Pecos Heritage Trail, Texas

 

Texas Pecos Trail Region

From the Texas Historical Commission

Trekking along the Pecos Trail provides visitors with a diverse landscape, including sand dunes, underground caverns, spring-fed pools, numerous rivers and creeks, lakes and much more. At some 1,356 miles in length, it will also take a little time to cover the region that encompasses 22 counties, seven state parks, dozens of towns, and hundreds of historical, cultural, natural, and recreational destinations.

Brackettville to Del Rio – 30.4 miles

Del Rio to Sanderson – 120 miles

Sanderson to Pecos – 118 miles

Pecos to Midland – 95.6 miles

Located in southwest Texas, this vast and rugged region, sitting under Texas’ bright blue skies, covers some 35,000 square miles, includes the infamous Pecos, Devil’s and Rio Grandes, and extends from New Mexico to Mexico, south of Midland, Texas.

In addition to the natural beauty that encourages a variety of outdoor adventures from river rafting to horseback riding, visitors also enjoy a number of museums, ancient pictographs, landmark churches, historic courthouse squares, and frontier forts.

The rich history of the area provides peeks into the heritage of cowboys, soldiers, Native Americans, Hispanic culture, the hardscrabble people of the Old West, and much more.

Though the vastness of this region cannot possibly be contained in one article, outlined below is summary information with links to more information, mileage, and photographs to whet your taste for the trail. Plan on a week to see the entire trail, or break it up into segments. Either way, you are sure to enjoy.

Beginning in Midland, Texas, the trail heads south to Sheffield, before heading eastward to Junction, and southwest to Brackettville, before turning back to the northwest. Passing through Del Rio, Langtry, and Fort Stockton, the path turns northeast again at Pecos, to complete a “circle” back to Midland.

Midland to Rankin – 54.9 miles.  Travel south from Midland on Texas Highway 349.

Midland – Located in the heart of West Texas, Midland is a fast-growing city of about 110,000 people. The county seat of Midland County, it was originally founded as the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881.

American Airpower Heritage Museum & Confederate Air Force Headquarters – The CAF Airpower Museum tells the complete story of World War II military aviation by collecting, preserving, and interpreting World War II material and culture.

George W. Bush Childhood Home – Interpret the history of the Bush Family and the childhood of George W. Bush in Midland, Texas. It celebrates the lives of two presidents, two governors, and two first ladies.

Haley Memorial Library & History Center – The library and history center preserves western heritage by housing more than 25,000 books, manuscripts and other printed material documenting western history. The collections and programs concentrate on the common threads between the cowboy, the range cattle industry, military, and railroads.

Museum of the Southwest – Services the community as a regional resource for cultural enrichment. In its Art Museum, Children’s Museum, and Planetarium, the fosters appreciation of art and science and nurtures the spirit of creativity, sensitivity, and discovery.

Permian Basin Petroleum Museum – The Museum tells the story of petroleum and the rugged lives of men and women who sought a better life.

Sibley Nature Center – The center’s mission is to increase awareness of the natural and historical environment of the southern Llano Estacado through a broad range of interpretive programs and personal experience.

Nearby:  Several area ghost towns are situated near Midland including Spraberry, which is about 15 miles southeast of Midland, Midkiff, a semi-ghost town about 38 miles southwest of Midland; and Tarzan, which is located about 34 miles to the northeast

Rankin – Established in 1911, Rankin is the oldest town in Upton County and the county seat. Rankin is home to only about 800 people.

Nearby: Stiles ghost town, about 46 miles northeast of Rankin.

Rankin to McCamey – 19.2 miles. Travel southwest from Rankin on Texas Highway 349/US-67S.

The 1911 former Reagan County Courthouse in Stiles, Texas. Photo by Barclay Gibson, January 2010, courtesy Texas Escapes.

McCamey – Founded in 1925 when the McCamey Oil Field brought about the oil boom in the region. Its early years were colorful, filled with the typical boomtown problems of disorder and lawlessness associated with rapid growth. Today, it is known as the “Wind Energy Capital of Texas” because of the many wind farms that have been built in the area. It is called home to about 1,800 people.

Mendoza Trail Museum – Exhibits include relics of this recent frontier: Indian artifacts, fossils, mementos of the oil boom, and antique furniture. Also on museum grounds are the historic Adrian House, and a Santa Fe Railroad depot.

Nearby:  Dinosaur Tracks – 25 Miles West of McCamey, on Highway 67 behind Side Park

McCamey to Iraan and Sheffield – 47.3 miles. Travel southeast from McCamey via Ranch Road/FM 305, turn left at US-190 E for 5.3 miles and turn right at TX-349 S/US-190 E to Iraan. Turn left onto TX-349 S/Drake St, continue to follow TX-349 S for 13.3 miles, turn left at TX-290 E/TX-349 S, and continue to follow TX-290 E to Sheffield.

Iraan – Situated in the vast area of the Permian Basin of West Texas, where Dinosaurs once roamed, Iraan was an oil boomtown, which developed quickly after the discovery of the gigantic Yates Oil Field, in 1926. Called home to about 1,200 people, the correct pronunciation is “Eye-ruh-ann.” It was named for Ira and Ann Yates, owners of the ranchland upon which the town was built.

Alley Oop Park and Museum – A playground and museum dedicated to V.T. Hamlin, who lived in Iraan when he created the Alley Oop comic strip.

Sheffield – Situated along the old San Antonio-El Paso Road, the site was long popular because of the Pecos Spring and the Pecos River. However, a town wasn’t formed until 1898. It boomed with other area towns in the 1920s. Today, it is called home to about 600 people.

Fort Lancaster, Texas

Ruins at Fort Lancaster, Texas. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Fort Lancaster Historic Site – About 10 miles east of Sheffield, just off U.S. 290. Spanning 82 acres in the Pecos River valley, Fort Lancaster State Historic Site commemorates the vestiges of one of four posts established in 1855 to protect the San Antonio-El Paso Road.

Sheffield to Junction – 133 miles. Take TX-290 East to I-10 and follow to Junction.

Ozona – Called the “Biggest Little Town in the World,” Ozona is the county seat of Crockett County and called home to about 3,500 people. Surrounded by vast ranching and oil lands, the area is known for its wool production.  Though the county seat, it is interesting that the town of Ozona is unincorporated, meaning there is no city government and no city taxes are levied.

Crockett County Museum – 3 story museum with a wide variety of exhibits include an award-winning Native American exhibit.

David Crockett Monument – Located on 11th Street on the town square, it honors the Alamo hero.

Historic buildings include the 1902 Crockett County Courthouse, the 1892 Crockett County Jail, the 1912 Heritage Building which once served as a school, the 1905 Ozona National Bank building, and others.

Sutton County Courthouse in Sonora, Tx. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander 2011.

Sonora – Established in 1889, the pioneering spirit of the town’s early settlers is commemorated all over the community with Historical Markers and a variety of historic sites & museums. The county seat of Sutton County, it is called home to about 3,000 people. Sonora is the site of the famed Will Carver shootout and the city’s Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum features the gun that brought the outlaw down along with a number of historic relics. Interestingly, Senora evidently works hard to eliminate any lawlessness of its Old West days, as it is one of the leading speed trap cities in West Texas, averaging more than 48,000 citations per year, which amounts to over 10 per year per capita.

Eaton Hill Wildlife Sanctuary – A 37-acre nature park offering over 3 miles of hiking trails and showcasing a diverse array of plant and wildlife.

Miers Home Museum – Built in 1888, this home was only the fifth structure built in Sonora. It is now a museum containing artifacts and memorabilia from Sonora’s past.

Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum – A museum featuring Sonora’s rich Western Heritage.

Tour Senora – Numerous historic sites including the site of the Will Carver (of the Wild Bunch) shoot-out, 1891 Sutton County Jail, 1891 Sutton County Courthouse, Will Carver’s grave, and more.

Veterans from All Wars & Pioneer Ranch Women Museum – The veterans’ museum spotlights its stories, photos, military equipment, letters, and uniforms. Pioneer Ranch Women Museum tells the stories of the women who moved to the area with their husbands and children. It features photos, clothing, postcards, and information on how they lived and worked on ranches in Sutton and surrounding counties.

Caverns of Sonora – Recognized as the most beautiful cave in Texas and one of the most beautiful show caves in the world. Located on Interstate 10, 15 miles southwest of Sonora.

Roosevelt – A virtual ghost town today, Roosevelt never supported more than about 150 people. It was established in 1898 and was named for Theodore Roosevelt, who reportedly visited the area with the Rough Riders. The town today is called home to only about 15 people.

Roosevelt,Tx - Post Office

The local post office retains its old fashioned look in the Simon Bros Mercantile, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Simon Bros Mercantile – Step back in time at this general store that hasn’t changed much since the early 1900s when Uncle Ben F. Simon owned it. It also includes a café.

Nearby:  Fort McKavett – 30 miles north of Roosevelt. Remains of a 150-year-old fort beckon visitors to what is now considered one of the best-preserved and most intact examples of a Texas Indian Wars (1850-1875) military post.

Junction – Called the “Land of Living Waters” for the hundreds of natural springs in the area, Junction got its start in 1876 after the formation of Kimball County. The county seat, Junction now boasts about 2,600 residents.

Kimble County Historical Museum

South Llano River State Park – Known for water and wildlife, is located on the western edge of the Edwards Plateau just south of Junction. Visitors can hike and go birding on the trails or head back to the river deemed by the Lower Colorado River.

Nearby:  Cleo ghost town – 10 miles northwest of Junction on Farm Road 2291

Junction to Rock Springs and Brackettville – 108 miles.  Travel southwest from Junction on US-377 to Rock Springs. Turn left at Ranch Rd/FM 674.

Telegraph – Telegraph came into being sometime before 1900 – the year a post office opened. The name comes from the telegraph that connected the string of military installations – or the telegraph poles that were cut nearby. It is a ghost town today.

Rock Spring Hotel

Rock Springs – Founded in 1891, it was named for the springs favored by pioneers and native peoples. The county seat and the only incorporated town in Edwards County, it has a population of about 1,300. The area is popular year-round for camping, hiking and fishing.

Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area – 6 miles northeast of Rock Springs. Peer into the depths of Devil’s Sinkhole, then watch as millions of bats emerge into the Texas evening sky. The natural area is home to the largest single-chambered cavern and third deepest in the state.

Kickapoo Cavern State Park – 39 miles southwest of Rock Springs. Containing nearly 6,400 acres in the southwestern Hill Country, the park is relatively undeveloped – a natural open space where visitors find solitude.

Brackettville Texas

Though Brackettville is not a ghost town, it is filled with old abandoned buildings, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, February 2011

Brackettville – Founded in 1852, it initially a supply stop on the old San Antonio-El Paso Road and a supply depot for the U.S. Army’s Fort Clark. It is the county seat of Kinney County and called home to about 1,900 people.

Fort Clark – Approximately 25 to 30 buildings dating from the 19th century have survived, including officers’ quarters, barracks, commanding officer’s house, quartermaster storehouse, and guardhouse.

Fort Clark Springs – Fort Clark Springs, a unique oasis nourished by the Las Moras Spring which has provided comfort and enjoyment to visitors for over 12,000 years.

Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery – 3 miles south of Brackettville. Includes the graves of four Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients With Service at Fort Clark, Texas.

 Nearby: Spofford ghost town ten miles south of Brackettville.

Brackettville to Del Rio – 30.4 miles. Travel northwest on US-90

Del Rio – Rio Grande City – A border city and the county seat of Val Verde County, Texas, Del Rio is connected with Ciudad Acuña, Mexico via the Lake Amistad Dam International Crossing and Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge. Del Rio got its start in the late 1870’s and was first called San Felipe Del Rio. However, when a post office was established, it was shortened to Del Rio. The city supports about 50,000 people today and is home to the Laughlin Air Force Base, the busiest pilot training base in the United States Air Force. See full article HERE!

Devils River State Natural Area – Twenty-thousand remote and wild acres provide access to the pristine Devils River with its unique angling opportunities and its put-in for whitewater float trips.

George Paul Bull Riding Museum and Gift Shop

Glenn-Dowe House – One of the oldest houses in Del Rio that has continuously been used for a home since it was built in 1900-1901.

Val Verde Winery – The oldest continuously running winery in Texas.

Whitehead Memorial Museum – Includes 9 different buildings, containing various artifacts and period pieces to aid in the preservation of the history of Del Rio and Val Verde County.

Del Rio to Sanderson – 120 miles. Travel northwest on US-90. See Full article HERE!

Amistad National Recreation Area – The U.S. portion of International Amistad Reservoir, formed on the Rio Grande. Amistad is known for excellent water-based recreation, camping and is surrounded by a landscape rich in prehistoric rock art, a vibrant border culture, along with a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Comstock – This small town was founded around 1882 on the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad named for John Comstock, a railroad dispatcher. Today, it is home to only about 375 people.

Seminole Canyon State Park – Jagged canyons have cut through the Chihuahuan Desert wilderness out where the Pecos River flows into the Rio Grande. People of antiquity once lived in these natural rock shelters carved into the canyon walls by the river.

Pecos River Bridge

Highway Bridge over the Pecos River, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The Pecos River – Properly pronounced “pay-cuss,” the headwaters of the Pecos River are located north of Pecos, New Mexico. The river played a large role in the exploration of Texas by the Spanish. In the latter half of the 19th century, “West of the Pecos” was a reference to the rugged frontiers of the Wild West.

Pecos River Railroad Bridge and Vinegarroon – A few miles beyond the Pecos River Highway Bridge is a lookout which designates the old townsite of Vinegarroon, and where the Pecos River Railroad bridge can be seen in the distance.

Shumla – Seminole Canyon State Park is the old townsite of Shumla. Another stop along the railroad, it was once a tent city stretching more than a mile long. Today, it is only marked by a couple of decaying buildings.

Bonfire Shelter – This large rock shelter was the scene of several prehistoric buffalo jumps.

Langtry – Home of the Only Law West of the Pecos – Getting its start in 1882 as a stop along the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad, Langtry is best known as being the home Judge Roy Bean, the “Law West of the Pecos.”  It is called home to about 145 people today.

Judge Roy Bean's Jersey Lilly Saloon

Judge Roy Bean’s Jersey Lilly Saloon, 2011.

Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center – Features a rustic saloon, courtroom, billiard hall and the opera house of Judge Roy Bean, the colorful and controversial “Law West of the Pecos” in the 1880s.

Nearby:  Pumpville ghost town about 15 miles northwest of Langtry is a turn off to the old Pumpville townsite. It is about two miles north of Highway 90 on FM 1865.

Dryden – Dying Along the Railroad – A ghost town today, Dryden got its start when the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad arrived in 1882. There are only a few area residents and the remains of several abandoned buildings.

Sanderson – The Town Too Mean For Bean – Known as the Cactus Capital of Texas, Sanderson got its start as a stop along the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad in 1882. The county seat of Terrell County, it is home to about 900 people today.

East Gate Park – Outdoor art gallery painted on monoliths of local limestone.

Snake House – Local reptile exhibit and education center, which includes live snakes on display.

Terrell County Memorial Museum – Museum displays feature railroad memorabilia, period costumes, cowboy and ranching relics, tools and pioneer furnishings, and mementos of Terrell County History.

Sanderson to Pecos – 118 miles. Travel northwest on US-285.

Paisano Pete welcomes you to Fort Stockton.

Paisano Pete welcomes you to Fort Stockton.

Fort Stockton – The county seat of Pecos County, Fort Stockton grew up around Comanche Springs near the military fort founded in 1859. Comanche Springs was a favorite rest stop on the Comanche Trail to Chihuahua, San Antonio-El Paso Road, the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, and the San Antonio-Chihuahua freight-wagon road.  It has a population of about 7,800 people today.

Annie Riggs Memorial Museum – Step back in time in this 1900 Adobe Hotel, appointed with a wide variety of items from the era.

Historic Fort Stockton – Consists of original and reconstructed military buildings, including Officers’ Row, Guardhouse, Enlisted Men’s Barracks, Parade Grounds, and a museum/visitor’s center.

Pecos – Established 1881 as a stop on Texas and Pacific Railroad, Pecos gained early fame as a hangout for rowdy cowboys and fast-draw lawmen. Touted as “Home of World’s First Rodeo,” Pecos was the scene of cowboy contest in 1883 that was the forerunner of today’s popular sport. The county seat of Reeves County it is home to about 9,500 people today.

A collection of hats at the Pecos Museum

West-of-the-Pecos Museum and Park – Situated in an old hotel, the museum preserves the colorful history of not only Pecos and Reeves Counties, but the entire region west of the Pecos River. The gunfighter Clay Allison is interred in Pecos Park.

Pecos to Midland – 95.6 miles. Travel northeast on I-20.

Barstow – Ten years after the Texas and Pacific Railway reached Barstow in 1881, Barstow was established and the next year, when Ward County was organized in 1892, Barstow became the county seat. However, by 1918, Barstow began to decline due to the dam on the Pecos River in New Mexico. Twenty years later it lost its county seat status to Monahans. Once having a population of more than 1,200 people, Barstow continued to decline and now is called home to only about 400 residents.

Pyote – Pyote began as a small town. Its fortunes rose with oil, but its population decreased when the railroad was built away from the town. At one time Pyote had 3,500 residents. The 1942 development of the Pyote Air Force Station and the 1967 development of what would become the West Texas State School raised the town’s fortunes. However, when those operations moved out, the town declined rapidly and now is called home to only about 130 people.

Pyote Museum & Rattlesnake Bomber Base – Displays World War II memorabilia in an old building from the base.

Nearby: Wink – Just 15 miles North of Pyote, Wink features the Roy Orbison Museum and a number of mysterious sinkholes.

Wickett – The opening of the Hendrick oilfield in 1926 established Wickett as a tank and refining center. Its oil heydays lasted until the 1960s when Wickett reached a peak population of about 1,000 people. Today, it has about 450.

Monahans – Established in 1881 as a railroad stop, but remained a small settlement until oil was discovered in the area in 1926. Today the city is the Ward County seat and a financial and marketing center for cattle and oil. It has a population of about 6,800 people.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

The Million Barrel Museum – A 14.5-acre site of historic exhibits including a 1928 oil storage tank, the original Monahans Jail, a section of railroad track with a vintage caboose, an eclipse windmill, display of antique farm equipment, and more.

Monahans Sandhills State Park – These sand dunes are only a small part of a larger 200-square-mile dune field that stretches into New Mexico. Includes dunes that rise as high as 70 feet.

West Odessa – West Odessa is on the western edge of Odessa and Monahans Draw in central Ector County. It was named for its proximity to Odessa and was settled primarily from 1979 to 1982, the years of the last oil boom. Its population today is about 18,000.

Odessa – The county seat of Ector County, Odessa was founded as a water stop and cattle shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway. The first post office opened in 1885. It remained a small town until the opening of the Penn Field in 1929, and the Cowden Field in 1930. Today it has a population of nearly 100,000 people.

Ellen Noel Art Museum – An independent art museum located on the campus of the University of Texas of the Basin, it features rotating exhibitions of historical and contemporary art

Odessa Meteor Crater – Approximately 550 feet in diameter, the crater is the second largest in the nation. It is the result of a barrage of meteors crashing to the earth some 20,000 to 50,000 years ago. Located about 10 miles west of Odessa. Parker House Ranching Museum – It represents the lifestyle of a prominent ranching family, who served the communities of Andrews and Ector counties since 1907.

Petroleum Museum – The Museum tells the story of petroleum and the rugged lives of men and women who sought a better life.

Presidential Museum and Leadership Library – Contain information on each of the presidents and many documents and paraphernalia relating to their lives and time in office.

White-Pool House Museum – Built in 1887, it is the oldest structure of importance in Odessa. Exhibits provide visitors an opportunity to view and learn about different periods in Odessa’s history. The barn replica gives a view of early ranching life.

More Information:

Texas Pecos Trail

Texas Pecos Trail Region
P.O. Box 7045
Midland,TX 79708
432-262-1927

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October 2019.

Also See:

Del Rio – Rio Grande City

Del Rio to Sanderson on the Pecos Trail

Pecos Trail Photo Gallery

Texas Forts Trail