El Paso’s Hueco Tanks



Marc Thompson, Ph.D.

EL PASO TIMES March 16, 2012     Page A-1

Jackson Polk film Highlights Hueco Tanks

by Ramón Rentería \ El Paso Times

Posted:   03/16/2012 12:00:00 AM MDT

Filmmaker Jackson Polk describes Hueco Tanks as a world-class jewel in the desert.

"Whether you come to climb the boulders, study the plants and animals or honor the spirits that blow with the wind, Hueco Tanks is alive with experiences that can't be found anywhere else on earth," Polk said at the end of his latest documentary film, "El Paso's Hueco Tanks."

Polk, an award-winning filmmaker, spent eight years shooting video, collecting interviews and studying Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, an outcropping of ancient rocks 32 miles northeast of El Paso.

The site is best known for its vast collection of spectacular and rare pictographs, or rock art. The video depicts Hueco Tanks as El Paso's oldest and largest art gallery.

"What we're trying to do is create a television program that can be exported from El Paso to explain Hueco Tanks to anybody who doesn't know it," Polk said in a recent interview.

El Paso County Historical Society, one of various project sponsors, will premiere the 52-minute video on Sunday at a fundraising event at the Scottish Rite Theater, 301 W. Missouri.

Jackson is optimistic that the video, one of several he has produced on the region's history, will help educate city and county officials about the potential in heritage tourism. The $48,000 budget for this project included a $12,000 grant from the El Paso County Commissioners Court.

"You have all kinds of factions out there - rock climbers, Native Americans, the state of Texas and recreational people that think they own the place," Polk said.

Hueco Tanks is known for its hollow areas that catch and hold the desert's rare rainfall. Water attracted animals, plants and humans for centuries.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages the site, which the state acquired from the county in 1969. The Tigua Tribe of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, the Mescalero Apaches and Kiowas in Oklahoma all claim that Hueco Tanks is part of their culture and history.

Over the years, archaeologists have found an ancient village there and confirmed Hueco Tanks served as a burial ground for various people who once inhabited what has been described as a a desert oasis.

Sammy Gutierrez of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo suggests in the video that rock climbers, hikers and others leave their tracks on land that many Native Americans consider sacred.

"It would be the same as me going into a church and try to do all kinds of stuff on their altars, which is not right," he said. "We go out there for a purpose, a purpose to pray, a purpose to respect, a purpose to take care of the place. It is very sacred because of the water that's there."

Hikers and rock climbers come from all over the world to test their skills at Hueco Tanks. The site also has 20 campsites for recreational users.

Scientists have identified four species of shrimp, various other animals and microscopic life.

"We've also discovered at least three new species out there that hadn't previously been known to science," UTEP biologist Liz Walsh tells Jackson in the video.

Polk is convinced that Hueco Tanks is one of the most fascinating and unusual geological features in the region.

"If we show off our history, maybe people will come see it," he said.

Ramón Rentería may be reached at rrenteria@elpasotimes.com; 546-6146.

Make plans

El Paso County Historical Society will host the premiere of Jackson Polk's new documentary film, "El Paso's Hueco Tanks," at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Scottish Rite Theater, 301 W. Missouri. Admission is $3 a person.

The fundraising event benefits the Hueco Tanks Legacy Fund, the Scottish Rite Museum, and the El Paso County Historical Society.

Information: 533-3603.

“Hueco Tanks is El Paso’s oldest and largest art gallery.”


P. O. Box 28 El Paso, Texas 79940 (915) 533-3603


Contact: Sara Belger Tel: 915-533-3603


of "El Paso’s Hueco Tanks"

The El Paso County Historical Society is pleased to announce the film premiere of the new TV documentary from Capstone Productions Inc. "El Paso’s Hueco Tanks" incorporates many hours of footage shot over 8 years at El Paso’s only State Park that is also a Texas Historic Site.

The program will be shown at the Scottish Rite Theater, 301 W. Missouri at 2pm on Sunday, March 18, 2012. This 52 minute film explains human history at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in East El Paso County. A $3 donation per person is requested. Funds raised will be split between the El Paso County Historical Society, co-producer of this film with Capstone Productions, Hueco Tanks Legacy Fund, and the Scottish Rite Museum.

The 52 minute film "El Paso’s Hueco Tanks" explains the rock art at Hueco Tanks in new ways, and takes the viewer on hikes and tours through the park. We hear why native Indians consider Hueco Tanks sacred. We see how rock climbers use the park, and follow the many animals, reptiles, and insects that live at Hueco Tanks.

Capstone Productions Executive Producer Jackson Polk produced this film over several years with grants from The Hunt Family Foundation, El Paso Electric Company, Texas Historical Commission Mountain Trails Region, the El Paso County Commissioners, The El Paso County Historical Society, Capstone Productions, and the El Paso County Historical Commission.

From Archaic times, Hueco Tanks has been an oasis in the desert. Its volcanic rock masses hold the occasional rain water that is trapped for months at a time in underground hollow, or ‘huecos.’ Plants, animals, and people have been attracted there for millennia. It is open to visitors everyday and has limited access to some areas in the 860-acre park to guided tours to protect the cultural resources.


Since 1955, the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historical scene of El Paso. As the largest historical society in the state of Texas, EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historical materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich historical heritage.###

If you would like more information please contact the El Paso County Historical Society administrator, Sara Belger, at 915-533-3603

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