My Favorite Map: West and Trans-Pecos Texas with parts of New Mexico and Mexico and a New Map of Big Bend Ranch State Park and Surrounding Area
By Buck Cole, GLO K-12 Education Outreach Coordinator
With more than 45,000 maps in the GLO Archives to choose from, it’s next to impossible to pick a favorite, but there are a handful of maps of which I’m especially fond. One of those is the John Davis map, West and Trans-Pecos Texas with parts of New Mexico and Mexico and a New Map of Big Bend Ranch State Park and Surrounding Area, Ranger Canyon Press, 1988 (map #89070). The title is big and bold, but so is the land it represents.
This map is a recent addition to my list and honestly, I don’t think I would have found it had I not been searching for resources in preparation for a trip to Alpine last year. It might not make the favorites list for map purists because of its style, but I think that’s part of its charm and frankly, there’s no other map like it in the collection. The map’s layout is unique as it depicts the Trans-Pecos region in an oval shape with pastel colors and airbrushed features, a style a co-worker told me reminded her of popular western art of the 1980s. I suspect that might be true given the year it was created (1988). Most important to me, however, is what the map showcases — an often overlooked and underappreciated region of Texas and the southwest.
A cursory look at the map shows there’s a lot more to the region than cacti, rattlesnakes, and vast empty distances between destinations. There are towns, parks, and not just mountains, but numerous separate and distinct mountain ranges! Other features including plains, valleys, plateaus, mesas, basins, escarpments, rivers, and creeks highlight the diverse features found in Trans-Pecos Texas, New Mexico, and across the border in Mexico. Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park receive special attention with a detailed inset in the lower-left corner.
The map conveys a sense of pride of place and invites the reader to spend some time discovering things about the region they may not know otherwise. For instance, I didn’t know Terlingua (home of the original Chili Cookoff) was located between the two Big Bend parks, nor was I aware that there is a state park in Monahans (shame on me). I’ve been to this area numerous times but obviously, there’s a lot more to learn.
Speaking of learning, as a former teacher who now coordinates with Texas history teachers across the state, I would highly recommend using this map in classrooms. The style is interesting and novel and helps students focus their attention. The map offers a variety of facts and information the students can research independently to gain a greater appreciation for the region’s geography as well as its historical, political, and economic contribution to Texas and the southwestern United States. Or, like me, you can just enjoy a truly one-of-a-kind map that promotes an important and unique part of our state, and that’s something we can all brag about.