Monday, July 20, 2009

McKittrick Creek and the Guadalupe Mountains

The little oasis pictured above is what's known as McKittrick Creek, which runs through McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountain Range in far west Texas. And guess what? It holds rainbow trout. Not native, of course, but imported by a former owner of the land several decades ago. They are still there and apparently doing fairly well.

McKittrick Creek is something of a rarity: it's a west Texas creek that has not only water but fish in it. It runs underground and then emerges in McKittrick Canyon, and then goes up and down again before winding it's way to the Pecos River. The folks I know who have been there say the creek runs year round, again, a rarity in west Texas. True, there are a few good rivers in west Texas, most notably the Pecos River, but most of what you see in west Texas are draws, which are basically gullys or dry creekbeds that will transport water when rains of biblical proportion hit.

The backstory is pretty interesting. A lodge was built by a fellow named Wallace E. Pratt, who was the first geologist ever employed by Humble Oil Company. Seeking a cooler locale to relax with his family when Houston got hot in the summers, Pratt built a place out there in the canyon designed by noted Houston architect John Staub. Platt added to his holdings and ultimately built a larger place higher up the canyon out of flooding range and retired there with his wife until health concerns caused them to move to a larger city.
Meanwhile, Judge J.C. Hunter was buying up other land next to that of Pratt, ultimately calling it the Guadalupe Mountain Ranch, and it is the Judge who is credited with introducing rainbows into McKittrick Creek in 1930 or so. The Judge and Pratt ended up lobbying hard with various federal congressmen to get the government to by Hunter's land to create a national park. Pratt and his descendant's donated thousands of acres to the government, and helped find buyers to buy Hunter's land and then in turn donate that land. And that is how two men and their families created the Guadalupe Mountain National Park.
Writer Larry Hodge of the Odessa America writes in one story that some speculate that the rainbows stocked by Judge Hunter may have eliminated a native cutthroat trout population in the creek, but other naturalists and scientists have dated the cutthroat trout demise many years before Judge Hunter stepped foot in these mountains.
The entire story of the history of the Guadalupe Mountains is quite interesting and I'll save that for another post. The point of this post is, I'm happy that there is a self-sustaining population of rainbows other than those in the Guadalupe River, but I'm woeful I can't go fishing for them. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife publication about Rainbow Trout in Texas, no fishing is allowed in McKittrick.
I still have to go up and see that creek though. I can take some pictures instead of catching fish, and it's a mighty interesting place to spend a few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment