NPSHistory.com

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Texas




National Park Service History Electronic Library

The NPS History Electronic Library is a portal to electronic publications covering the history of the National Park Service (NPS) and the cultural and natural history of the national parks, monuments, and historic sites of the U.S. National Park System. The information contained in this Website is historical in scope and is not meant as an aid for travel planning; please refer to the official NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Website for current/additional information. While we are not affiliated with the National Park Service, we gratefully acknowledge the contributions by park employees and advocates, which has enabled us to create this free digital repository.

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New eLibrary Additions

Historic Structure Report: Bauvais-Amoureux House, Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Ste. Genevieve, MO (Raths, Raths & Johnson, Inc., October 18, 2021)

Archeological Investigations at Thunderbird Lodge, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona Southwest Cultural Resources Center Professional Papers No. 20 (Peter J. McKenna and Scott E. Travis, 1989)

Southeastern Indiana's Underground Railroad Routes and Operations (Diane Perrine Coon, April 1, 2001)

Influence of cryptogamic crusts on moisture relationships of soils in Navajo National Monument (Jack D. Brotherson and Samuel R. Rushforth, extract from Great Basin Naturalist, Vol. 43 No. 1, January 1983)

Coral Bleaching, Mortality and Benthic Community Assemblages on the Reefs within the Pacific Island Network National Parks NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/PACN/NRR-2021/2322 (Amanda L. McCutcheon and Sheila A. McKenna, November 2021)

Ecosystem impacts by the Ancestral Puebloans of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA (David L. Lentz, Venicia Slotten, Nicholas P. Dunning, John G. Jones, Vernon L. Scarborough, Jon-Paul McCool, Lewis A. Owen, Samantha G. Fladd, Kenneth B. Tankersley, Cory J. Perfetta, Christopher Carr, Brooke Crowley and Stephen Plog, PLoS ONE, 16(10), October 27, 2021)

Caribou Trails: News from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group (Summer 2021)

Spanish-American War Battery 95% Draft Environmental Assessment, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida (October 2021)

NPS Voices Tour 2018: Summary Report (Sepler & Associates, 2019)

Cultural Landscape Report: Stones River National Battlefield 85% Draft (Quinn Evans, September 2021)

The Ethnography and Folklore of the Kerek (Vladilen V. Loent'ev, 2017)

The Lure of the Parks (Kirby Lambert, extract from Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Spring 1996, ©Montana Historical Society, images courtesy MHS Collection)

Hawaiian oral tradition describes 400 yers of volcanic activity at Kīlauea (Donald A. Swanson, extract from Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Vol. 176, 2008)

Which Place, What Story? Cultural Discourse at the Border of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park (Donal Carbaugh and Lisa Rudnick, Great Plains Quarterly, 26:3, Summer 2006, ©Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Park Service Bulletin

1935 (Vol V): No 6 - AugustNo 7 - SeptemberNo 8 - OctoberNo 9 - December

1936 (Vol VI): No 1 - JanuaryNo 2 - February-MarchNo 3 - AprilNo 4 - MayNo 5 - JuneNo 6 - JulyNo 7 - AugustNo 8 - September-OctoberNo 9 - NovemberNo 10 - December

1937 (Vol VII): No 1 - JanuaryNo 2 - FebruaryNo 3 - MarchNo 4 - April-MayNo 5 - JuneNo 6 - JulyNo 7 - AugustNo 8 - SeptemberNo 9 - OctoberNo 10 - NovemberNo 11 - December

1938 (Vol VIII): No 1 - January-FebruaryNo 2 - March-AprilNo 3 - MayNo 4 - JuneNo 5 - JulyNo 6 - AugustNo 7 - September-OctoberNo 8 - November-December

Geologic Resources Inventory Report: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR—2021/2324 (Michael Barthelmes, November 2021)

National Park Service Geologic Type Section Inventory, Great Lakes Inventory & Monitoring Network NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GLKN/NRR-2021/2327 (Tim Henderson, Vincent L. Santucci, Tim Connors and Justin S. Tweet, November 2021)

Poster — Counting Cave Shields: A Lehman Caves Study (Morgan Hill and Gretchen M. Baker, 2021)

Poster — Trophic Structure Biomass of Kelp Forest Fishes In and Adjacent to Four Marine Protected Areas in Channel Islands National Park (Parker H. House, Joshua Sprague and David Kushner, 2021)

Abandoned Mineral Landes in the National Park System: A Pictorial Summary (March 1990)

Interim Guidance for Mineral Management Planning including Mineral Terms and Authorities (December 1986)

Guide to National Park Service Regulations Governing Mining Claims 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart A (May 1995)

Archaeological Vandalism and An Analysis of Damage Assessments in the Southwest Martin E. McAllister, undated)

Review of National Icon Park Security OIG Report No. 2003-I-0063 (August 2003)

A Staff Study of the Law Enforcement and Public Safety Resources in the National Park Service (International Association of Chiefs of Police, October 1970)

Perceptions and Attitudes of National Park Rangers Regarding Law Enforcement and Natural Resource Activities: Findings from a National Pilot Study Occasional Papers in Coastal Studies #89-1 (Worth H. Hester and Dennis L. Soden, University of West Floria, 1989)

Preliminary estimates of sequoia mortality in the 2020 Castle Fire (Nathan Stephenson and Christy Brigham, June 25, 2021)

2021 Fire Season Impacts to Giant Sequoias, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (Fall 2021)

Gardiner's Historic Resources (©Jard L. Infanger, 2013)

Collecting Our National Parks (Paul Lee, extract from Scribblings...from the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library, Vol. 23 No. 1, January-February 2015)

Bioaccumulative Contaminants in Aquatic Food Webs in Six National Park Units of the Western Great Lakes Region: 2008-2012 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GLKN/NRR-2016/1302 (James G. Wiener, Roger J. Haro, Kristofer R. Rolfhus, Mark B. Sandheinrich, Sean W. Bailey and Ried M. Northwick, September 2016)

A Biodiversity Conservation Assessment for Lake Superior — Volume 1: Lakewide Assessment Final Draft (Superior Work Group of the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan, June 2013)

A Biodiversity Conservation Assessment for Lake Superior — Volume 2: Regional Unit Summaries Final Draft (Superior Work Group of the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan, June 2013)

Groundwater Hydrology and Chemistry of Jamestown Island, Virginia — Potential Effects of Tides, Storm Surges, and Sea-Level Rise on Archaeological, Cultural, and Ecological Resources US Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5117 (Kurt J. McCoy, Karen C. Rice, Ellyn Rickles, Dave Frederick, Jennifer Cramer and Dorothy Geyer, 2021)

Caribou Vital Sign Annual Report for the Arctic Network Inventory and Monitoring Program: September 2020–August 2021 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/ARCN/NRR—2021/2335 (Kyle Joly and Matthew D. Cameron, November 2021)

Habitat Selection and Spatiotemporal Interactions of a Reintroduced Mesocarnivore (Mitchell A. Parsons, Jeffrey C. Lewis, Beth Gardner, Tara Chestnut, Jason I. Ransom, David O. Werntz and Laura R. Prugh, extract from The Journal of Wildlife Management, 2019, ©The Wildlife Society)

An Archeological Survey of the Chalmette Battlefield at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (John E. Cornelison, Jr. and Tammy D. Coooper, 2002)

Archeological Inventory of the Proposed Bodmer Trail Parking Area, Mondak Townsite, Roosevelt County, Montana (Scott Stadler, 2002)

A Climatic Handbook for Glacier National Park — with Data for Waterton Lakes National Park U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report INT-204 (Arnold I. Finklin, July 1986)

Canal Reclamation at Barataria Preserve Environmental Assessment, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana (December 2009)

Inventory of the Mammals of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: Barataria Preserve and Chalmette Battlefield Final Report (Craig S. Hood, July 25, 2012)

Re-survey and Inventory of the Mammals of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: Barataria Preserve Final Report (Craig S. Hood, June 15, 2006)

Glacier National Park 2019 Ambient Sound Study (Alec Austraw, Carson Brooks, Niall Lynch and Aidan Sevinsky, October 11, 2019)

Living With Old Things: Iñupiaq Stories, Bering Strait Histories (Amber Lincoln, 2010)

Indigenous Knowledge & Use of Bering Strait Region Ocean Currents (Julie Raymond-Yakoubian, 2014, ©Kawerak, Inc.)

Scientific Monograph Series

The Impact of Three Exotic Plant Species on a Potomac Island Scientific Monograph Series No. 13 (Lindsey Kay Thomas, Jr., 1980)

The Grizzlies of Mount McKinley Scientific Monograph Series No. 14 (Adolph Murie, 1981)

Ecology of the Carmen Mountains White-Tailed Deer Scientific Monograph Series No. 15 (Paul R. Krausman and Ernest D. Ables, 1981)

Ecology and Social Behavior of the Collared Peccary in Big Bend National Park, Texas Scientific Monograph Series No. 16 (John A. Bissonette, 1982)

Ecology of the Saguaro: III, Growth and Demography Scientific Monograph Series No. 17 (Warren F. Steenbergh & Charles H. Lowe, 1983)

Visual Preferences of Travelers Along the Blue Ridge Parkway Scientific Monograph Series No. 18 (Francis P. Noe and William E. Hammitt, eds., 1988)

Brochures: Antietam (1953)Arches (1953)Aztec Ruins (1950)Casa Grande (1951)Chaco Canyon (1951)Mammoth Cave (1953)Saratoga (1954)Zion (1947)

The Log Chutes of North Idaho Northern Region Cultural Resources Report No. 8 (Cort Sims, January 1983)



Big Bend National Park
(Harpers Ferry Center)

Featured Publication

book cover
cover only

The Story of the Big Bend National Park
(John Jameson, 1996)

Running the Cañons of the Rio Grande (Robert T. Hill, extract from The Century Magazine, Vol. 61 No. 3, January 1901)

The Big Bend National Park: Descriptive and Historical West Texas Historical and Scientific Publication No. 13 — Big Bend National Park Issue (Ross A. Maxwell and Clifford B. Casey, Sul Ross State Teachers College Bulletin Vol. XXVIII No. 2, June 1, 1948)

The Life of Everett Ewing Townsend West Texas Historical and Scientific Publication No. 17 (Lewis H. Saxton and Clifford B. Casey, 1958)

The Association of Archaeological Materials with Geological Deposits in the Big Bend Region of Texas West Texas Historical and Scientific Publication No. 10 — Archaeological Issue (J. Charles Kelley, T.N. Campbell and Donald J. Lehmer, Sul Ross State Teachers College Bulletin Vol. XXI No. 4, September 1, 1940)

Early Settling of the Big Bend West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication No. 19 (Mrs. Joel E. Wright, Sul Ross State College Bulletin Vol. XLIII No. 3, September 1, 1963)

The Glenn Springs Raid West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication No. 19 (Captain C.D. Wood, Sul Ross State College Bulletin Vol. XLIII No. 3, September 1, 1963)

Bandit Raids in the Big Bend Country West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication No. 19 (W.D. Smithers, Sul Ross State College Bulletin Vol. XLIII No. 3, September 1, 1963)

Historic Resources Management Plan, Big Bend National Park (William E. Brown and Roland H. Wauer, December 1968)

Geology of Big Bend National Park, Brewster County, Texas Bureau of Economic Geology/The University of Texas Publication No. 6711 (Ross A. Maxwell, John T. Lonsdale, Roy T. Hazzard and John A. Wilson, June 1, 1967)


Mountain Lion Management Plan and Environmental Assessment, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico/Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (April 1986)

Mountain Lions (Felix concolor) in the Vicinity of Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks: An Ecological Study (Final Report) (Abstract) (Harvey and Stanley Associates, Inc., March 6, 1986)

Mountain Lion Population Trends Monitoring in Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks (Tim Smith, Ronald Duke and Michael Kutilek, Harvey & Stanley Associates, Inc., March 18, 1988)

The Carlsbad Caverns of New Mexico: Its History and Geology (A.W. Anderson, 1928, revised 1939)

A Guide Book to Carlsbad Caverns National Park The National Speleological Society Guide Book Series No. 1 (Paul F. Spangle, ed., 1960)

The Prehistory of the Carlsbad Basin, Southeastern New Mexico (Susana R. Katz and Paul Katz, November 1985)

Factors Altering the Microclimate in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico US Geological Survey Open-File Report 76-171 (J.S. McLean, February 1976)

Fossilization of Bat Skeletons in the Carlsbad Caverns (James K. Baker, extract from Bulletin of the National Speleological Society, Vol. 25 Part One, January 1963, ©National Speleological Society, Inc.)



Guadalupe Mountains National Park
(Harpers Ferry Center)

Featured Publication

book cover
cover only

Guadalupe Mountains National Park: An Environmental History of the Southwest Borderlands
(Jeffrey P. Shepherd, 2019)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park: An Administrative History Southwest Cultural Resources Center Professional Papers No. 19 (Judith K. Fabry, 1988)

Area Investigation Report on a Proposed Guadalupe Mountains National Park Texas (September 1963)

Biological Investigations in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas NPS Proceedings and Transactions Series No. 4 (Hugh H. Genoways and Robert J. Baker, eds., 1979; Proceedings of a Symposium held at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, April 4-5, 1975)

A Technological Analysis of Lithic Assemblages from Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (Richard Boisvert, extract from Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, Vol. 54, 1983, ©Texas Archeological Society)

An Analysis of the Ceramics of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Alan L. Phelps, extract from Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, Vol. 45, 1974, ©Texas Archeological Society)

Buffalo Soldiers and Apaches in the Guadalupe Mountains: A Review of Research at Pine Springs Camp (Eleanor King and Justin Dunnavant, extract from Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, Vol. 79, 2008, ©Texas Archeological Society)

Caves Along the Slope of the Guadalupe Mountains (E.B. Howard, extract from Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, Vol. 4, September 1932, ©Texas Archeological Society)

Rock Art of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Area (John W. Clark, Jr., extract from Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, Vol. 45, 1974, ©Texas Archeological Society)

Cultural Landscapes of McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (©Kimberly A. Sawyer, Master's Thesis, Texas Tech University, May 2001)

Descriptive Geomorphology of the Guadalupe Mountains, South-Central New Mexico and West Texas Baylor Geological Studies Bulletin No. 43 (Cleavy L. McKnight, Spring 1986)

Capitan Reef Complex Structure and Stratigraphy (Allan Standen, Steve Finch, Randy Williams and Beronica Lee-Brand, Texas Water Development Board, September 2009)

Mammals of the Guadalupe Mountains of Western Texas Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology No. 7—Louisiana State University (William B. Davis, July 10, 1940)

Birds of the Guadalupe Mountain Region of Western Texas Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology No. 8—Louisiana State University (Thomas D. Burleigh and George H. Lowery, Jr., August 20, 1940)

A Basis for Facility Development at Guadalupe Mountains National Park Texas Tech University Research Report No. 1 (John M. Gosdin, January 1970)

Butterfield Overland Trail National Historic Trail Special Resource Study (May 2018)

       NPS REFLECTIONS

The Last Traditional National Park: Guadalupe Mountains

El Capitan lights up at sunset. (D. Buehler/NPS photo)

I’m here in an interesting capacity. What I’m trying to do is put some thoughts together for you, not so much about Guadalupe Mountains National Park itself but about its meaning and its place in the history of national parks, as well as in American culture and society. I have become fond of calling Guadalupe Mountains “the last traditional national park,” and I do that with my tongue in my cheek. Guadalupe Mountains is really one of three of the last traditional national parks in the lower 48 states. I mean this figuratively. The window during which Guadalupe Mountains National Park was both proclaimed and established, that little six-year period, is a pivotal moment in the history of national parks in the United States. It marks the end of a tremendously long era that began with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872—the great and enormous Yellowstone National Park—when they just drew a great big line around all that area and said “there ain’t gonna be much up there that we can use in commercial economic endeavor, so let’s lock it up.” With those cool geysers and big waterfalls and wide rivers, not to mention spectacular vistas, we can make a national park out of that land, a place Americans can respect and revere, and not incidentally make some money from. This idea functioned with relative ease throughout the first half of the 20th century; most national parks were scenically spectacular—not necessarily as fantastic as Yellowstone— and they were created mostly from federal land. If you look at the creation of those parks, you get Yellowstone, the transformation of Yosemite from state park to national park, Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, and the others; they all share traits with Guadalupe Mountains National Park. First, all are expansive. Yellowstone is of course a great deal bigger than the more than 76,000 acres that Guadalupe Mountains was originally proclaimed to preserve, but Guadalupe Mountains still represents the idea of expansiveness. All such parks were remote or difficult to reach at their time, and it was easy to conceive of them as wilderness.

In a changing society after 1950, park proclamation became a fractured process. By the mid-1960s, the National Park Service had begun to move in many directions. Some of these expanded its reach; others were the result of changing values in American society. The National Park Service had always been among the most supple of federal agencies, the one that had the least trouble responding to the demands of the public—for better and worse—and as its values changed in conjunction with the times, so did the kinds of parks it sought to establish. I have become fond of saying that the Park Service has gone through three basic stages: the first was a long period of landscape architecture and dominance of facilities development, really from the founding of the agency in 1916 until the 1960s. During this time, the agency built a constituency by offering facilities— amenities really—that helped people identify with the national parks and not incidentally with the green of the Park Service uniform. A very short period of science followed in 1963, the year the Leopold report came out, and for a brief instant the Park Service became what some of its constituents thought it should have always been, a preservation-based agency that managed by scientific principles. But the growing demand for national parks and their amenities—the same circumstance that led to Mission 66, the greatest development project in the history of the agency—also forced new realities on the agency. By the time of the famous riot in Stoneman Meadows in Yosemite on July 4, 1969, law enforcement—people management actually—had come to dominate the agency. The first era was about building, then a very brief interlude was about thinking and about science, and since then parks have been about people management. I think that’s telling. I believe it has the ring to truth to it. It also clearly indicates the pushes and pulls of park management at time of the establishment of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.


Desert scrub and cacti frame the iconic El Capitan. (D. Buehler/NPS photo)

By the 1960s, the United States had become a very different place that had different psychic and cultural needs from its national parks. Thirty years had passed since national parks served the purpose of spiritual enlightenment. In late-19th-century America, national parks came to represent the tripartite meaning of American land: they showed the power of Manifest Destiny, after the rise of especially geology, the empirical knowability of science, and of course, the sublime that so enticed the 19th century. The parks told Americans not only that their quest to conquer was justified, but also that they could know about nature—they could create boxes on which they could put labels that gave them the power of definition—and even more, they could appreciate nature’s beauty and feel good about themselves for doing so. This was heady stuff for a young nation, feeling its way to maturity during the years before World War I, a time the American writer John Dos Passos called “the quiet afterglow of the 19th century.”

This cultural impulse dominated at the turn of the 20th century. It far exceeded recreation or any other purpose for national parks. Americans came to national parks by train and were in awe when they looked around. They came to understand themselves and their nation, and they felt better about themselves and their culture as a result. In short their reasons were spiritual. I think they went for uplift, to feel closer to their deities, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and especially to feel the power of American society. They affirmed American culture by their actions. That’s clearly not what most people were doing, at least not consciously. By the 1960s a great deal of park visitors were “the young me and my parents.” We were people headed out West once again, but in a different kind of way. On some subconscious level we traveled to belong, but the affirmation we sought was less of the nation than of ourselves and our position in it. We were driving around in cars, going to national parks because we thought we should. Nothing revealed this need to belong as much as the once ubiquitous “I visited Carlsbad Caverns” bumper sticker. Everybody in the American middle class grew up with one of those; it was a marker of belonging, of being part of the post-World-War-II middle class. If you had one of those bumper stickers, you were somebody! If you didn’t, well, tough. I once met somebody who said the hardest thing about his childhood was that his family didn’t have one of these bumper stickers on their car. And so somehow, they were left out. This was a different kind of belonging; it wasn’t a cultural uplift as much as it was a form of experience, a counting of events and activities that made you part of the nation.


A field of yellow flowers is in the foreground of desert mountains rising in the background. (Karen Poteet/NPS photo)

It is in this context that Guadalupe Mountains National Park enters the picture. It’s a park with wilderness attributes in its initial formulation, but it comes about at a time when people are looking for experience. It also coincided with the moment in which national goals and aspirations, in general, especially for national parks, were beginning to change. In the cultural climate of the 1960s, national parks seemed remote from the concerns of many Americans. In fact, by the mid-1960s, it was easy for people who were not far from poverty to point to national parks and say, “These are trophies for a certain class of people in our society, and a certain class of people who get all the perks to begin with.” What grew out of the response to that sentiment was nothing less than the latest in a series of reshapings of the boundaries for inclusion in the national park system. Historic sites found their definitions most radically transformed. If you look at, for example, Pipe Springs National Monument on the Arizona-Utah border, you’ll find basically a 19th-century Mormon fort set over a well that Paiute people once used, proclaimed in the 1920s as a national monument. It’s very typical of the early generation of national monuments. Pipe Spring is an intermediate site, located between Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and added to the system because Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the Park Service and the visionary who framed its earliest goals, thought it would be a good place for automobile travelers to stop on the long dusty roads between his crown jewel national parks. Its larger historical significance is minimal, and what significance there is reveals the raw power of Anglo-American society—in this case Mormons—when confronted with the needs and desires of Native Americans.

History in the park system in the 1960s began to mean something far different. It indicated inclusion, belonging, a place at the American table. In some cases, it granted official status, gave specific groups long left out a claim to Americanism. In 1962, the Frederick Douglas home, the property most associated with the famed Abolitionist spokesman who had been born a slave, became a national historic site. In 1980, the Women’s Rights National Historic Park came to be. Other areas, commemorating and in some cases sanctifying varieties of American experience, followed. Such places offered categorically different explanations of the past. Their inclusion in the national park system spoke volumes about the broadening of what American history, both officially or unofficially, included. These places told a different story than did Pipe Spring or even what the Civil War battlefields brought into the park system during the New Deal of the 1930s. A place in the park system meant a place in the nation.

Against that backdrop, another kind of national park area began to be created, but these aren’t really national parks in the traditional sense, but national recreation areas. A significant percentage of national park areas also experienced local use. Bandelier National Monument, which on some days serves as a city park for Los Alamos, was typical. People from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory have a close relationship to the park. They enter for no charge under an agreement; many come down there to eat their lunch and view the archaeological sites, and they engage in an entire range of recreational and cultural activities. That has always been one of the functions, but it’s never been even the primary function of any of the more traditional national parks, places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Glacier national parks. With the creation of national recreation areas, especially Gateway in New York and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco Bay area, a new kind of national park developed. Here was a nationally reserved area aimed at day users, at local people, and at regional constituencies that traditional national parks did not always do much to serve. This development represented a broadening of the purpose of national park areas, even more so than did the new historic sites. National recreation areas gave recreation a pre-eminence in the park system, which it had not achieved earlier.

I have become fond of referring to Golden Gate as the first national park of the 21st century. Its goal, its mission, is no less than to be all things to all people all of the time. At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, even dog waste has a constituency; there are people who will battle for the right to take their dogs into the park and accept the responsibility of cleaning up after them. This is a park manger’s dream and nightmare rolled into one. Here is a constituency that accepts responsibility for its impact, but simultaneously sees that it is entitled to create an impact that may have deleterious effects beyond what its proponents anticipate. This is truly a remarkable situation; it is what happens when parks are created atop prior public and private uses—patterns of usage established over time that give users a proprietary feeling about the land in question. At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, people used the lands that became the park before the Park Service received mandate to administer. Those people—citizens and taxpayers— had to be brought in to the management equation. They were very often vocal representatives of communities in the area and they had—or believed they had—rights. No federal agency can afford to ignore a vocal public. So a different picture of a national park resulted. It is a national park that serves the local-use constituencies, has lots and lots of historic features, has lots of natural features but has some wilderness—but people hang-glide there too. This is not traditionally what the national parks were about.


Remnants of Pinery Stage station buried in summer wildflowers. (NPS photo)

Now why is this happening? Of course it’s one of the many results of the massive cultural changes in the post-war United States, but it is also happening because the National Park Service itself is changing. Between 1916, the founding of the agency, and 1953, one generation of people ran the National Park Service. Of the first five directors, only one, Newton Drury, did not come up through the ranks and was not, at one point or another, Stephen T. Mather’s assistant director. Drury was the only exception to that pattern and as the only genuine preservationist to head the agency, he was a most interesting exception. In 1954 Conrad L. Wirth—who had come into the National Park Service as a landscape architect during the New Deal, which served as the first great development program in national park history— ascended to the head of the agency. Wirth’s agency offered a very different focus, a very different way to look at the world. What Wirth wanted to do was build park areas, places that people would use and places that people would see largely from their cars. Wirth saw himself representing tradition in the Park Service, not as a preservationist but as a promoter, extending the reach of the park system. The problems of national parks in the 1950s and 1960s were hardly a lack of visitation; the lack of facilities to accommodate visitors topped the list of issues for the agency. This was a move away from national park values of the turn of the century, not its goal of reaching the people but in the way it reached them. George Hartzog, who succeeded Wirth in 1964 and lasted until 1972, was the last director of the agency who was not a political selection, the last person who didn’t survive some kind of political loyalty test to get appointed to the top position in the agency. He was also very much a promoter who strongly valued preservation. In this context, the proclamation of Guadalupe Mountains National Park looks pretty remarkable. It is starting to look like an afterthought or somebody’s pet project—which is not entirely untrue—or just something that came together despite the dominant currents of its moment.

Now, the traits of these new parks are that they are all things to all people, they are created from prior uses, and they have easy access for day use. It is surprising to find that Guadalupe Mountains actually shares a history of prior uses with such parks. Guadalupe Mountains is the last major national park created not from federal holdings or gifts, but by purchasing land. There weren’t any federal lands in Texas, which was a unique arrangement with the United States upon entering the Union in 1845. Guadalupe Mountains also shared initially another dimension, one that generated a bit of controversy for the park. The traditional national parks—e.g., Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier—all did a tremendous amount to obliterate human history within their boundaries. One disgruntled former Park Service employee once told me that there is an enormous wall of file cabinets—and this is of course apocryphal—in the Washington Office of the Park Service that details every historic structure of the national park system that has ever been destroyed, and there are thousands of them. I don’t know how true this is, but the point is that the Park Service had a tremendous investment in making the wilderness free of people. At Guadalupe Mountains that erasure by and large, did not happen. In fact, human history was included within the park, and I think that is part of its own process of making a national park in this new era. That is, the natural past was sufficient at the turn of the century when people revered nature as spectacle, as scenery, as affirmation of culture. But in this increasing post-industrial world, in this world of service economies, it has become very important to have a human past in natural areas. So you have Frijole Ranch, Williams Ranch, Ship-on-the-Desert, and other vestiges of a human history preserved within the boundaries of a national park.


William's Ranch sits at the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains. (D. Buehler/NPS photo)

Another issue that speaks very much to this changing situation at Guadalupe Mountains National Park was the question of the tramway. The proposal for a tramway to the top of Guadalupe Mountains was an enormous fight, and I will try to locate it in the context here. Tramways were not uncommon propositions in the early 1970s. The idea of accessibility gained great sway as an antidote to charges of elitism in the national parks. Not everybody can get to the top of Guadalupe Peak on his or her own, but on a tramway everybody can. The proposal blended different currents in the park system—in particular the oldest challenge that faced the agency, how to preserve and create access simultaneously—and it loomed very large for the Park Service particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. Was access for everyone, everywhere what a national park ought to offer? Was the goal to offer accessibility or was it to preserve a special kind of experience? I don’t think we’re through with that dialog yet. Ask any superintendent of a national park with a feature that people desire to see but don’t want to do the work to reach it. The Park Service handled the situation as well as it could. It commissioned a number of studies and held a bunch of meetings, and eventually personnel stood by and hoped that the project would die, and in fact it did. It died as much as a result of cultural change, as being studied to death. The studies eventually said that fewer than 50% of the people wanted the tramway, but the fact remained that in some cases, the appearance of action as opposed to real action—a passive approach to not getting things done— makes them disappear just as well as an active approach. This is another version of the old adage that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

In every sense, a national park is a reflection of the moment of its creation. The real dance, the real trick, the difficult thing to do is to maintain the integrity of the values of a national park area as the values of the society change around it. In this context, Guadalupe Mountains is part of what I call the “great aberration,” the period of time from 1945 to 1973 when more people in this country did better than they had ever dreamed of doing, economically better than any group of people in human history. There was more wealth, and because of that wealth, people were willing to look at putting things aside in a permanent way. They shared a vision of optimism; they could see their way to a better world. In the 1960s Lyndon Johnson used to talk about ending poverty for all time. Now we’re happy to settle for holding the line at 13% of the population below the poverty line. During that great aberration it was possible to attempt and sometimes accomplish social, political, and even environmental objectives that could not have been considered during other times. It was possible to say, here’s a tract of land with about 100,000 acres that we can hold aside. First of all, we can get it cheaply. Second of all, there aren’t a lot of evident ways that it is going to offer us great economic benefit.


Snow-capped Guadalupe Peak (NPS photo)

Guadalupe Mountains also falls within a category that I call “quality of life maneuvers.” This category really begins with the implementation of air and water pollution standards in the late 1940s and 1950s and ends more or less with the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. It includes the Wilderness Act of 1964, as well as all kinds of legal mechanisms that represent the success of traditional environmentalism in the United States. Why does Guadalupe Mountains fit in here? As in many other places, wilderness became a representation of quality of life, proof of a society that could expand and save at the same time. And of course, with the proclamation of wilderness—first in Guadalupe Mountains, later at Carlsbad, and then finally including the wilderness study area in the adjacent national forest, a large complex of interconnected wilderness, which is really the intellectual province of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, was established.

Wilderness had a very special resonance during this time period, because we were again feeling ourselves over-civilized, again feeling unable to get in sync with ourselves even as the economy seemed to be going well around us. Wilderness became a marker not so much of cultural affirmation as it had at the turn of the century, but of individual experience. Never mind that we were able to accomplish this experience largely with the technological tools created by the space program—the lightweight pack frames and the featherweight hiking shoes, the freeze-dried food, and other technological improvements—that made the wilderness possible for even the most unfit of us. Without those accouterments, we’d have to experience wilderness on its own terms. Many of us might like to think we’re Daniel Boone, but we’re not.


McKittrick Canyon Stream. (NPS photo)

As wilderness experiences have been made more palpable, more accessible, it has become available to more people. What has happened, I think, in the 25 years of this special place, is that the park was established for one purpose and now it is gradually acquiring another one. It seems to me that Guadalupe Mountains National Park was invented, was created to preserve itself and to preserve its specialness. This is me waxing eloquent as opposed to being cynical; there are cynical things to point to in the creation of any national park. But what’s happened is that national parks have become, and have had to become, more than stored-up scenery to be admired. They are also agents of economic development. The mayor of Carlsbad just got up here and acknowledged the incredible significance of tourism in his town. In Wyoming, where I recently spoke, one of the things they still have a hard time doing is getting tourism out of the shadow economy and into the sun. Very clearly, that process has happened here in the last ten years or so. But in fact, the rise of tourism here has been instrumental in perpetuating Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and in making it far more significant to a wider audience.

The resistance to oil exploration in the vicinity illustrates this point. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, oil companies sought to create access to drill in and near the wilderness areas. Oil prices were sky-high and domestic oil production was an agreed-upon goal. Yet, the people of southeast New Mexico were not only unhappy about this prospect, they battled against it. A local newspaper, the Carlsbad Current-Argus, came out against oil drilling in the Guadalupes. It argued that in this case, environmentalists had a significant point: drilling for oil ought to take place first in less environmentally desirable areas. The idea that a local newspaper editor in the American West would say that environmental goals should supersede energy exploration in 1980 is almost beyond comprehension. Tourism—that nebulous invisible source of jobs—over oil exploration, patriotic and industrial? Guadalupe Mountains, as well as Carlsbad Caverns, is part of a revolution that is clearly underway. The service economy has come in incredibly important ways and projects an economic future: the transfer payments of retirees, accepting low-level nuclear waste, and more and more tourism. This is made possible by more and more technology and mitigated by the vast distance from the interstate to the Guadalupe Mountains, in particular, and to Carlsbad Caverns as well. There is no greater barrier for tourism in postmodern America than being more than twenty minutes from the interstate highway.


Mountain vista across the salt lake. (NPS photo)

So this is where we stand at the 25th anniversary. Guadalupe Mountains is a national park with a wilderness that is desirable to a certain constituency. As the wilderness comes to represent the meaning of the national park and as distance from the main arteries of American society becomes even more a marker of group values, the constituency for places like Guadalupe Mountains— which can claim remoteness and wildness—will continue to grow. Here is a park that is bifurcated in complicated ways.

I want to leave you here briefly with two thoughts: one from the iconoclastic writer Edward Abbey, who observed in the 1970s from atop Guadalupe Peak: “This is a harsh, dry, bitter place, lonely as a dream. But I like it. I know I could live here if I wanted to, if I had to.” Then, finally, with Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon, the ranger from The Track of the Cat, which I know is probably not everybody’s favorite book. But there is a marvelous scene in that book when Anna finds herself on horseback taking water to Pentecostals marching for Jesus to the top of Guadalupe Peak. Of course, they are unprepared; there are pregnant women; there are people who are too overweight to be able to make the trip; they don’t have enough water per person. Yet here they are streaming up the side of the mountain by the thousands in the hot, late-spring sun. They are recklessly endangering themselves, and it’s the ranger’s job to make sure their danger is not too real. I think encapsulated in those two little vignettes are two futures, the two intertwined and largely inseparable futures of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

           Text from The Guadalupe Mountains Symposium, 2004
Hal Rothman


NPS seasonal employee Nevada Barr standing on a hill with a man looking toward the mountains in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, c1990. (Thomas C. Gray/NPS photo)


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