Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

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About Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

Let’s go back in time, shall we? Excellent! How about 8,000 years ago, when indigenous peoples etched their mark on what is now Fate Bell Shelter, one of the oldest cave dwellings in North America. Or 100 million years ago, during the Age of Dinosaurs when the Seminole Canyon began to form. Get a glimpse of some of the oldest pictographs in North America in this park by scheduling a tour with one of the radical tour guides, and make sure to check tour times as they vary by season. Speaking of seasons, Seminole Canyon gets crazy hot in the summer, so you might want to consider working a visit into your spring or fall schedule to further explore 9+ miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. Plan your visit accordingly, and party on, campers!

Campgrounds in Seminole

Roadrunner Flat Primitive Campground

1. Roadrunner Flat Primitive Campground

The Roadrunner Flat Primitive Campground is about as close to sleeping in a cave as you’ll get (minus the cave part). Fifteen sites have a fire...

Erin
Erin: Seminole Canyon is a stunning hidden gem. During the day, take a hike on the beautiful rim trail and enjoy scenic views of the...
3 Saves
Desert Vista Campground

2. Desert Vista Campground

Though we all want to camp in caves like they used to thousands of years ago in Seminole Canyon, a campsite with amenities will have to be the...

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hipcamper
January 16th, 2015
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hipcamper
January 16th, 2015
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hipcamper
January 16th, 2015
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hipcamper
February 21st, 2015
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Hipcamper Erin

Seminole Canyon is a stunning hidden gem. During the day, take a hike on the beautiful rim trail and enjoy scenic views of the landscape, and at night look at some of the brightest stars you have ever seen, with an unobstructed view of the sky. The park itself does not get much traffic, so you may have the entire campground and most of the park to yourself like our group did. The canyon itself is beautiful, and makes you feel like you are standing at the top of the vast Texas plains. If you take the tour into the canyon, you can see some of the best representations of historic cave paintings. This park is absolutely worth checking out!

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Hipcamper Lavender

Roadrunners. Stars. One other person in the entire park. Pitch your tent here at night, and hike the Rim Trail/Rio Grande Trail early and go peer into Mexico, because once the cloud cover burns off, the sun is relentless. At night javelinas can be heard in the canyon, in which hiking is allowed with a guide only down to the pictograph site. Seminole Canyon was a wonderful discovery, and feels truly remote.

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History of Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site in Val Verde County, west of Comstock, contains 2172.5 acres; the park was acquired by purchase from private owners in 1973 - 1977 and opened in February 1980.

Early man first visited this area 12,000 years ago, a time when now-extinct species of elephant, camel, bison, and horse roamed the landscape. The climate at that time was more moderate than today and supported a more lush vegetation that included pine, juniper, and oak woodlands in the canyons, with luxuriant grasslands on the uplands. These early people developed a hunting culture based upon large mammals, such as the mammoth and bison. No known evidence exists that these first inhabitants produced any rock paintings.

By 7000 years ago, the region had undergone a climatic change that produced a landscape much like today's. A new culture appeared in this changed environment. These people were increasingly dependent on gathering wild plants and hunting small animals and less dependent on hunting big game. They lived in small groups since the land would not support larger social units for long periods.

Despite the struggle for survival, some of these prehistoric people found the creative energy to paint the pictographs found in Fate Bell and other rock shelters of the Lower Pecos River Country. The distribution of this distinct style is limited to a district which includes a portion of the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Devils River. More than 200 pictograph sites are known to contain examples of their style of rock paintings ranging from single paintings to caves containing panels of art hundreds of feet long. Although numerous figures or motifs are repeated in different locations, the exact meaning of the paintings is buried with the people who painted them.

The first known European in this area was Castano de Sosa, who set out from Monciova Mexico, in 1590 and traversed much of present Val Verde County en route to New Mexico. The U. S. Army was the first American presence in the Lower Pecos. In 1851, Lieutenant Nathaniel Michler made a reconnaissance of the Rio Grande above and below its junction with the Pecos for the United States and Mexico Boundary Commission. After the Civil War, Lieutenant Bullis and his Seminole-Negro scouts operated in the area, and Bullis blasted a wagon road into the Pecos Canyon near the Rio Grande to provide the military with a shorter route between Forts Clark and Davis.

In 1882, construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad reached the present park location. The route to connect El Paso with San Antonio was begun after the merger of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railroads with the Southern Pacific. The section of railroad in the canyon of the Rio Grande was finally abandoned in 1892, when a new bridge spanning the entire breadth of the Pecos River Canyon was completed. The present bridge was built at the same site during World War II.