Chinati Mountains State Natural Area

This state natural area is not yet open.

Desert Beauty

The nearly 39,000-acre Chinati Mountains State Natural Area lies south of Pinto Canyon Road and just west of the high peaks of the range.

These 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. The rugged peaks and steep canyons of the Chinatis tell the story of that long-ago eruption.

With a 4,400-foot elevation change, Chinati Mountains State Natural Area has scenic and wild terrain. The park stretches from low desert to part way up Sierra Parda, the second highest peak in the Chinati Mountains. Sierra Parda and Chinati peaks are not in the park.

Human activity

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

Mexican families ran small ranches in the area for quite some time before Anglo ranchers arrived in the 1850s. Starting in the late 1800s, mines yielded silver, gold, lead, manganese, zinc, copper and fluorspar.

The OON Partnership bought the property in 1978. It 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.

Chihuahuan Desert

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 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 funding.

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

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

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

Status

Most of the process for finalizing the public use plan, including public input, is complete. TPWD leadership is currently taking a final look at the plan.

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

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