Guadalupe Mountains National Park

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1972

In 1918 Wallace Pratt became the first geologist to work for Humble Oil (forerunner to ExxonMobil). He and several colleagues created scientific ways to find oil with less guesswork, and he eventually became known as America’s most distinguished petroleum scientist. In 1921, Pratt was in Texas purchasing land leases for Humble. Exploring McKittrick Canyon near Pecos he saw streams, stunning waterfalls, and grand trees, and understood why the locals had told him it was the most beautiful place in the state. The ranch enveloping the canyon was useless for oil, but when it later came up for sale, Pratt and some partners bought it because of the land’s natural beauty and history (it was the historic refuge of the Mescalero Apaches and other residents going back thousands of years).

By 1930 Pratt had bought out his partners. Meanwhile, local judge and oil man J. C. Hunter had been purchasing surrounding lands, creating the 70,000-acre Guadalupe Mountain Ranch where he raised sheep and goats. He too appreciated the area’s beauty, and he protected fragile habitats and supported efforts to create a park in the region. After Hunter died his son kept buying land and pushing for park status, as did Pratt.

In 1945 Pratt moved his residence to the McKittrick Canyon land, where he studied its geology—it was a fossilized reef. In 1959, Pratt offered his land to the National Park Service. Several years later the Hunter lands were added to the property, and in 1972 the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the core of which was the McKittrick Canyon property, opened to the public.

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