That gift combined with the 70,000 acres of the Guadalupe Mountain Ranch purchased by the Federal Goverment in 1966 from J.C. Hunter Jr. for $22 an acre formed the core of what was to become the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Wallace Pratt lived to see his dream realized when the new national park was opened to the public in 1972. Respecting his last wishes, upon his death in 1981 his ashes were spread over McKittrick Canyon the place he often referred to as "the most beautiful spot in Texas" and one which he loved so much.

Human habitation of the Guadalupe Mountains goes back some 12,000 years. Little remains of the original inhabitants of the region with only the occasional pictographs, flint points or bits of charcoal from cooking pits to give us a glimpse of who they were and how they lived. From the 1500's the Mescalero Apaches became the dominant tribe in the region and established a rancheria in McKittrick Canyon. The Mescaleros or Nde (In-deh) as they called themselves were nomadic and ranged over vast areas following the seasons and wildlife of the region. Displaced by the arrival of settlers the Mescaleros were forced from the region and were completely displaced by the late 1800's.

With the arrival of the ranchers and their settlements the region under went a major transformation, even though the settlements were sparse the human impact on this region has been considerable. As a result of that settlement many indigenous species have been wiped out such as the Meriam elk, native grizzlie bears and the desert bighorn sheep. Few of the attempts to establish a foothold in the Guadalupes were successful, however one of those that did survive was the Williams Ranch nestled below the western escarpment of the mountains some 5,000' below Guadalupe Peak, its ranch house is preserved as an historical landmark of the park. Overgrazing and increasing aridity decimated the grasslands that once occupied the region around the Williams Ranch and helped to cause a significant drop in wildlife diversity and the disppearance of many species. On the eastern slope of the Guadalupes was the Frijole Ranch owned and operated by the Smith family, the ranch occupied some of the few permanent water sources in the region, sources that included both Frijole and Pine Springs. Both the Williams and Frijole ranches were aquired by J.C. Hunter and incorporated into his Guadalupe Mountain Ranch.

The Guadalupe Mountains are a study in contrasts and many of the park's most spectacular places are hidden and difficult to access. Viewed from the surrounding desert the mountains look sere and forbidding giving little indication of the lush forests that fill "the Bowl" or the spectacular scenery that awaits a hiker in McKittrick or Dog Canyons. It is the intent of the National Park Service to keep the Guadalupes as wild and undelveloped as possible, indeed some areas are currently strictly off limits due to the fragile nature of the local ecology. It takes effort, but the Guadalupe Mountains offer the determined hiker a spectacular, hidden wilderness that is unique among America's National Parks.

The Pratt Lodge
McKittrick Canyon in the Fall
Guadalupe Peak Trail

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