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Fort Davis - Texas

At an elevation of 5,050 feet, historic Fort Davis lies in the scenic Davis Mountains. Of all of the small towns of Texas, this is one of two (the other is Presidio) that have such a distinct atmosphere that they call out for revisiting. Many of its early frontier atmosphere has been preserved, with a number of original buildings, and the longest remaining stretch of the famous Overland Trail.

The town has a charming town square surrounded by buildings that date from the early 1900s. The old courthouse and jail are still in business, except that the historic jail has become the library. In fact, the little town is full of historical landmarks, and the nearby mountains provide plenty of recreational activities for outdoors lovers.

The Fort Davis National Historic Site preserves the Overland Trail fort, constructed to protect travelers migrating west. Names after Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the fort was active from 1854 to 1891 except during the years of the Civil War. Troops based here were involved in mapping the surrounding area, protected stagecoaches moving through "Indian Country," guarded railroad surveyors, and fought Comanche and other native tribes. The ruins were acquired by the National Park Service in 1961, and restored as an outstanding example of a frontier military post. The visitor center is located in a restored barracks, and includes exhibits on the fort's early days, including a slide program.

McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas is located 17 miles north of Fort Davis on Texas Highway 118. The site is on top of Mt. Locke, at 6,800 feet above sea level. The W.L. Moody Jr. Visitor' Information Center is open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Christmas, New Year's Day, and Thanksgiving. Guided tours are given daily, at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. You may take a self guided tour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Solar viewing, at the Visitors' Center, is provided daily at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The observatory's Star Party -- telescope viewing and tours of the night sky from the Public Observatory at the Visitors' Center -- is held each Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday except on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve in 1999. For up-to-date information on activities and special events, including Star Party times, visit the observatory's website.

The Davis Mountains form the most extensive mountain range in Texas, formed by volcanic action about 65 million years ago. Mescalero Apaches used the mountain valleys for seasonal camping. In later years, Comanche and Kiowa also camped in the mountains, using them as a refuge during the Indian wars, from which they raided the pioneer settlements and attacked Fort Davis.

Davis Mountains State Park is situated four miles north of Fort Davis (on TX 118), and is half-way between Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park covers 1,869 acres of scenic mountain country, with camping facilities, picnic areas, hiking and walking trails, and an extremely scenic skyline drive. Slide and video programs are held in the park visitor center. At an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, the park is delightfully cool at nights, and the moderate weather supports a wide range of trees and grasses, along with desert vegetation. Most of the hills contain a typical juniper-pinion pine woodland, mixed with oak., with ponderosa pine at lower elevations. During wet years, the lower elevations are covered with a beautiful wildflower display. You'll also see Emery oak along Keesey Creek, with native shrubs including evergreen and fragrant sumac, Apache plum, tree cholla, Torrey yucca, catclaw acacia, and agarito. The park's interpretive center overlooks a wildlife watering station where many birds gather, including bright blue scrub jays, curve-billed thrashers, and white-winged doves. Rock squirrels are the most frequently seen mammals.

The northern half of the park has been designated the Limpia Canyon Primitive Area, with ten miles of backcountry trails, linking primitive campsites. Developed facilities, located south of Highway 118, include campsites with water, electricity and sewer connections, picnic areas, an outdoor amphitheater, children's playground, and a Texas Park Store. For those who haven't reserved a site, camping availabilities are posted each evening. The park is reached by taking Texas Highway 17 from Fort Davis. After a mile, turn onto TX 118, and drive 3 miles to the park entrance. For camping reservations, call (512) 389-8900. For general park information, call the same number or 800-792-1112.

Lodging

Indian Lodge is an historic hotel inside Davis Mountains State Park. The building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the early 1930s, and today offers accommodations in 39 rooms, plus a restaurant and heated swimming pool. This is the only state park hotel operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and is an outstanding example of a number of famous park buildings (including several national park hotels) influenced by Pueblo architecture. The areas's natural resources, including local flagstone, volcanic rock, ponderosa pine (beams) and Rio Grande cane (on the ceilings) were utilized in construction. The adobe walls are 18 inches thick. Reservations can be made one year in advance and you are urged to make yours at least six months before your trip to the mountains. Indian Lodge closes during the second and third weeks of January, but otherwise is open year-round. The restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with limited hours on Sunday. To make reservations, call (915) 426-3254, or write Indian Lodge, P.O. Box 1458, Fort Davis TX 79734. More information below.

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Fort Davis

 

Camping & Local Accommodations

Overland Trail Campground & RV Park
Box 788, Fort Davis TX 79734
(915) 426-2250 or 888-478-5267
This small RV park sits beside the Stone Village Motel on combined highways 117 and 17, in the middle of town. The RV park has a 27 hookups (including sewer), with cable, including 20 pull-through sites for trailers. Facilities include a laundry, hot showers, nine rustic cabins, and tent sites.

Prude Guest Ranch and RV Park
Box 1431, Fort Davis TX 79734
(915) 426-3202 or 800-458-6232
Located on Highway 118, north of the town and a half-mile north of the entrance to Davis Mountains State Park, the ranch offers horseback riding, guest lodges and family cabins. The facilities include an indoor pool and dining room. This is a sizable operation, and its location is perfect for horseback riders who can take off onto scenic mountain trails.

Hotel Limpia
Main Street on the Square, Box 822, Fort Davis TX 79734
(915) 426-3237 or 800-662-5517
This historic hotel was built in 1912, constructed of pink limestone. It has been altered over the years, but retains its original pioneer character. Now, the hotel occupies four separate buildings, and the owners have recently added a cottage on nearby Sleeping Lion Mountain, and a 1903 Victorian adobe building with three suites. The main hotel features expansive porches and a glassed-in veranda with mission rocking chairs and wicker furniture. There is a herb garden and a lobby with two Victorian parlors. The hotel's dining room is the best place to eat in town. Even with these amenities, you won't pay a fortune to stay in this wonderfully historic place.

Indian Lodge
P.O. Box 1458,Fort Davis TX 79734
(915) 426-3254
Readers of Texas Highways magazine voted Indian Lodge the top accommodations in Texas. It is the only hotel operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, and a visit to Big Bend Country is not complete without at least visiting the lodge. Far better to stay for at least one night, and the experience may be addictive. This building -- constructed in the style of a multi-level Native American pueblo village -- is an absolute marvel. Built during the depression of the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the structure has 18-inch thick adobe walls, using native wood and rocks for its interior construction and decor. Ponderosa pine beams lie high above the lobby floor, with latilla covering the ceilings.

This is a full-service hotel with an excellent dining room, swimming pool, air conditioning, and hiking and walking trails nearby. Located in Davis Mountains State Park, the hotel is a perfect place from which to explore the park, the McDonald Observatory, and the scenery of the nearby mountains and desert. A trail leads cross-country to Fort Davis National Historic Site. The lodge is located a few miles north of Fort Davis, via TX 118. It is 200 miles east of El Paso and about 150 miles southwest of Odessa and Midland. To the south is Big Bend National Park.

The lodge is open year-round with the exception of the second and third weeks of January. Holidays are celebrated with special meals and activities. The busiest season is March through August and reservations are essential if you wish to stay during this period. Reservations are accepted a year in advance and you should plan several months in advance to stay here. The hotel restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and room service is available.

Paradise Mountain Ranch (B and B)
HCR-74, Box 56, Fort Davis TX 79734
(915) 426-3737 or 800-738-3320
This is a real working ranch, with visitors being able to indulge in authentic range riding, including spring and fall round-ups, or to take customized trail rides through the surrounding valley and mountains. The ranch is located 15 miles west of Fort Davis, off TX 166. Jenny and Rusty Wofford are the owners.

The Veranda Bed and Breakfast
210 Court Avenue, Box 1238, Fort Davis TX 97934
(915) 426-2233
All rooms have private baths in this historic country inn, located right in Fort Davis. The building is an adobe structure with 12-foot ceilings and hardwood floors. A full breakfast is served to overnight guests. The large rooms and suites are furnished with antiques, and the large grounds feature courtyards and gardens. Included on the property is a separate carriage house with kitchen and living room.

 

 

 

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