2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 27

Amarillo, Texas Friday April 27

A view of Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas

The end is near. Today is day 58 of 61. Tomorrow we start the drive home although there are two sight-seeing stops planned. Our primary goal for today was the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

Before Alibates though, we made a quick stop to one of those weird oddities that exist around the country. We have been here before, but thought a quick visit would provide a picture or two for the blog today.

Cadillac Ranch is a piece of land west of Amarillo with 10 Cadillacs buried half way into the ground and allowed to be graffiti painted. It has been around for over 40 years. Cars park along the frontage road of I-40 and people get out to gawk, to take photos, and to add some new graffiti. Frankly Graffiti Hill in Austin was more artistic but this is older. Chris and I don’t approve of graffiti but technically Cadillac Ranch and Graffiti are not illicit, but allowed and even encouraged, so these two pass the moral muster.

Then it was off to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. The route took us through some new roads and we visited the town of Borger. Lo and Behold! Another oil town. In 1921 oil was discovered in Borger and Borger underwent a boom period accompanied by major crime that took the Texas Rangers to end. While this Panhandle oil area never reached the level of oil produced by the Permian Basin, it has been sufficient to keep the largest inland petrochemical plant in operation here. Borger has facilities producing carbon black, fertilizer, and plastics. The skyline here is not littered with well heads, we saw some but in a much less obtrusive manner than around Odessa.

Examples of flint pieces and rock; left here because it had some flaw we do not see.

But oil was not our goal. We were researching old practices of Native Americans. Going back as far as 13,000 years ago and as recently as 700 years ago by the Antelope Creek people, mining of flint occurred here. The area around the Canadian River 30 miles north of Amarillo produces an extremely hard flint that can be used for spears, arrows, knives, etc. Due to geologic conditions, ash from eruptions from the Yellowstone Caldera combined with dolomite rock to produce this flint that is rated as 7.5 on a scale of 10. (Quartz is ranked at 7, glass at 5.5.). The Indians here not only used the flint for themselves, but traded it to other Indians as far as 1,000 miles away.

A view from the top of the mesa at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument where the flint is found

We had a 90 minute walk with a Park Ranger who discussed the history of this area and the amazing knowledges the natives brought to bear on their life. The plants here were like the bison, almost all parts of the plant had a use for their lives. They figured it out without computers. The flint “quarries” are just areas where the flint material appears close to the surface or at the edge of a cliff. When the dolomite erodes, which it does more slowly than the other rock in the area, it tumbles down the hill, revealing the flint inside the dolomite rock.

A volunteer was here demonstrating how flints produced knives, spear points, etc. Given the rules of leaving everything natural in place, he has to obtain his flint from other private sources. There are other flint “quarries” on private land in the area. As we left for our hike with the Ranger, a bus of 45 people traveling around to National Park sites was arriving.

Lake Meredith Reservoir at today’s water level, about 60% of its capacity.

The Canadian River that flows through the area has been dammed and produces Lake Meredith. Lake Meredith provides recreational use but also drinking water for Amarillo and Lubbock. The water depth at the dam crest could be as high as 111 feet. It currently is in the high 60s; in recent years it has been as low as 26 feet. The reservoir was designed to provide drinking water for Texas panhandle cities but due to recent droughts, those cities have begun digging their own wells and drawing down the aquifer in the area.

After the talk-walk, it was back to Amarillo for dinner and the hot tub. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma will have as many donut stores as we have seen in Texas. I don’t mean Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donut but homegrown, small stores selling donuts-and staying in business.

Ed and Chris

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