General Descriptions

From the Handbook of Texas: Marfa, the county seat, is 190 miles southeast of El Paso and 150 miles southwest of Odessa. The center of the county lies at 3030' north latitude and 10415' west longitude. Presidio County comprises 3,857 square miles of contrasting topography, geology, and vegetation. In the north and west clay and sandy loams cover the rolling plains known as the Marfa Plateau and the Highland Country, providing good ranges of grama grasses for the widely acclaimed Highland Herefords. In the central, far western, and southeastern areas of the county some of the highest mountain ranges in Texas are found. These peaks are formed of volcanic rock and covered with loose surface rubble. They support desert shrubs and cacti and dominate a landscape of rugged canyons and numerous springs. " (


According to a narrative of the Texas Mountain Trail: in the Alpine Section:, In this open land, where rainfall may be less than 10 inches a year, only the hardiest plants can survive - mesquite, cactus, catclaw, sage, and the ever-present greasewood. to early inhabitants, greasewood was both medicine and building material. Its twigs and leaves, steeped in boiling water, made a healing poultice for man and animal; parasitic deposits from leaf undersides, mixed with pulverized rock, made cement." Presidio:" Seven miles north of Shafter the impressive Elephant Rock (47) is indicated by a highway sign, and two miles farther is a good view of Chinati Peak (48) to the west, whose summit reaches 7,730 feet. Geologists say this region is the biggest volcanic center in Texas and estimate the age of Chinati's rock at 32 million years. The land here is unchanged from the days when countless buffalo made it their home. It is now devoted to vast, sparsely vegetated ranches. A cowboy from the previous century would find it perfectly familiar, except for this thin ribbon of highway and the airplanes now used by large ranches to supplement sure-footed cow ponies. About 25 miles north of Shafter, highway cuts reveal more evidence of volcanic phenomena. Easily recognizable black lava flows contrast vividly with the nearly white volcanic ash that appears in the cuts."

Marfa: "Marfa, a clean, neat town, had its genesis as a railroad stop but has become a ranching center. The surrounding ranches are huge, spreading over multiple thousands of acres. The grass in the fields, though apparently sparse, is a species of highly nutritious native grass on which livestock thrive. The Marfa combination of weather and topography also attracts soaring enthusiasts. Massive updrafts and mountain waves have allowed many sailplane pilots to qualify for their soaring badge here. Fortunate travelers may occasionally spot one or more graceful sailcraft soaring over the mesas and peaks. For other recreation, Marfa offers tennis courts and a swimming pool at Coffield Park, rock hounding, a mile high golf course, and the unusual Art Museum of the Pecos, which features monumental sculptures. The quaint courthouse recalls a time when early residents sought to have their public buildings reflect an elegance that, in most cases, they were unable to achieve in their personal structures. The nearby Paisan Hotel ( 207 North Highland ) was completed n 1930. It is now a resort hotel featuring Spanish decor and recalling the days when hotels were the center of social activities. tours of the hotel are available, and the Chamber of Commerce office n the lobby offers details on the city and region, as well as tales of the eerie "Marfa ghost lights."

The flatlands between Marfa and Van Horn are technically not plains but basins composed of material eroded from the adjacent mountains. Such processes have left the igneous intrusions visible today. Chances again are good to see pronghorn herds grazing in fields along the highway. I t may be noted from a highway map that few side roads branch from the highway along this stretch of the Mountain Trail. The highway, and the paralleling Southern Pacific Railroad, are thin ribbons of civilization crossing a land that is largely uninhabited and essentially unchanged from its primitive state. Mirages on the road and dust devils in the fields are not unusual sights. Along here the Trail highway generally follows the old Overland stagecoach Trail - a route used even earlier by 49ers in the gold rush days. these are the ranch landscapes featured in the 1950s motion picture Giant, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Near the intersection of FM 505 (not part of the Trail ) and US 90, Trail travelers can see to the northeast the other sides of two mountains seen before: Sawtooth (19) and Mount Livermore. (20) These were viewed on the drive through the Davis Mountains and Madera Canyon. Here on the southwest side of the range, it is some 15 miles to the Livermore's peak, a bit farther to Sawtooth. East of Livermore there is no higher mountain in the United States. "(

Copyright (C) 2001 Dr. Sten Odenwald