January 7, 2011

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis, Texas

Fort Davis National Historic Site preserves an old west army fort used between 1854 and 1891 to protect supply routes, mail, and pioneers heading west to California for the gold rush and settlements. It was one of the key locations on the El Paso-San Antonio Trail, which was the primary southern route across the country.

Located at 5,000 feet elevation in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, this site contained all the necessary qualities needed to run a major military fort in a landscape surrounded by low hot desert, including water from springs, timber, and grass forage for livestock/horses.

The fort was one of the major sites where the all-black Buffalo Soldiers were stationed to hold off the Apaches from raiding local ranches or attacking wagon trails using this route. The Apaches were one of the last holdouts among the Native American tribes resisting the westward expansion of the whites. But, they actually rarely attacked people directly. Often they would simply come in and take livestock for their own survival, since their traditional lands, water sources, and game had been eliminated or captured.

The site was active from 1854 until the Civil War, but was then deserted when troops were needed for the war. The poorly built structures mostly collapsed and were unusable by the time the war ended. When the military reoccupied the site after the Civil War it was rebuilt with adobe bricks and improved facilities constructed including a full hospital. Since there were rarely any attacks and not much else was happening out here is remote West Texas, for the soldiers, it was a pretty boring situation. They played lots of baseball, cards, read what literature arrived in the mail or by passing wagon trains, and some snuck off base for various unapproved activities (I am sure you can think of what those were).

Adobe bricks make up the walls of the hospital

The fort was occupied by the U.S. military until 1891. But, in reality its purpose mostly ended by the late 1860's. Once the Indian Wars ended, it wasn't really needed to protect people traveling the route. Once the railroads were completed, people did not really pass by this area anymore, anyways.

The commissary; showing what people ate at the fort

Fort Davis National Historic Site now represents the 175th National Park Unit that I have visited.

That seems like an impressive number. But, given that there are currently 394 NPS units, that still only represents 44.5% of all national park sites. So, I still have a long ways to go. Since they are adding new units every few years, and they are so spread apart, it seems unlikely I will ever visit them all. Nor do I have an interest in doing so (such as the numerous national battlefields). But, it will be interesting to just keep track and see how many I do get to.

Those columns on the cliffs are volcanic materials from a large caldera that makes up much of the Davis Mountains

Of the various types of National Park Units, the type I have been to most by percentage are the 58 National Parks of which I have been to 36 (or 62%). The next highest category by percentage are the National Seashores/Lakeshore of which I have been to 8 of 14 (or 57%).

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