Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Seminole Canyon

By Chet Garner 3.19.18

What a lot of people don’t know is that the lower Pecos River has some of the most respected and well-protected ancient rock art in the world.

The region boasts about half a dozen accessible sites, including Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site and the White Shaman Preserve. Start your day by scheduling a tour to explore the caves covered in ancient pictographs at these sites.

Seminole Canyon

This rock art should absolutely be on every Texan’s bucket list. A lot of people don’t even know it’s there, much less how important it is. The pictographs — paintings made from powdered minerals and drawn on the rock faces of caves — are estimated to be thousands of years old. But beyond that, it’s difficult to identify when they were made and what they were trying to depict.

Some seem to be religious or ceremonial, with images of shamans. Others look like hunting, warfare, dancing, and mythic events. But evidence of human life in the area dates back as far as 10,000 years, and our attempts to interpret the symbols, animals, and geometric shapes painted on these rocks are largely guesswork. 

It’s just mind-blowing to learn that people have been living in that part of Texas for that long. And we have no idea how long ago the people who made these paintings lived here. I love it that we still have things like this — that even in the age of the internet, there are still mysteries we know nothing about.

Seminole Canyon


Other than the rock art, it’s slim pickings out there. Route 90 is pretty desolate. But if you follow it east to Comstock, there’s one epic place you can’t miss. That’s J&P Bar and Grill, which despite being situated in a small town honestly might make the best burger in Texas. Grab a bite to eat before heading back toward the canyon for an afternoon exploring another fascinating town.

Seminole Canyon


Following Route 90 west out of the canyon, take a drive across the Pecos River over the tallest highway bridge in Texas, which spans the canyon gorge carved out by the river far below and offers stunning views. This will take you to Langtry, a small town about a 20-minute drive away that’s well worth a stop.

In the town center, you’ll find the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Courtroom. The legendary Wild West lawmaker Judge Roy Bean held court here. He was known as the “Law West of the Pecos,” which meant he really just made it up as he went along.

The old building — which was literally both a saloon and the courtroom where Bean held trials and doled out sentences — is amazingly preserved. You feel like you’re stepping right into the past.

Notorious for having wild interpretations of the law, Bean orchestrated his most daring escapade in 1896, when he staged a heavyweight championship fight between British and Irish boxing stars Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher.

Because the Texas Rangers were sent to stop the fight, Bean organized it on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande on a sandbar just below Langtry, where it would be out of Texas’ jurisdiction. This is now considered to be the 1896 world heavyweight championship. You can still see the spot from Langtry, from the Eagle’s Nest overlook over the Rio Grande, where a historical marker tells the whole wild story.

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