On March 14, 2003, a group of teachers from the South Central Service Co-op along with several professors and support staff from Southern Arkansas University departed Magnolia for a scientific field study of the Guadalupe Mountains of west Texas and southeast New Mexico. Their goal was the two national parks located in the Guadalupes, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Guadalupe National Park in Texas. As testament to their dedication to education, and the desire to obtain new information to share with their students, several teachers gave up part of their spring break while others took personal days or professional development days in order to participate in the study.

Entering east Texas, the pine and mixed hardwood forests through which the group traveled were familiar to them, as these were quite similar to the forests of southern Arkansas. However, traveling further west from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the plant life began to change to the mesquite, scrub oak, cacti and succulents typical of this area of the Chihuahuan Desert.

The second day of the field study was spent in and around Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After touring the caverns the group decided that remarkable as these caverns were, and there were some very striking formations, they were not nearly as impressive as Arkansas’ own Blanchard Springs Caverns. Many participants commented that they missed the sound of dripping water, which characterize Blanchard Springs.

In Guadalupe Mountains National Park, participants were given the opportunity to become one with nature. The group camped within the park, and found the experience exciting. Winds in excess of 70 mph made keeping tents fastened to the ground during the night a group effort, with everyone pitching in to help tighten and re-stake tent pegs and lines.

Hiking through McKittrick Canyon, participants were amazed to find a stream winding its way through the canyon and various species of plants and animals were spotted along the trail. A trip to Frijole Ranch, the site of a once-thriving farm, orchard, and cattle ranch left most members of the field study with great admiration for the early settlers of the area who, somehow, were able to eke a living out of this seemingly inhospitable desert.

Members of the field study then divided into two groups and explored two vastly different areas of the park: The Pinery, the site of a stop along the Butterfield Stage route, and salt flats that lie in a section of Capitan Reef which was formed when the area was covered by a prehistoric ocean.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to some impressive geologic formations most notable of which are Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, and El Capitan a formation that rises above the desert floor near the salt flats.

On the return trip to Arkansas, members of the group discussed how impressed they were by the biological and geological diversity that had been observed during the trip to the Guadalupe Mountains.

 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

 Carlsbad Caverns Blossom

 

 Guadalupe National Park

 Sunset at Guadalupe National Park
Sunset at Guadalupe National Park

 El Capitan
El Capitan