Chinati Mountains State Natural Area

This state natural area is not yet open.

Chinati Mountains

The 38,137-acre Chinati Mountains State Natural Area lies south of Pinto Canyon Road and immediately west of the high peaks of the range.

These beautiful, scenic mountains are the result of a violent past. The largest volcanic eruption in the Trans Pecos region of Texas took place here over 35 million years ago. Eroded over time, the rugged peaks and steep canyons of the Chinatis tell the story of that long-ago eruption.

The park stretches from low desert to the highest peak, Sierra Pardo. It reaches south almost to Cerro Orona. The ridgeline of the high Chinati range is not in the park.

Human activity

Humans have occupied Chinati Mountains and the surrounding area for over 8,000 years. Native Americans left their marks in the form of pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings).

Ranching activities in the area had begun by the 1830s. Mining also took place here. Over the years, this land yielded silver, copper and fluorspar.

The OON Partnership bought the property in 1978. The property served as a spiritual retreat and wildlife sanctuary until 1996. The Richard King Mellon Foundation then purchased the land and donated it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Conservation Fund brokered this transaction.

Natural beauty

The site is in the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, which stretches from the trans-Pecos area of Texas into northern Mexico.

Plant life

Mixed grasslands and mixed desert scrub dominate the mid to lower levels of the property. Sotol, bear grass, yucca and skeleton-leaf goldeneye are common plants.

Upper levels gradually give way to an open woodland of gray oak with a tall grass understory dominated by grama grasses and bull muhly. Cottonwoods and willows thrive along waterways.

Wildlife

Wildlife here is fairly typical of the lower Big Bend region. Forty species of mammals have been documented here. On the list are 10 species of bats, Nelson’s pocket mouse, white-tailed and mule deer, bobcats and mountain lions.

Many birds and reptiles also live here. The gray-checkered whiptail lizard is almost unique to the Chinati Mountains, only found in a few other places.

Creating a park

Opening a park requires multiple steps and takes several years. Many factors impact the length of this process, including the availability of funds.

Baseline surveys identify sensitive areas as well as areas to be developed.

With that information in hand, TPWD can begin work on a public use plan to guide the park’s development. Planners will present the completed plan for public input.

Finally, after planning is complete and funding in place, design, contracting and construction can begin.

Current status

Park planners have begun work on the public use plan. The plan, including public input, will be complete by 2018.

TPWD is working on acquiring land for public access to the park from FM 170.

No opening date has been set. Check back here for updates.

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