Guadalupe Mountains National Park celebrates golden anniversary

On+Sept.+30%2C+1972%2C+the+Guadalupe+Mountains+National+Park+was+authorized+by+congress%2C+and+this+year+their+fiftieth+anniversary+is+celebrated.++

Kristen Scheaffer

On Sept. 30, 1972, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park was authorized by congress, and this year their fiftieth anniversary is celebrated.

Alyson Rodriguez, Staff Reporter

Extensive mountain ranges, canyons, and desert flora and fauna fill the west Texas landscape, where one of the most prehistoric and relevant national parks reside, Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, also calls this park home. 

The national park was formally established Sept. 3, 1972, by an act of Congress, in order to preserve the area due to its impressive geological landmarks.  

This year, the park celebrated its 50th anniversary with special hiking trips, nature walks and other events between Sept. 24 through Oct. 1. Visitors are invited to celebrate the park’s golden anniversary with staff and volunteers to commemorate this milestone.  

“We are doing a whole bunch of ranger guided programs to help people engage with the history of the park,” said Acting Visitor Service Manager Chris Barr. “Some of the activities include rangers leading walks and talking about the history of ranching and the Mescalero people who lived here before it was a national park. The park is also hosting a communal hike that goes all the way to the tallest peak at 6 a.m. Sept. 30. There are all sorts of programs happening.” 

Before the Guadalupe Mountains became a national park, the area was located under water and was inhabited by many different species of aquatic life. On some hiking trails in the region, visitors can find fossils of the prehistoric aquatic life that once swam there. It was then the home of the Mescalero people until the mid-1800s, according to the national park service website.  

Ranchers then began to move into the region and fought against the Mescalero people for the land. Some of these ranchers included J.C. Hunter, who purchased some of the land and built structures and a watering system.  

After Hunter, a man named Wallace Pratt, who was a petroleum geologist, bought land and built two residences, which includes a cabin in McKittrick Canyon, in the 1920s that is still standing to this day. In 1959, he donated his land to the National Park Service to then be turned into a national park.  

“I am an avid hiker, and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of my favorite places to hike,” said senior history major Michael Castillo. “I can’t wait to experience all of the festivities that the park is hosting for its golden anniversary.” 

The park saw 250,000 visitors last year in 2021, Barr said. This is due to the large spike of people wanting to explore national parks when the pandemic began. Parks like this exist for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Visitors can enjoy the park with their friends and family, or they can find themselves and experience nature alone as well.  

“The American people in 1966 and 1972 decided that this place matters and that it was important,” Barr said. “We would like for Americans to continue to believe that this place matters, we need visitors for that to happen. If we closed the gates off and said no more visitors, then nobody would’ve grown up hiking Hunter’s Peak or McKittrick Canyon with their family. We are creating this next generation of park stewards and advocates, that is why it is important for parks to have visitors.” 

For more information on the park’s 50th anniversary festivities visit the national park website at https://www.nps.gov/gumo/learn/historyculture/gumo50.htm 

Alyson Rodriguez is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected]; @alyson_rod1127 on Twitter.