Hueco Tanks Park

The Tigua Indian Tribe
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
El Paso, Texas

Prepared for the Tigua Indian Tribe

Cultural Consultants, Inc.

Adolph M. Greenberg, Ph.D.
George S. Esber, Ph.D.

With the assistance of
Tammy Alverson


This Draft Management Plan has been developed by the Tigua Indian Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo for the stewardship, management and public use of Hueco Tanks State Historical Park. The Draft is to be reviewed through a process involving the public and interested stakeholders prior to its being finalized and implemented as guideline for managing the park. Inasmuch as there are several stakeholders with varied interests, the management plan seeks to maximize the benefits to each stakeholder group while, at the same time, protecting the interests of each and the resources of the park. The plan has been developed based upon available research and information that highlights the resources of the park and the needs of the known user groups. It has also been designed to protect resources, and the rights and access to resources in a manner that is compliant with existing laws.

Prior to the formulation of this plan, public hearings were held in the El Paso Chamber of Commerce Building, 10 Civic Center Plaza on February 19, 1999 to obtain information from interested groups about their wants and needs with respect to uses of the park. The process for developing the Draft differed from conventions normally employed in the protection of public resources in that the initial step called for public input upon which this plan would be based. Rather than following a top-down approach where alternatives are developed and then presented for public comment, the process began with stakeholder inputs which directed the shape of this plan.

The hearings were recorded and transcribed by Certified Court Reporters. While information from the hearings served as a partial basis for developing the Draft, public comment on this product will be heard prior to its being finalized. The Draft will be presented in a public comment session and modified accordingly, within the parameters of various competing needs and interests and the legal support for them, and the mandate for protection of the resources.


Prologue ii

Table of Contents iii

Background and Significance of the Park                           1

Background for the Tigua Management Plan                      3

Tigua Spiritual Activity Field - Map #1                                    

Tigua Spiritual Activity Field - Map #2

Mission Statement                                                                      5

Management Objectives                                                           7

Resources Identified as Significant at the Park                  9

Protection of Cultural and Natural Resources                  16

Proposed Hueco Tanks Park                                                 17

Public Uses                                                                                 19

Park Headquarters and Visitor Center Complex               23

Prohibitions                                                                                 25

Recommended Studies                                                            26



Background and Significance of the Park

Hueco Tanks State Historical Park lies in the Hueco Mountain Range about a half an hour drive northeast of El Paso. Rock formations jutting above the surrounding desert landscape readily attract interest in contrast to the more ordinary surrounding desert lands. Boulders of considerable size, natural water holes and mountain formations made the Hueco tanks vital for desert travelers who in the past depended upon the water and other life forms that also thrive in the habitable environment. For many, the ambience of the park presents opportunities for spiritual experiences and a communion with nature in ways that each sees fit. At a cultural level, indigenous peoples have shared and passed on some of those experiences in traditions whose importance cannot be measured, but only denoted in the sacred sites and symbols that continue to rejuvenate worshipers who know and understand the power that has accrued in both the place and the oral traditions that keep spiritual ties alive. That cultural legacy is regularly called upon by the Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in their religious pilgrimages; it also holds historical and symbolic meanings for other Indian peoples of the region.

Hueco has spiritual importance to non-Indians as well. Because of the unusual rock formations, Hueco Tanks State Historical Park has come to be known as a "world class site" among rock climbing organizations whose membership holds considerable enthusiasm for the climbing routes and bouldering problems presented by the geology and, for many, the opportunities for their own personal spiritual enhancement. Pictographs, drawings made by indigenous people in the course of marking their religious experiences, hold the interest of many and command an awe for different kinds of reasons, many of which are of a spiritual nature as well. Recreational use of the park is sometimes felt to be in conjunction with such experiences.

The park has commanded the interest of scholars who have recorded and sought to interpret the culture history of the park, mainly through a study of pictographs, but also through other remnants of material culture. The academic interest, more detached than spiritual has nevertheless resulted in strong ties and concerns on the part of savants.

Because of its proximity to El Paso, the park has also taken on a significance for people living in the city who seek respite from all of the elements of big cities that assault the senses. For some, a drive through the area suffices, while for others, an afternoon picnic with family allows communion with each other and the landscape.

Although the park is relatively small, encompassing 860 acres, its mountains, its rock formations and boulders, some of which are several hundred feet above the surrounding plains, command an intense public interest. Tourists, climbers, Indians, scholars, residents of El Paso and the State of Texas, all express a concern for the preservation of the park and its resources, and an interest in its accessibility for providing a variety of experiences.

This General Management Plan addresses those concerns and operates with the philosophy that all stakeholders of the park should always be consulted and involved in decision-making critical to their interests. The Plan is also built upon the idea that the park contains ecological systems that are dynamic and that include players, both human and non-human, whose actions and habits may affect the park.

The park reflects human use with consequences that are often desirable although sometimes not. Rather than to preserve a park controlled by special interests, or one frozen in time as though a reflection of some imagined artificial goodness, the Tigua Plan is built upon the notion that the park is an important, ever changing ecosystem with a history of its own, and that the management of it should involve its users in mindful and respectful treatment of the park environment; in that spirit, the park is to be appreciated and hence, protected and preserved.

Background for the Tigua Management Plan

Public Use Plan and Its Restrictions

In August 1998, Texas Parks and Wildlife instituted a Public Use Plan to compensate for its failed resource management policies. The conservation approach of the new plan is a highly controlled, authoritarian-managed program with very limited access. The plan places restrictions on stakeholder access for religious, recreational and public uses. Certain areas of the park have been closed while other areas are accessed only with a tour guide or a staff member. Persons who could be instrumental in the protection of park resources have been hampered in their ability to gain access. Consequently, those inclined to vandalize resources might well find themselves alone in an area to do damage rather than under the watchful eye of a steward. An awkward system for making reservations for use of the park has discouraged and/or prohibited visitor use and has produced a level of discontent calling for alternative management strategies.

Tigua problems with Texas Parks and Wildlife

The Tigua Indian Tribe and other Indian communities who need access to the park for religious purposes find their First Amendment rights compromised by a permit system required for prayer and spiritual activities in the park. The Public Use Plan requests advance notification, requires identification and accompaniment to sites for religious purposes. These are discriminatory practices against people wishing to exercise their religious freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.

The Tigua Tribe is also concerned about the interpretations of their cultural property by the academic community and the representation of their culture to the public. Limited archaeological research without ethnographic consultation has led to speculative conclusions that have been accepted and incorporated as the interpretative story presented by Texas Parks and Wildlife. The interests of archaeologists has, in turn, driven much of the park’s recent policies as well as the Resource Management Plan.

Climbing, Bouldering and Other Recreational Concerns

As an internationally recognized world class site for rock climbing and bouldering, the reservation system along with a low visitor number limitation have made the site inaccessible to many would-be users of the park, including international visitors who have only limited time for experiencing it.


The administration of Hueco Tanks Park will be managed by the Tigua Tribe in consultation with all stakeholders, and will administer the preservation of all stakeholder interests within a conservation structure, and will maximize the availability of these resources to all user groups in a manner consistent with the preservation objectives.


Controversy over the management of Hueco Tanks State Historical Park by the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife has been substantial coming from numerous stakeholder and user groups. Information was elicited from known user groups and from other volunteers who chose to respond in a public meeting. The issues that were presented have been summarized along with data gathered through research relative to the cultural and natural resources of the park. They are as follows:


Public inaccessibility and restricted use of the park has been the concern most widely expressed by user groups. Limited access under a reservation system has made the park unavailable for many potential users and has made use inconvenient for others. Some regular local users have reservations for six-months in advance while locking out others. Tourists with limited time in the area have found a two week wait incompatible with their available time. Senior citizens and others seeking RV camping space have difficulty obtaining accommodations. Indian people needing use of the park for religious purposes have been escorted, as required, by a guide to accompany them, thus interfering with the privacy required for full freedom of religious expression.

Cultural resources of the park have been subject to vandalism, destruction, and desecration. In particular, religious sites and shrines of the Tigua Indian Tribe and of other Indian peoples have been adversely impacted under the stewardship of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has failed to provide adequate protection of resources as evidenced by a Public Use Plan that, in the eyes of many stakeholders, has become virtually a non-use plan in order to compensate for an inability to provide adequate protection of the resources. The concern has been viewed as the defacement of "rock art" and archaeological resources rather than the desecration of sacred shrines as cultural resources, the latter being far more serious. The secular interpretation of pictographs becomes a less effective force for protection than might have been the case were the public more properly informed.

The cultural resources originally the property of traditionally affiliated ethnic communities remain significant to the descendent peoples. However, State control of them has resulted in the appropriation of cultural resources with management, scientific investigation and/or interpretation of them proceeding without consultation. This has disassociated people from their heritage, devalued its religious significance and violated peoples’ rights to freedom of religious expression. Involvement of stakeholders in the administration of the public lands at Hueco Tanks has been practically non-existent and where Indian peoples should have been involved, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has not always followed the process for government-to-government relationships in the spirit mandated by the federal policy. Further, the Tigua Tribe has been asked to contribute to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s administrative agenda which has often been at cross purposes with the tribes’ own interests. The Tigua Tribe has not participated in these events because of the lack of respect shown for resources held sacred.

The ambience of Hueco Tanks – from the serenity of the landscape to its air quality – requires special protection to insure the kind of experience, including spiritual, that is sought by users of the park.

Although many of the management issues involve protection and the recognition of stakeholders’ rights, the management style of the park administration has been authoritarian and top down, rather than democratic and responsive to public users in a manner that best serves the public good. The Tigua Plan is designed for managers of the park to function as agents of the stakeholders, rather than as the advocates of limited interests.


Management Objectives

The Tigua Indian General Management Plan for Hueco Tanks synthesizes information collected from stakeholders who testified at the public hearings held in El Paso on February 19, 1999 regarding user needs and conservation needs derived from an assessment of the resources at Hueco Tanks. The Management Objectives are designed to resolve issues within the parameters of the Mission Statement. The Management Objectives will be directed toward:

The Tigua Plan will manage public access and use of cultural and natural resources to serve the interests of cultural, recreational, educational, and scientific user groups within a preservation environment.

The Plan will manage resources and public use in a way that respects and protects First Amendment rights and the exercise of religious freedom at traditional sacred sites within the park.

The paramount management objective will be to work with cultural and natural resource stakeholders to protect resources in a state for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

The Tigua Plan will preserve the unique character of Hueco Tanks as a place for solitude, quiet reflection, enjoyment of the scenic vistas and the life therein, and leave-no-trace visitation.

The Plan will monitor impacts from public use and adjust management strategies as necessary in consultation with stakeholder groups.

The Tigua Plan will involve traditionally affiliated groups in a consultation relationship and will include these stakeholders in management decisions relative to stewardship and conservation issues of the park.

The Plan calls for the formation of a Consultation Committee representing stakeholder groups. The Committee will meet quarterly, or more often as needed, to discuss issues in the management of the park and to make informed decisions regarding the management, protection and interpretation of the park resources.

The Tigua Plan will present educational and interpretative information about the cultural and natural resources of the park as developed in consultation with stakeholders

Research will be conducted under a permitting process that serves the needs of park management in its role as steward and that reflects the interests and concerns of stakeholders.

Under Tigua management, the Park will develop a baseline cultural affiliation history and maintain an active interdisciplinary research agenda that integrates ethnographic, ethnohistorical, historical and archaeological information to accurately reflect the interests and perspectives of all stakeholders.

Research and monitoring of all resources will be ongoing and will influence the direction of preservation objectives in consultation with stakeholders.

Resources Identified as Significant at the Park

Cultural Resources

The cultural resources at Hueco Tanks form a cultural landscape that consists of surface materials, structures, pictographs, petroglyphs, shrines, sacred sites, and other evidence of human use. Many of the cultural resources are particularly important to the Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and to some extent, Apache, Kiowa and Comanche Nations. Tigua oral history is rich with references to the everyday use of the Tanks including camp sites, hunting and gathering, food processing, preservation, and storage. The Tigua refer to the names of people who lived at the Tanks and the caves and shelters where they lived. Certain rock shelters bear the names of Tigua who frequented the area in the latter part of the 19th century and numerous place names for specific areas of the Tanks are preserved in Tigua traditions.

The sacredness of the area for the Tigua is apparent in a creation story that tells of the Tigua emergence from a cave at Hueco Tanks. The Tanks are specifically mentioned in tribal members’ accounts of the abuelos or grandfathers, living entities who reveal themselves as "sin cleaners" to the Tigua during times of stress. The Tanks contain pictographs which are distinctly Tigua, representing abuelos and the most important symbol of the Tribe. The Katchina-like masks are representations of the abuelo as a living supernatural figure, and Tigua oral tradition attributes many of the pictographs found at the Tanks to their ancestors who created the sacred pictographs. The abuelo are central to pueblo beliefs and cosmology as reflected in the extreme sacredness with which the Tigua regard Hueco Tanks.

The complex history of the groups associated with Hueco Tanks is well demonstrated by oral history concerning a group of Indians being chased by their enemies to Hueco Tanks and being trapped there. The Tigua tell the story of Comanches besieged by Tiguas, other descriptions tell of Apaches being killed by Mexicans, and yet others relate a Kiowa story in which all but two of a group of Kiowa warriors, trapped by Mexicans, finally escaped. An injured member of their party was left behind, only to later be rescued by Comanches. The conflict, suffering, and subsequent escape of the besieged Indians is recorded and portrayed in pictographs. This incident is believed to have taken place in the winter of 1836-37, in or near what is today known as Comanche Cave. With the exception of the Tigua Tribe, traditional cultural connections to Hueco Tanks are unclear, complex and will require on-going consultation with traditionally affiliated American Indian communities.

Historical properties at Hueco Tanks include what is currently identified as the Butterfield Overland Mail Site (1858-1859), and Armendariz/Escontria Ranch sites (1890-1956). Research funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has questioned the authenticity of the Butterfield site, suggesting it was moved there from another location, or it may have been constructed as part of the Armendariz/Escontria Ranch complex during the end of the 19th century. If authentic, this site is associated with regional economic development and settlement during the mid-19th century while the Armendariz/Escontria Ranch complex (ranch house, stone ruins, and check dams and channels for water control) reflect late 1800's through mid 20th century ranching traditions in the El Paso area. The ranch house is in excellent condition and is currently used by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a museum and interpretative center at the park.

Recommended Actions:

Natural Resources: Botanical

The region of Hueco Tanks is considered a desert grassland but with various geologic features that allow ephemeral stands of water resulting in unique vegetation types. Within the park there are three large geologic formations made of eroded syenite rock outcroppings with numerous cracks, fissures, and depressions that trap and slowly release water into the surroundings. This seepage creates areas that support species not typically found in the region. The abundance of moisture allows the park acting to as a refuge for numerous species that were found in Northeast Texas during wetter periods of time.

A recent assessment of resources within the Hueco Tanks State Historical Park and the surrounding Hueco Mountains identified 699 species of vascular and non-vascular plants spread across seven divisions. Five distinct plant habitats were identified within the park boundaries in addition to human modified habitats. These include shrublands, grasslands, and mixed shrublands/grasslands. There are four species listed for the Hueco Tanks State Historical Park that are considered rare, localized, and/or sensitive.

Species of Special Concern

The four species of special concern include two shrubs (Colubrina stricta and Abutilon mollicomum.), one fern (Phanerophlebia auriculata), and one perennial herb (Agastache cana).

1) Colubrina stricta has a range known from a historical locality reference in1851 from Edwards Plateau in Comal county. Collections are also known from Nuevo Leons in 1937 and Choahuila, Mexico in 1935. Currently, the only verifiable population is in Hueco Tanks State Historical Park and at only one location on the North Mountain. This extremely limited distribution places it with the highest conservation priority among the four species of special concern.

The population was examined in March 1999 for the Tigua management plan. The plants were all healthy and did not show signs of the population decreasing due to park users. Consultation with a Tigua tribal elder indicated that there may be additional populations of this species elsewhere in the park and in the Guadalupe mountains.

2) Abutilon mollicum is known from three locations: two on the North Mountain and one on the East Mountain. The species occurs at the base of cliffs where debris and soil accumulates. Unfortunately, these locations are also where hiking paths have been created for park visitors.

The population on East Mountain is situated directly under a forty-five degree overhang, a location routinely used by rock climbers. Severe erosion was witnessed at this site. In addition, Texas State Park rangers indicated that this plant has been pushed aside by climbers in their attempts to gain access to parts of the particular rock.

Of the two sites located on North Mountain, one population occurs in a heavily trafficked area with erosion and trampling of specimens. The other population is located at the base of the cliffs along the western side of North Mountain.

3) Phanerophlebia auriculata ranges from western Texas to Arizona and northern Mexico. It occurs in shady, moist places such as overhanging ledges, cracks in granite cliffs and canyon walls and at elevations of 1,000 – 2,500 meters. Phanerophlebia auriculata is also only known from two locations in the park; one on North Mountain and one on East Mountain. Phanerophlebia auriculata is known to range from western Texas to Arizona and northern Mexico. Its sparse occurrence within the park boundary gives it second priority for protection.

In March 1999, three populations were examined and all were in good condition although there had been some disturbance. One population in Comanche Canyon was located directly under a large overhang beneath a petroglyph in an area surrounded by extensive graffiti. The area has been frequented by park users because it is shaded and has year around water. As the species typically grows in cracks under overhangs, park users have not directly disturbed the population.

A second population at the upper end of Comanche Canyon high above the canyon floor on the western side was examined. This population was small but in excellent condition. There were no signs of disturbance or graffiti at this site. A third site on North Mountain is similar to the first population in that it occurs in a highly used area. The plants were in good condition but the area in general has been highly disturbed and has extensive graffiti.

4) Agastache cana ranges from western Texas and New Mexico and occurs on rocky slopes and in crevices of ledges at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 meters. Of the four species of special concern, Agastache cana is known the to have the largest number of locations on both the North and East Mountains and a single location on West Mountain. Based on its range, Agastache cana is well represented within the Park as well as in locations throughout the rest of New Mexico and Texas. This representation places it with the lowest conservation priority among the four species of special concern.

The population in Comanche Canyon and on North Mountain were examined in early March 1999 and appeared in good condition. The population in Comanche canyon was undisturbed and producing new growing stems for the year. The population on North Mountain is the largest in the park and was growing in cracks in large boulders. The population was undisturbed and had remnants of fruiting stalks from the previous year as well as new growth.


The Tigua Indian Tribe claims to use 72 species of plants of which 39 (54.1%) are found in the Hueco Tanks region and 34 (47.2%) occur within the park boundaries. Of the four plant species of special concern, two are known to be used by the Tigua tribe. These are Agastache cana and Phanerophlebia auriculata. In both cases the leaves of the plant are used. Neither the method nor the amount harvested will destroy an individual plant. In fact, consultation with the Tigua tribal elders strongly indicates that the harvest and use of a plant should never be detrimental to it. The destruction of plants would be the antithetical to their belief system. These species are also located elsewhere in the region. Their use will not detrimentally affect the species as a whole.

Recommended Actions:

Natural Resources: Zoological

Hueco Tanks is a dynamic ecosystem, the result of ecological processes involving the complex interplay of human communities and the natural environment over many years. The unique character of the Tanks reflects these processes and informs the philosophy underlying the mission and management of the park. The Park should remain, as it has always been, a refuge for biological and cultural diversity in the context of dynamic change. This plan takes the position that attempts to freeze ecological time are unnatural, counterproductive, and educationally unsound.

Hueco Tanks supports a diverse collection of fauna due to its varied and variable habitats and its regionally atypical aquatic resources. Diverse populations of invertebrate species, amphibians, 30 species of reptiles including the state designated threatened Texas Horned Lizard (a candidate for federal listing as endangered or threatened), 211 known bird species including breeders, migrants, and nuisance species, and yet to be inventoried mammalian species. Hueco Tanks is a premier destination for birders and outstanding outdoor laboratory for environmental education especially for understanding human impacted landscapes.

Recommended Actions:

Geology and Hydrology

Hueco Tanks consists of three granitic igneous outcroppings (synenite porphory) commonly known as North, East, and West Mountains (see map) and reaching heights of 450 from the desert floor. The gradual weathering of these outcrops has created small basins or huecos. These depressions trap and store rainwater, creating an important source of water in the otherwise arid region. The weathering process also created countless crevices, caves, and open shelters. These geologic characteristics have been a magnet for increased biodiversity and human activity. While human activity has given the site much of its unique character, some human actions have been implicated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in adversely affecting natural drainage and water collection.

A number of human-made water control devices interrupt water flow at various points within the park, notably, two diversion canals constructed to divert rain water in the area dammed between North and West Mountains. These and other water diversion canals and impoundment efforts plus incidental human activity have resulted in drainage patterns causing erosion which may be destructive of site resources.

Recommended Actions:

Protection of Cultural And Natural Resources

The preservation of cultural and natural resources is a priority with particular vigilance needed for the sacred sites and pictographs that have been vandalized and desecrated in recent years. Tigua Park management will coordinate a program to preserve resources using ranger monitoring in conjunction with designated users to assist in the patrol. A Volunteer Steward program will be developed in conjunction with identified user group organizations who are regular users of the park. The Tigua Tribal Police will also maintain a presence in the park. Ultimately, the staff rangers will be responsible for protection of the resources, but will be assisted by Volunteer Stewards and the Tigua Tribal Police.

The Volunteer Steward program will identify individual users from collaborating stakeholder organizations who are interested in participating in protection endeavors and willing to assume certain responsibilities during the times they are using the park. They will be designated as Volunteer Stewards, trained in the procedures of the program, and will be assigned monitoring responsibilities for the areas they intend to use during their visits to the park. The Stewards will be acknowledged by their known presence in areas of use and will wear a form of identification to make them known to the public. In return for their service and as an incentive to perform stewardship responsibilities, Volunteer Stewards will be granted reduced admission fees for use of the park.

Volunteer Stewards may also be accorded access to use areas of the park where added protection is needed; such areas will be determined in consultation with affiliated peoples and may be subject to occasional restricted public use when traditional ceremonial functions require limited access. Those times will be established through consultation with peoples known to have traditional associations with pictograph sites. They are the Tigua Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, the Kiowa, the Comanche and the ancestral Apaches who are part of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico.

The Tigua Tribal Police will have jurisdiction within the boundaries of the park and will be available for service in the event that conditions may requires their assistance. The Tigua Tribal Police will maintain a presence that will include a daily patrol of the park as part of their regular patrol schedule.

Specially Protected Areas

The area of North Mountain included in the Tigua spiritual activity field includes sites and a landscape important for Tigua cultural traditions. The area of East Mountain included in the Tigua spiritual activity field includes sites and a landscape critical to the Tigua ceremonial calendar. Access to the demarcated areas within the Tigua spiritual activity field will be open to Tigua guided trips. The "Specially Protected" designation is a decision based upon information gathered from consultations with Tigua tribal members, the rock climbing community and documentation based on research carried out by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

All resources in the park will be subject to on-going monitoring and stakeholder consultation. Currently, areas designated as Specially Protected may be opened in the future while others may be subject to further restrictions based upon stakeholder concurrence and recommendations of the Consultation Committee.

A baseline document for the cultural resources in the park will be developed. Presently, pictographs have been the main focus of scientific investigation, although the level of interpretation of them is extremely thin, resting on the untested assumptions and speculations of few individuals. While the park presents an interpretive story of the pictograph panels to the public, Texas Parks and Wildlife has not subjected that information to peer review even though serious questions about its validity have been called to attention. Most importantly, all of the archaeological investigations and resulting interpretations at the Tanks have evolved without meaningful consultation with any of the American Indian nations who have clear cultural affiliations to the site. Only recently, faced with increased acrimony from stakeholder groups left out of consultation, Texas Parks and Wildlife sponsored two workshops seeking Indian input into their interpretation of the "rock art." A thorough documentation and assessment of cultural resources in the park, including all stakeholder inputs and perspectives is needed in order to make the protection of cultural resources responsive to the public needs.

Public Uses

: The prevalent concern expressed during public meetings was the limited access afforded most stakeholders and the desire that all stakeholder groups should have access to the use of a public facility. Differing with this position were stakeholders with scientific research interests who were supportive of the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Public Use Plan and its limitations on others’ rights to access. The Tigua Plan allows protection of all stakeholders interests and maximizes access for their activities.

Spiritual Activity.

Among the many uses of the Hueco Tanks, the cultural landscape is a place of special significance for religious purposes. The Tigua Tribe and other Indian peoples have maintained a traditional spiritual association with numerous features and shrines within the park that are crucial to religious practices. As freedom of religion remains one of the pillars on which American freedoms rest, the ability of traditionally associated ethnic communities to continue their spiritual practices remains a priority within the park. Freedom of religion for American Indians is assured not only through the First Amendment, but is supported through expression in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendment of 1994.

Hueco Tanks is also valued for spiritual activity by others and will remain a place where those experiences can take place unspoiled. The Tigua Plan calls for a park ambience that is favorable to spiritual experiences whether taken in the course of prayer, meditation, walking, bird watching or rock climbing.

Recreational Uses

Rock Climbing and Bouldering are recreational activities that are well established at Hueco Tanks. The park is known as a "world class site" for bouldering because of its special opportunities for solving "bouldering problems." Climbing and bouldering are permitted in the park except in a few areas where sacred sites are of such significance that secular activities in the vicinity would be considered a desecration by those holding the areas sacred. These sites will be identified and noted in consultation with stakeholder groups.

The specially protected areas within the Tigua Spiritual Activity Field encompass climbing/bouldering sites Cave Kiva, Laguna Prieta, and Site 17 on North Mountain and Bucket Roof, the amphitheater area, and Dark Heart on East Mountain. Climbing/bouldering will not be permitted at these sites pursuant to on-going monitoring, site stabilization and/or restoration actions and consultation with stakeholders. Access for other compatible activities will be by Tigua guided trips.

Other specially protected areas include Sites 16A/A-1, Nuclear Arms/Blood and Gore Wall, Artist’s Opposition on North Mountain, Sites 29A/A-1on West Mountain, The Moonshine Roof on East Mountain, and the 45 Degree Wall and St. Vitus Dance on the East Spur.  Climbing and bouldering at these sites will not be permitted pursuant to on-going monitoring, site stabilization and/or restoration actions and consultation. Access for other compatible activities will be Ranger or Volunteer Steward guided trips.

With the exceptions noted above, all areas of the Hueco Tanks Park will be open to ethical, safe, and responsible climbing/bouldering activities consistent with the mission of the park. Once in place, the Tigua General Management Plan will weigh the possibility of sponsoring special annual events to allow access to and use of certain restricted areas.

The placing of fixed gear (bolting) on routes will be subject to approval of the El Paso Climbing Club and Hueco Tanks Park management. Tick marks, doctored holds, and glue are not permitted climbing/bouldering actions. The park will limit chalk-use to white chalk only. There is a need to constantly monitor these and other impacts of rock climbing with decision outcomes to be determined in consultation with the Tigua Tribe, the El Paso Climbing Club, the Park Resource Manager and the Consultation Committee, all of whom will work to develop on-going access policy.


Camping will be permitted in the park at a designated but relocated campground. The Tigua Tribe will weigh the possibility of using their own15 acre parcel northwest of and contiguous to the current park boundaries for the development of a new campground. The location finally designated for camping should be situated away from the highly valued natural and cultural resources of the park so as to enhance preservation and protection efforts.

The campground should include tent spaces, parking, picnic tables and rest room facilities. Permission to use camp fires in camp fire rings will be studied for feasibility to make certain they can be used safely away from the significant resources of the park.

The campground space will be studied for RV parking potential, particularly with the intention of accommodating the needs of seniors who may need the availability of RV facilities in order to spend a night in the park.

Plans for a new campground will be developed by a private civil engineering firm so that water, electricity, sanitation and recreational facilities can be properly designed. Park limits on camping and park visitation will be determined in part by the capacity resulting from the engineering study.

Other recreational uses

Hueco Tanks lends itself to the enjoyment of a unique environment in a variety of ways. Hiking paths will be available with a well-marked trail system. Interpretative postings will be erected along the trails to inform the public of special features to be enjoyed. Resting areas will be established at places along the trail where special opportunities present themselves for viewing, meditation, bird watching or other such activities.

Picnicking is included among recreational activities and will be permitted at stopping off places designated along the trail system and at the park camp ground. Trash containers will be available at these locations. Picnicking may take place at other locations but users will be required to remove their own debris to a proper container.

Trails and trail systems with specially designated facilities will be designed to maximize the areas that are accessible to those with limited physical activity.


An active research agenda under the control of the park is proposed to increase the knowledge base of the cultural and natural resources in the park and to assist the park management in its preservation and interpretive objectives. The research program will be dictated first by studies that inform resource conservation and second by information to educate, inform and interpret the resources of the park for user enjoyment and appreciation. Interdisciplinary research will be especially encouraged.

Researchers will be required to obtain a permit issued and authorized by the park administration with consensus of the Consultation Committee. Researchers will be asked to submit a proposal detailing the research to be conducted, describing its value to the management objectives of the park, and identifying the access and the areas of access needed for the work. Research agendas will be approved if determined to be in the best interest of the park. Admission fees for research will be waived. The data and research results conducted in the park will become property of the park; no materials may be removed from the park without special permit.

Educational Uses

The Tigua Plan views education as an important function for both preservation and tourist enjoyment. Information and interpretation about the park and its resources are important for instructing the public about the appropriate uses of the resources. Hueco Tanks is a natural classroom where people of all ages and interests have an opportunity to learn about cultural and natural resources under ranger and teacher supervision.

Schools systems will be encouraged to use the Hueco Tanks and to learn about the park and its resources. Classes will not be charged the admission fee, but will have to be under the supervision of a ranger or a teacher who has received an orientation to the park and its resources.

The Park will develop an outreach program to present information about the park and its resources to schools, particularly to classes preparing to visit the park. The program will include information about the resources of the park, the stakeholder groups and their interests, and the proper treatment of and behavior toward the resources of the park. The programs will be presented by rangers and by volunteers representing stakeholder organizations.

Park Headquarters and Visitor Center Complex

The current location of the Park Administration Building will remain in place and will serve as the focal point for the Visitor Center Complex. Included in this setting will be the historic use areas featuring the Armandriaz/Escontrias Ranch House, the assumed site of the Butterfield Express, picnic areas, parking, a new amphitheater, and rest room facilities. The complex will be the primary station for receiving and orienting visitors, and for preparing them to experience the park in ways they find enjoyable.

The Park Headquarters

The Park Headquarters will be the main administration building and will house administrative offices, will receive park visitors, collect entrance fees, provide orientation services, sell publications, and serve as a general information center for the park. Park brochures will also be available for the users of the park and will feature guidelines for the use of Hueco Tanks and include a map showing the areas of the park available for use. The Park Headquarters will also be responsible for monitoring areas being used, identifying locations of Volunteer Stewards, dispatching rangers to areas where needed, and if necessary, contacting the Tigua Tribal Police for assistance. Maintenance facilities will remain in their nearby location.


Information about the park and its use will be available at the park headquarters where publications and other printed materials will be available for sale. Park brochures will be distributed when admission fees are collected. Additional information and an orientation will be available at the Ranch House.

Interpretative Information and Orientation

The Armandriaz/Escontrias Ranch House will continue to be used for presenting interpretative exhibits and to allow people to view an orientation film about the park. The orientation film will be developed with the involvement of each of the identified stakeholders groups interested in participating. Through their participation, the park will be presented to visitors explaining the activities available to them along with the protocol for proper use of the park. Protective measures will also be explained.

Because the park is an essential resource to rock climbers and rock climbing organizations, an interpretative exhibit detailing rock climbing as an activity, its history, and techniques will be developed. The history and significance of climbing at Hueco Tanks in particular will be featured.

Under the Tigua Plan, new interpretative programs will be developed to reflect the perspectives of all stakeholders. The Park Resource Manager will coordinate efforts with various groups to be represented to accurately reflect their relationship to the park and its resources. The interpretative program will be presented through the orientation film, exhibits within the Ranch House, amphitheater programs, trail markers, and postings throughout the park.


All visitors wishing to proceed beyond the immediate vicinity of the Park Headquarters will be required to view the orientation video on their first visit to the park under Tigua stewardship. Viewers will be identified and registered by computer so that additional viewing on subsequent visits will not be required.


Parking facilities will be maintained in their present location with the exception of the parking area within the campground. Due to the location of the current campground and its parking facility, and their infringement upon Tigua sacred sites, management under the Tigua Plan will explore alternative areas for a new campground and parking facility. One possible alternative that the Tribe may consider for campground development is the use of their own15+ acre site adjacent to the park boundaries (see Map on page 17.


The current trail system will be studied for modification to provide ready access on hardened trails for handicapped accessibility. The trail system will remain unpaved in limited access areas. In other areas where it is feasible, the trails will be improved and given interpretative signs to assist park users. Trails that are destructive of park features may be closed or re-routed as determined in concert with the Consultation Committee.

Staff Guided Tours

The Tigua Plan will provide group tours arranged through the ranger staff. Rangers will coordinate a arrangements for properly trained persons to lead tours of the park and to inform the public about its resources. Assistance will be solicited from Tigua elders, Rock Climbing organizations, the Friends of Hueco Tanks, the El Paso/Trans Pecos Audubon Society and members of other interested groups,


Recommended studies:

Staffing Requirements

Cost Estimates -



Tigua Tribal Natural and Cultural Resource Manager 10,000

Park Superintendent 35,000

Interpretation/Resources Management

Interpretative Ranger 30,000

Interpretative Ranger 25,000

Interpretative Ranger 25,000

Seasonal Ranger 15,000

Seasonal Ranger 15,000

Seasonal Ranger 15,000

Additional Staff

Maintenance 25,000

Clerk/typist/receptionist 25,000

Additional Expenses

Interpretative exhibits Xxx

Maintenance Xxx

Office expenses Xxx