The Chinati Mountains State Natural Area near the Big Bend Ranch State Park is a transitions zone between the Chihuahuan Desert lowlands and the Trans Pecos ecoregion in West Texas. This Texas natural area is way out in the middle of a desert, extremely remote, and covers almost 39,000 acres. The Chinati Mountain range is ancient and a result of a volcanic eruption, and over 35 million years old.
Chinati Peak, the highest in the range, rises to 7,728 feet. The Chinati Mountains comprise cacti, coarse grass, few trees, hard rock chimneys, jagged cliffs, masses of small stone patches (scree) covering slopes, narrow gorges, thorny bushes, wide vistas, and some of the darkest night skies in the U.S. Presidio, Texas, is the closest U.S. village about 25 miles southwest of the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.
Where Are the Chinati Mountains Located?
Humans have inhabited the Chinati Mountain range for over 8,000 years. Native Americans drew pictographs and carved petroglyphs in their region. Mexican families owned ranches before Anglo ranchers moved in. Mines in the area produced copper, fluorspar, gold, lead, manganese, silver, and zinc in the late 1800s. From 1978 to 1996, the area served as a spiritual retreat and wildlife sanctuary, when the Richard King Mellon Foundation bought the land and donated it to the TPWD.
The Chinati Mountains rise up in Pinto Canyon on the northwest and Cibolo Creek on the south and east in southwestern Presidio County. Presidio, Texas, with a population just over 3,000, connects Constitución, Chihuahua, Mexico, on the other side of the border, 30 miles southwest. The Big Bend Ranch State Park also lies to the south.
What Mountains Are Near Presidio, Texas?
The Presidio, Texas, region is the oldest cultivated region in the U.S. Since 1500 B.C., Native Americans had farmed there. The Spanish explorers arrived in 1535, where Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca planted a cross on a mountain slope and named the village La Junta de las Cruces, which means “Board of the Crosses”.
In Texas, the Bofecillos Mountains in the high central part of the Big Bend Ranch State Park are the nearest mountains to Presidio, Texas. This mountain range is over 27 million years old. In Mexico’s Área Natural Protegida Cañón y Sierra del Pegüis, flows the Conchos River, which cuts 2000 feet through the Pegüis Canyon 25 miles northwest of Presidio.
What Will the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area Offer?
Nature and wildlife lovers will discover the common plants of bear grass, sotol, skeleton-leaf goldeneye, and yucca. At higher elevations, you will see undergrowth of grama grasses and bull muhly and gray oak trees, with cottonwoods and willows along waterways. The TPWD and other organizations have documented forty species of mammals, including ten species of bats, bobcats, white-tailed and mule deer, and mountain lions, along with birds and reptiles.
Visitors will enjoy the extreme solitude via backpacking, camping, equestrian rides, hiking, and stargazing in the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area when the park opens. Water is a scarce resource in this part of Texas. Most of the waterways in the Chinati Mountains are springs like the Ojo Aqua Zarca or Cibolo Creek.
When Will the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area Open?
As of this writing, The TPWD has finalized its public use plan and is taking public comments as of this writing. TPWD leadership is analyzing its public use plan currently. The Chinati Mountains State Natural Area is now included in the Big Bend Ranch State Park’s International Dark Sky designation within the International Dark Sky Association.
The TPWD has not announced an opening date for when the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area will open. The TPWD advises interested parties to check back at this website for updates on an opening date.