Homer Wilson Ranch Repairs

Photo provided by Courtney Lyons-Garcia/BBCPhoto provided by Doug Lloyd
Homer Wilson Ranch Repairs
Debuted: 
June, 2015
Amount Raised: 
$25,000
Top Donors: 
Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation, Summerlee Foundation

The Homer Wilson Ranch is in need of repair, and the Conservancy is committed to raising funds for this project.

The entire Wilson Ranch is listed on the National Register (BBH-016A)(April 14, 1974) and is significant for its contribution to the early settlement and economic development of the Big Bend region.  When the Park land was taken over by the federal government, many of the ranch buildings across the Park were removed or destroyed.  Through the guile and watchmanship of then-Superintendent Ross Maxwell, this home was saved while others were lost.  Legend has it that Maxwell kept “forgetting” to demolish the house, and by the time another superintendent took a look at it, the house was old enough to be considered historic!

Over 68% of Park visitors pass this resource on their way to the Castolon area and Santa Elena Canyon.  It is also at the head of the Blue Creek trail, which leads to the hoodoos of Big Bend and back up to the Chisos.  As such, it is highly visible both to motorists as well as to backpackers.  It is a short, easy hike that people of almost all abilities can complete, thus increasing its value for historic interpretation.

The ranch was the heart of Homer Wilson’s ranching operations in the Chisos Mountains before the Park was established in the 1940s. The existing house was a line camp lived in for many years by Wilson’s foreman, Lott Felts.  The house lies in the bottom of Blue Creek Canyon, a major drainage on the southwestern side of the Chisos Mountains. The house can be seen from above, from the start of the trail right by the parking lot. The well-used trail descends into the canyon on an old road with a short, moderate grade. It then crosses the relatively flat canyon bottom to the house. The native stone structure remains, although the window glass is missing. Thick walls, a flagstone floor, a big fireplace, and a wood viga-and-cane ceiling give a solid, homey feel to the house.  In the back is a large roofed sleeping porch. A storeroom, ruins of a bunkhouse, corral, dipping vat, chicken coop, and other ranching facilities adjoin the house. To obtain water for livestock, a pipeline was run several miles up the canyon to a spring, using a pump invented by Wilson.  The remains of this pump and windmill can still be seen today.  Domestic water was obtained from a cistern built on the hill by the parking lot.

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