Visiting The Park


At this time, anyone wishing to visit the park must have reservations, either for North Mountain (about 25% of the park) or for a guided tour.  Those reservations can be made online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/hueco-tanks.  The public use plan currently in place allows a maximum of 70 people on North Mountain (no guide required) and a total of 160 people on tours in the rest of the park at any one time.  The reason the use plan has these restrictions is because of past mistreatment and overuse of the park.  Making reservations well in advance is a good idea, especially during the winter months, when the park is most heavily used.  

Once you register at the office, if you are registered for North Mountain, the first thing you will do is head to the interpretive center to watch a video about the park.  This is mandatory before you can go out on your own to enjoy the park (the video is not required for guided tours).  Once you have seen the video you will receive a card, which entitles you to enjoy the park without seeing the video again for one year.  You should bring this card with you every time you visit the park.

There are many kinds of activities available at the park.  There is a campground with 20 campsites, some for RVs and some tent sites, with a maximum stay of three (3) nights.  There are bouldering tours for groups of 10 people (max).  The park offers birding tours once a month on the third Saturday, bouldering tours, and several different guided pictograph tours.  Pictograph, bouldering and hiking tours are available Wednesday through Sunday.  


Once a year, on the third weekend of October, the park holds an Interpretive Fair.  For those two days admission to the park is free.  They have guided nature hikes, plus pictograph, birding and rare plant tours.  There are always Native American songs, drumming and dancing.  In addition, there are booths about environmental programs, culture and history, as well as activities for children and an evening program on Saturday.  

The Interpretive Fair is a great way to get an introduction to everything the park has to offer.  It was the Interpretive Fair that got us intrested in becoming volunteer tour guides.  (If you are interested in becoming a tour guide, see the last paragraphs.)

When you visit the park it is important to remember that the humidity is very low, so you will need to have pelnty of water with you, plus snacks.    There are a few things available for purchase at the office.  For the greater part of the year the temperatures are fairly high and there is a lot of sunshine, so a hat and sunscreen are a good idea.  We would also recommend wearing long pants for protection, whether hiking or climbing on the rocks, and good hiking boots that will provide good traction in addition to protecting your feet.  During the rainy season - July through October - it is a good idea to wear insect repellent.  Whenever water is present you can guarantee a large population of mosquitoes.

Safety is an issue in the park.  There are rattlesnakes out and about during the warmer months.  They are not out hunting for you, but avoiding them is one good reason for staying on the trails.  There are multiple types of shrubs and trees which have thorns, as well as the cacti - another good reason to stay on the trails.  Staying on the trails is also an important part of preserving the park for the enjoyment of others.  If the vegetation gets trampled it dies, and that creates problems with soil erosion when it rains.  Because Hueco Tanks is an historic site, with many remains from human habitation, it is important to remember not to pick up anything historical that you find, and to leave all such things in place.  In other words, the only souvenirs you should be taking out of the park are your photos and your memories.


For those who are interested, volunteer guide training is offered twice a year, in June and November.  The class lasts for three days and includes time in the field as well as in the classroom.  Spaces are limited, so when the classes are announced, you need to get your application in very promptly.  Once you complete the class, you will need to lead two or more tours with park staff observation before you are certified to go solo.  The purpose of the observed tours is to help you to become the best guide possible.  For the pictograph tours, guides are certified separately for each of the three tours available.  The way we gained the experience we needed was to shadow certified guides as they were leading tours.

As guides, your minium requested time commitment is two tours (4-6 hours) per month.  This is not set in stone; they just want to make sure you volunteer enough to make the cost of training worthwhile.  Our post-class experience has been that we have wanted to spend time at the park, learning everything we can so we can help others to enjoy the park.  Volunteers are also welcome to assist with other tasks at the park, including maintenance and monitoring of natural and cultural resources.


© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com