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Western Heritage Museum to Add Nature Trails, Sculptures

Western Heritage Museum to Add Nature Trails, Sculptures photo
Nature Trail Map

2/25/2010 1:27:23 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame will soon begin development of two innovative nature trails, which will reflect both the flora and fauna of the region through native plantings and an outdoor life-sized wildlife sculpture exhibit by renowned, award-winning artist Curtis Fort of Tatum. 

One nature trail, which will lie just northeast of the main Museum entrance, will represent the Llano Estacado, or “Staked Plains,” with its distinctively flat terrain that the Spanish explorer Coronado referred to in his 1540-1542 expedition. The Llano Estacado stretches 250 miles north to south and 150 miles east to west, making it one of the world’s largest mesas or tablelands.

The second nature trail, to the southeast of the main entrance, will replicate the sand hill region of the Queracho Plains just off the western edge of the Caprock.  Many people are surprised to learn that the Queracho Plains, which are actually at the upper end of the Chihuahuan Desert, are dominated by one of the largest continuous oak forests in the Southwest. Because of the Plains’ sandy base, however, the oak trees only protrude from the surface to a height reaching the shin of a human, hence the name “Shin Oak” or shinnery.” Of the many species of flora growing on the Queracho Plains, shinnery is the dominant plant, although each of the trails will be landscaped with a variety of other plantings common to the region, such as cholla, pricklypear, yucca, salt cedar, tumbleweed, catclaw, mesquite, greasewood, Russian thistle, broomweed, buffalo gourd, locoweed, and others.

Bronze StatuesEach trail will also be home to 23 species of Fort’s bronzes of indigenous mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians.  The Llano Estacado trail will boast life-size pronghorn deer (buck and doe), prairie chickens (pair), a sandhill crane, horned lizard, ornate box turtle, coachwhip, blue heron, prairie rattlesnake, ground squirrel, sparrow hawk, whiptailed lizard, roadrunner, jackrabbit, prairie dog, burrowing owl, collared lizard, avocet, killdeer, curlew, coyote, horned lark, and spadefoot toad.  The Queracho Plains trail will have a kangaroo rat, porcupine, mule deer (buck and doe), bobcat and cottontail, bullsnake, blue quail, skunk,badger, gray fox, red-tailed hawk, curved-bill thrasher, mockingbird, loggerheaded shrike, raven, great horned owl, pack rat, meadowlark, morning dove, sand-dune lizard, lesser night hawk, prairie chicken, and diamond-back rattler.

Trail Bronze StatuesAccording to Calvin Smith, Executive Director of the Western Heritage Museum Complex, work on the two trails will begin later this year.  “These will be unique to our region,” he said, “and they’ll give visitors an opportunity to experience our region—the Llano Estacado and the Queracho Plains—in a surprisingly entertaining way.  Incorporating fine art into the natural environment is an innovative approach to education, and it pleases me to think of the numbers of schoolchildren and other visitors who will learn from these permanent exhibits.”

For more information on the Llano Estacado and Queracho Nature Trails or sponsorship opportunities, contact Calvin Smith at (575) 392-6730 or csmith@nmjc.edu.

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