Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Backcountry, Part II:Recent Human History

The "cowboy era" of western movies may be largely over but the signs of those times are still scattered about what is now protected backcountry of Carlsbad Caverns and adjacent Guadalupe Mountains National Parks.

On a recent hike to Longview Spring we came across a spring and the remnants of an old camp. Here in a small canyon is a spring and a thick stand of native grasses (an oasis for livestock).

Atop a boulder we noticed the remnants of an old cast iron stove:

There is also the remains of a rock foundation (some sort of shelter):

Continuing "around the bend", the little canyon opened up into West Slaughter Canyon and views of the wilderness country of the Guadalupe Mountains:

This country is rugged, vast and seemingly arid - who would come here with livestock and why? We supposed that the beauty and isolation would attract just about any old cowboy but where to water the stock? Longview Spring, of course! This spring seems to "hang" on the edge of a cliff but what's the rest of the story?

Poking around a bit we noticed an old slip-scoop (a horse-drawn earthmover) and...

...a single-bottom plow:

A bit more looking and we noticed that a rock wall had been built up around 3 side of the spring - essentially transforming the spring into a water impoundment. We surmise that some crazy old nut hauled the plow and slip-scoop all the way back here to manipulate the natural spring so that it's water would be available in greater and more accessible amounts. Maybe he used the plow to loosen the soil and rock and then used the slip-scoop to move this material below the spring and shape it into a "dam" of sorts to impound water seeping from the spring. The rock wall was then built to strengthen the earthen impoundment. Here's the rock wall:

Here's a look at the spring impoundment from a distance (see brown/tan oval in center of pic). Before it was manipulated the spring was probably not nearly as noticeable and was probably just a dispersed seeping flow. There are apparently rare plants here now and certainly many visiting wildlife. The effects of human alteration of this spring on numbers and distribution of rare plants and critter visits will never be know - but it's interesting to ponder:

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