous times due to need or purpose. In doing so some of those lonesome places have been bypassed, leaving them even more isolated and forlorn.

Furthermore, there are not many natural spectacles more stark in contrast than the terrain surrounding you, often climbing thousands of feet within a few miles. It is often enough true that while one is sweating in the heat and humidity along the banks of the Rio Grande, another might be complaining of a slight chill not that far away.

The accompanying photograph is representative of this area of the park, and of those who once lived here. It is close proximity of a primitive campsite called the Sierra Chino, named after the range of hills seen middle ground. Behind them rise the rough ridges of the Sierra De La Punta, the southernmost tip of the Chisos Range.

These ruins have been here a long time, among others scattered about. Likely there were others, each with occupants making use of the fertile river plain below. But repeated floods have since taken them away.

And of course there is a cemetery, giving mute testimony of the living and dying once found in this harsh, unforgiving environment. Likely cultures back to the ancients populated this spot, for the same reasons as for those who came later.

Yes, a very old land that one should treat with the same respect as a very old man.

For he has stories to tell…

God bless to all,

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author 2017-Present
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’