Fort Davis Pop.1,000 Alt. 5,050


Established and grew under protection of U.S. Army post of the same name that was founded in 1854 at crossroads of famous Chihuahua Trail and Butterfield Overland Mail Route. Has served as county seat of Presidio County and later Jeff Davis County created largely from Presidio. Altitude and climate make it popular tourist and camping area. During, seasons hunters seek plentiful mule deer and pronghorn antelope.

Chihuahuan Desert Visitor

Center-Botanical gardens, and nature trails related to the desert flora. Open May - Aug. Mon. - Fri. I - 5 p.m., Sat., Sun. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. On Texas 118, 3.5 mi. south.

Davis Mountains State Park-

In a sloping basin among scenic Davis Mountains, 1,869 acres host more than 155,000 visitors annually. Primary service facility is multilevel hotel called Indian Lodge, patterned in the pueblo style. A free interpretive center is open afternoons, June through Aug., featuring plant and animal material, both live and mounted; bird observation window and wildlife watering station. Camping, picnicking, dining room, trailer facilities, rest rooms, nature study, hiking. Six miles west of Fort Davis; Texas 118, Park Road 3. Admission.

Fort Davis National Historic Site-

When pioneers and gold seekers surged west in the mid - 1800's, national concern focused on secure travel routes. In Texas, nearly 600 miles of wilderness stretched between San Antonio and El Paso. Throughout the distance, wagon travelers fell prey to fiercely hostile Indians. Fort Davis, established in 1854, was the first military post to guard the route and offer haven by the precious waters of Limpia Creek.

But the trauma of Civil War stripped the frontier of military protection, and Indians again raided unchecked. Little of value remained when federal troops returned to Fort Davis in 1867. New construction eventually produced substantial rock and adobe buildings that housed up to 12 companies of cavalry and infantry. Post-war troopers were black "buffalo soldiers," many of them former slaves from Southern plantations.

As the western movement resumed, troopers patrolled the long immigrant road, escorted mail and wagon trains, and mounted wide-ranging expeditions into the vast wilderness territory. After years of conflict, peace and civilian settlement finally came to the frontier, With the bluecoats no longer needed, Fort Davis was deactivated in 1891.

Operated by the National Park Service, Fort Davis today is a superb example of frontier forts from that epic era, including both ruins and restorations. A museum, open daily in reconstructed barracks, vividly interprets frontier military life.

Another feature is a sound re-creation of a 19th-Century military parade-bugles and hoofbeats ... the clank and jangle of mounted troops music from band manuals of 1875. Echoing over the empty parade ground, it is a haunting fragment of the past.

Open daily 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. except national holidays; admission.

Historic Inn: Limpia Hotel-

Restored country inn, c. 1912; sturdy, turnof-the-century oak furniture, second-story veranda and glassed-in sun porch with rattan rockers; Boarding House restaurant. Two suites and nine rooms with baths.

Neill Museum-

Antique toys made in Texas, 300 antique dolls, bottles, and furniture. In historic 1898 Truehart House seven blocks west of courthouse. Museum open June - Labor Day daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; admission. Also two rooms bed-and-breakfast with antique furniture; year round. (432) 426-3969 and 426-3838.

Overland Trail Museum-

Named for historic trail that once passed its front door, small museum was former home, office and shop of Nick Mersfelter, early resident who was justice of the peace, barber, and area music master. Austrian-bom Mersfelter could play almost any instrument, was once member of San Antonio Philharmonic Orchestra. Pioneer ranch, trail, and law enforcement artifacts. Open Wed. - Sun. afternoons in summer; admission.

Scenic Drive-

A 74-mile loop through the Davis Mountains (from and back to Fort Davis) leads to a host of choice mountain landscapes. Two miles south on Texas 17 take Texas 166 west to intersection with Texas 118, then southeast back to Texas 17 and Fort Davis. Features include nine scenic roadside parks, Mount Locke topped by McDonald Observatory, beautiful Madera Canyon, and Davis Mountains State Park.

University of Texas McDonald Observatory at Mount Locke-

Built 1932 following bequest from William J. McDonald, amateur astronomer. On a 6,791-foot peak of Mount Locke. Site selected because of clear air, high ratio of cloudless nights, distance from concentrations of artificial lights, and dust and radiation-filtering growths of shrubs and timber. Original instrument was 82-inch reflector; 107-inch reflector is in larger dome.

A visitor center at the foot of Mount Locke presents programs daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. In summer, solar viewing presented II a.m. and 3:30 p.m.; guided tours at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Winter: solar viewing 11 a.m., guided tour 2 p.m. Up on the summit, the larger dome is open to public and may be viewed from visitors' gallery. Each Tues., Fri. and Sat. evening, weather permitting, the center conducts "Star Parties" for the general public, with viewing of stars and planets through telescopes set up by the observatory. Observatory is 16 miles northwest via Texas 118, Spur 78, Spectacular view from site.

Once a month, visitors can view celestial objects through 107-inch telescope by making reservation with visitor center. (Very popular and sometimes booked months in advance.) Fee charged for large telescope viewing, (432) 426-3640.



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