TPWD News Release — Feb. 11, 2008
EL PASO, Texas — The north face of Hueco Tanks State Historic Site’s Mushroom Boulder was closed to all activities Dec. 22, 2007. Archeological resource protection necessitated the closure. Signs are in place to identify the sensitive area, and rangers are available to answer public questions.
In fall 2007, archeology staff from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Cultural Resources Program assessed several areas at Hueco Tanks. The areas were checked for signs of risk to archeological deposits, such as loss of vegetation, erosion or other changes that had occurred over time. Photographs of sites were compared to photographs taken of the same areas in previous years.
Although most of the areas checked were in good condition, significant changes were noted at Mushroom Boulder, a popular climbing spot in Hueco Tanks’ self-guided area. The boulder lies within one of Hueco Tanks State Historic Site’s archeological localities. The area preserves significant cultural deposits dating to prehistoric times. As is true in many localities, the most significant cultural deposits are those protected by overhangs.
During monitoring, it was found that soils beneath the overhang on Mushroom Boulder’s northern face had been loosened and eroded. As a consequence, cultural deposits were no longer protected by surrounding sediments and there were indications that these deposits had been disturbed. This impact was found in the area where foot traffic and crash pad placement were concentrated, due to the overhang’s popularity as a bouldering area. TPWD’s archeologist recommended closing the area to foot traffic.
Preservation of Hueco Tanks State Historic Site’s cultural and natural features is the site’s primary mission and is required by law. Permanent closure of Mushroom Boulder’s north face to climbing activities was necessary to meet this obligation. Hueco Tanks SHS also has a mission to provide recreational opportunities, and the staff works with affected groups to try to balance diverse needs and provide the best possible visitor experiences. The self-guided area at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site holds a wide variety of bouldering areas, and no additional closures are planned at this time.
Staff from TPWD’s Cultural Resources Program discussed the Mushroom Boulder closure at a January presentation hosted by the Hueco Rock Ranch (a nearby private campground and guide service). Two department experts, Tim Roberts, Regional Cultural Resources Coordinator and Margaret Howard, Archeologist and Survey Team Leader, presented information and answered questions.
For more information, call Hueco Tanks State Historic Site at (915) 857-1135.
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