Panhandle Treasures in Texas
The ancestors of modern Wichita, Pawnee and Caddo peoples inhabited land along the Canadian River in the area currently known as the Texas Panhandle between the years 1150 to 1450. Human habitation in the region stretches back 13,000 years, however, and modern day travelers can study the colorful proof of these early people in Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.
The only national monument in the state of Texas, Alibates Flint Quarries owns up to its name from the more than 700 quarries that exist in the region, many of them concentrated on the 60-acre mesa that sits within the park’s arid 1,000 acres.
The monument’s name is a misnomer, since the abundant flint is actually agatized dolomite. However, visitors to the monument aren’t likely to worry about semantic distinctions, because they will be too busy appreciating the geologic, historic and cultural aspects of Alibates Flint Quarries and taking in the colorful beauty of the stone itself.
From within the quarries, which were dug by hand and measure approximately six feet in diameter, the local inhabitants retrieved the sharp-edged stone and knapped it carefully to create tools, which were essential to the residents’ survival. Tools made from the stone that came from the Alibates quarries have been found throughout the southwest and the Great Plains.
By reservation only, park rangers lead visitors on tours of the park at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. These one-mile, two-hour round trip hikes require visitors to adjust to an elevation gain of 170 feet.
Visitors will learn about how the dolomite layer was formed and they will view the quarries themselves. Travelers who take the tour in late summer are likely to encounter gorgeous sand lilies that attract various flying creatures.
No matter the season, guests should begin at the visitor center that features exhibits and a film, in addition to amenities that will make their time there more pleasant. All tours begin and end at the center. For more information on Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument: (806) 857-3151; nps.gov/alfl. While in the region, you should also visit the nearby Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (806-857-3151, nps.gov/lamr), which features camping, boating and fishing.