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On Walkabout At: El Paso’s Wilderness Park & Museum of Archaeology

A place of interest in El Paso that many locals have not visited and drive right past is the Wilderness Park & Museum of Archaeology located right off of Transmountain Road on the northeast of El Paso, Texas:

The museum is located in a big brown building surrounded by desert plant life:

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The museum teaches visitors the history of El Paso’s earlier inhabitants.  One of the ways the museum teaches this early history is with dioramas:

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The first inhabitants in the El Paso area were known as the Paleo-Indians who made a life for themselves in an El Paso environment very different from what people in El Paso see today.  During the Ice Age period of 12,000 – 8,000 B.C. these early inhabitants lived in lush green and forested environment along the Rio Grande River and Franklin Mountains where they hunted such exotic wildlife as the mammoth pictured above.

There has actually been evidence found that people may have inhabited the El Paso area as much as 50,000 years ago as well.  Archaeologists excavating the Rough Canyon Cave in the Hueco Mountains to the east of El Paso believe they have found bone and stone tool evidence that proves that man may have migrated to the Americas much earlier than believed:

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Here is some of the bone evidence of mammoths and other Ice Age era animals that was found in the cave:

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However as the Ice Age ended and the world began to warm over the centuries the environment around El Paso would change and the inhabitants in the area had to change with it.  This led to the development of the Pueblo culture in the El Paso region.  This culture built large adobe settlements around 1200-1450 AD:

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The Pueblo settlements in the El Paso area would not last long as other settlements in the region likely because of drought:

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A culture that still is alive today in the El Paso region is that of the Mescalero Apache.  The Mescalero used to travel through the region from their mountain home lands in the Sacramento Mountains.  The most obvious evidence of their presence in the area is at Hueco Tanks, which was used as a watering hole in the parched desert.  While resting at this water hole the Mescalero left much their famous rock art here that continues to draw visitors to Hueco Tanks to this day.  Inside the museum it offers a number of displays about the Mescalero Apache to include this one about the Mountain Spirit Dancers:

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The Mescalero Apache are the descendants of early Native-Americans that migrated to the El Paso region 1000 – 500 years ago:

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The museum has plenty more displays of artifacts left by the early inhabitants of the El Paso region to include of course arrowheads:

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Here is an example of sandals made using native yucca plants by  the Jornada Mogollon culture that inhabited the area around 300 – 1000 AD:

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Here is an example of some of the pottery used by Native Americans in the greater El Paso region:

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Here are examples of baskets used by the Mescalero Apaches in the early 1900’s:

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There is plenty more worth checking inside the museum, but when finished it is well worth taking a walk around the Wilderness Park that surrounds the museum where visitors can learn about all the native plants that inhabit the desert wilderness around El Paso:

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Since this is the desert there is plenty of signs warning visitors of the various snakes that call the desert home:

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There are approximately 250 plants that inhabit the Wilderness Park’s 16 acres:

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All these plants can be found in the deserts around El Paso, however the plants in the park are just much bigger than the ones I see in the desert:

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The below photograph from the Wilderness Park shows the view looking towards the northeast side of El Paso and if you look out in the distance you can see the Hueco Mountains:

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Looking towards the west the foothills of North Franklin Mountain:

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To the northwest I could see the northern end of the Franklin Mountains to include Anthony’s Nose:

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Here are the opening hours for the Wilderness Park and the Museum of Archaeology:

Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 AM — 5:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM — 5:00 PM
Monday -Closed-

Also closed on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Best of all is that the admission to the museum is free.  Visiting the museum, Wilderness Park, and the next door National Border Patrol Museum makes for a great afternoon out.

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