By Bernie Sargent
Early European exploration was motivated by several reasons, one of which was to seek out and claim the riches that were reported by the natives to be extensive. Even though they failed to find actual gold, silver, and gems, we feel that one fifty-eight-acre parcel of land is a jewel of sorts. Our park provides an experience for many passions such as archeology, anthropology, geology, botany, ornithology, to mention a few. I will share a bit of our parks’ information in this issue with more to follow.
When one thinks of historic preservation, it would more often than not equate to some type of structure. Keystone Heritage Park is an exception to this in that the preservation in process seven miles west of downtown El Paso, involves the restoration and preservation of a “middle archaic” native community and adjoining wetlands. This site has been carbon dated and appears to be at least 4,500 years old. In and of itself this is a significant find. But more importantly is the fact that there are more than forty pit houses on this site. Numerous experts perceive this as most unique due to the fact that during the middle archaic period natives traveled in “clans” and were quite nomadic.
Keystone has thus far proved to be the largest permanent community of this size in this area of the Southwest. The conjecture thus far has been that Keystone’s proximity to an adjoining wetland and the Rio Grande River, which was only a short distance away during the middle archaic period, provided an ideal climate and an abundant food source for humans.
Today the site is home for over 220 species of birds, many of whom winter there or just use it as a spot to rest on their migratory journey. Additionally, a 2-acre desert botanical gardens has recently opened, and another seventeen acres of gardens are targeted to be completed by the end of 2023 which will emulate the range of plant species of the Chihuahuan Desert extending from Mexico City to the Mogollon Rim of New Mexico.
Coupled with the four statues created by the famed John Hauser, the third of the XII Travelers, Susan Shelby Magoffin, Keystone makes for an inspiring art walk. The newly created Paraje or rest stop, promotes the history of the early Spanish explorers through this area of the Southwest. Historic signage throughout the park provides for a quick history lesson of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the oldest and longest of the seven Camino Real’s, and subsequent events along the trail over the last four hundred years.
Visit Keystone Heritage Park and the El Paso Desert Botanical Gardens at 4200 Doniphan, El Paso, TX. Open every day except Monday from 9:00 to Sunset.
(915) 584-0563, keystoneheritagepark.com, KHPelpaso@gmail.com