Davis Mountains State Park

Sunday, December 22 through Thursday, December 26, 2002

See all pictures taken in Davis Mountains State Park here!

Davis Mountains State Park is located in the Big Bend area of Texas.  The Texas State Parks web site has a map of the park.  The park map is upside down with north pointing toward the bottom of the map.

Here is a AAA generated trip route.

The park is located near Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County.  Southwest of Fort Davis is Marfa in Presidio County.   Southeast of Fort Davis is Alpine in Brewster County.

Fort Davis is represented on-line through their Chamber of Commerce web site.  There is also a Fort Davis National Historic Site which is maintained by the US National Park Service.   We visited the historic site.  See pictures below.  Also, Fort Davis has a decent grocery store.  It may be small but it has a good product mix.

Fort Davis Thriftway.  A good little grocery store.  Located at the edge of Fort Davis on State Highway 17.

Also, I needed to get a longer television coax cable since this park has cable TV hookups.  The park ranger suggested Jarratt's in Fort Davis.  Great lumber store.  Jarratt Building Supply at 101 Douglas Drive.  There is a sign on the main highway - State Highway 17.

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Marfa is famous for the Marfa Lights.   The lights are some type of unexplained phenomena.

Alpine's Chamber of Commerce also maintains a web site.  This is a good web site with plenty of links to stuff to see in the surrounding area.

If you plan to Visit Big Bend check out this web site.  You may also want to take a look at the Big Bend Friends web site.  The Big Bend Quarterly news paper does a good job of describing the area.  We ran into our first copy of the Big Bend Quarterly in the Fort Stockton KOA.  Which we stayed at on the way up here.

This region is VERY wild.  I would recommend doing some reading on the wildlife.   I'm especially worried about the snakes.   The park web sites are good starting places.  Fortunately,  the whole snake thing is less of a problem since snakes aren't wild about the cold and stay inside and out of site.

There are really two parks inside Davis Mountains State Park.  The second park is Indian Lodge.  This is a hotel and restaurant run by the parks department inside the main park.  For some reason, the Indian Lodge is considered a separate park.

The Fort Davis National Historic Site land is adjacent to and east of the Davis Mountains State Park land.  It doesn't seem that way when you are driving into Fort Davis.  A very high hill runs along the property line.  You actually have to drive around the hill to get from the park into Fort Davis and The Fort Davis National Historic Site.

Below is a series of pictures of our campsite.   We were assigned parking camp number 2.

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Sunday night we lit a fire and roasted marshmallows.  Monday evening it was raining before the snow started.  We had originally planned to cook our meat over the camp fire but had to settle for the gas grill instead.

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It snowed Monday night.  We woke up Christmas Eve day to snow on the ground.  It was gone by lunch time.

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The deer in this park are plentiful and tame.  They come right up to your campsite with the expectation of being fed.

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The does had been coming by quite a bit but we hadn't seen any bucks.   Then, all of a sudden, a bunch of bucks just showed up.  The one at the right looked like he had been fighting.  That is foam coming out of his mouth.  This one particular fellow walked into our campsite and stood less than 10 feet away from me as I went back into the trailer to get my camera.  Not at all shy.

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The deer hadn't been around Christmas Eve day.  I went on a long hike and found a group around the middle Scenic Overlook on Skyline Drive.  There was a single buck leading a bunch of does.
Javelina - See Peccary from Encyclopedia.Com

(pek´ere) , small wild pig, genus Tayassu, the only pig native to the Americas. Although similar in appearance to Old World pigs, peccaries are classified in a family of their own because of anatomical differences. Peccaries have downward-curved tusks with which they fight ferociously when threatened. They have large heads and long snouts; both sexes have scent glands on the rump. There are two peccary species. The collared peccary, or javelina, Tayassu tajacu, is the more common, ranging from the SW United States to Argentina and inhabiting many types of country, from tropical swamps to dry scrub regions. It is about 20 in. (50 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs about 50 lb (23 kg); it has grizzled gray-black hair marked with a white neck band and an erectile mane on the neck. Collared peccaries move about in small family groups, eating roots, fruits, insects, worms, and reptiles. The white-lipped peccary, T. albirostris, is found in smaller numbers in forests from S Mexico to N Argentina. Reddish brown to black, with white lips and cheeks, it is somewhat larger than the collared peccary and more predacious in its habits. White-lipped peccaries move about in large herds foraging for food and hunting small mammals. Peccaries are classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Tayassuidae.

The best information on javelinas can be found at Javelina Hunter's Javelina University.    According to these guys, javelinas are not pigs!    There is lots of good information on javelinas at this site.

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We saw this little feller crossing the road near our campsite.  He was alone.  This struck me as unusual since they are pack animals.
Indian Lodge

There are really two parks inside Davis Mountains State Park.  The second park is Indian Lodge.  This is a hotel and restaurant run by the parks department inside the main park.  For some reason, the Indian Lodge is considered a separate park.

We ate lunch at the Black Bear Restaurant at Indian Lodge on Sunday.   That gave us a chance to look at the old lodge.  I took the first picture from inside the restaurant looking out over the top of the lodge.  The second picture is a mural inside the restaurant.  Many pictures are from the grounds.  Finally, the last pictures in the set are pictures of Indian lodge from various hilltop vantage points.

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Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive runs from the camping area over to the border between   Davis Mountains State Park and the Fort Davis National Historic Site.  The drive zig-zags (complete with switch-backs) up the steep hills.  The views of the park and surrounding areas are spectacular.  My only complaint is the road ends at the Fort Davis National Historic Site property line.  To visit the Historic Site, you have to get back down 2,000 vertical feet of rather steep hillside.  Bicycles are not allowed on the road.   That is a pity since the road would be great fun on a bike.

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Here is the ranger station viewed from the Skyline Drive.

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The McDonald Observatory appears on the horizon.  We will be there tomorrow.

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Above (left and right) I believe is the old lookout tower shown on the topographic maps.  The tower appears to be made from a water tank that they just wrapped a staircase around.  One thing I haven't been able to figure out though is the Hospital shown on the maps.

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The scenic overlook may be the only place in the park where you can get a good cell phone signal.  I haven't bothered to turn on my cell phone.

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There is a mountain bike trail that starts next to Skyline Drive and runs off in the general direction.  I walked up the trail with the dogs for a ways.   It would be real fun on a bike.  It would also be a bit dangerous.

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I took another trail up into the hills.  The starting point is on the right hand side of the Interpretive Center.  I took the trail up to the middle Scenic Overlook on Skyline Drive.  This is the only point where the trail crosses Skyline Drive.  After walking the first part of the trail with the dogs, I walked Skyline Drive back to the campsite.  Awesome views!  In the center of the picture below and on the right is our campsite.

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Fort Davis National Historical Site is barely visible at the center of the picture on the right.

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Fort Davis National Historic Site

We visited Fort Davis National Historic Site.  It was Christmas Eve Day.  They closed at 2:00 PM.  Since we got there at 1:00 PM, the ranger decided we didn't need to pay to get in.  The fort itself is a restoration work in progress.   The buildings that are completed are very cool.  When I say completed, I mean restored and furnished.  Much of the original fort has been reduced to ruins - mostly crumbled foundations. 

This is a better place to visit when it is warmer.   The wind was blowing and the temperature was just above freezing.  We didn't spend much time since the viewing areas were all out of doors.  You look at the buildings and their contents by looking in windows.  From the outside.

The visitor center has a small exhibit inside.

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McDonald Observatory

The McDonald Observatory is definitely worth visiting.  It is pretty easy to find.  If you go from Fort Davis toward Davis Mountains State Park, just keep on going past the park by another 14 miles and you will be there.  The visitor center has a number of exhibits that do a good job of explaining the science of astronomy.  Kids would really like it - the exhibits are very interactive.  They also give guided tours.  You can also go on your own self directed tours.  Just pick up a copy of "A Self-Guided Walking Tour on Mt Locke and Mt Fowlkes" for a $1 at the visitor center.

We ate lunch at their snack bar.  They call it a restaurant but it is a bit small for that.  We bought shirts and a refrigerator magnet at the gift store.

The weather was pretty bad the day we visited the visitor center.  Also, I had forgotten my camera.  We came back to take these pictures (Christmas day).

To the right, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope from the visitor center parking lot.

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Above is the Harlan J Smith and the Otto Struve Telescopes.  After we drove up to the Harlan J Smith and Otto Struve Telescopes on Mount Locke Summit, we saw this sign.  This is the highest state highway.  From Mount Locke, you can see the radio telescope or extremely large satellite dish.

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The Otto Struve Telescope is to the right and below.  This is the original large telescope installed in the 1930's.

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On Mount Fowlkes Summit is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope.  This is the newest of the three giant telescopes (shown on the left).  In the background is Black Mountain (7,550 feet elevation).
To the right is Harlan J Smith Telescope.  It is WAY WAY big to stand next to.  There are a number of smaller observatories scattered around the area.

As I was dashing around to take pictures, Linda was walking the dogs.

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Marfa Mystery Lights

When planning this trip, we had planned to spend an evening watching for the Marfa Lights.  Well, the weather has been a bit too cold to hang out for hours on end after sundown waiting for some "Mystery" lights to show up.  We drove over to Marfa to see where folks would hang out waiting for these mysterious apparitions.

To find out more about Marfa's Mystery Lights, you can visit my favorite "The Marfa Mystery Lights" or the "Marfa Lights" sites.

The following pictures show the visitor center that has been built out in the desert.

You can find the viewing area at the following latitude and longitude

30°16.523 North
103°52.949 West
4,922 feet elevation

You can also find the viewing area by driving East on US 90 starting in Marfa for roughly 8 miles.  The viewing area will be on your right.

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Copyright © 2002 Larry Pearson - All Rights Reserved.