Alibates Flint Quarries
P.O. Box 1460
Fritch, Texas 79036
Explore the Alibates Flint
Imagine yourself standing where an ancient
civilization once lived, surrounded by colorful flint that was used
to make weapons and tools. Alibates flint is a multi-colored stone
with the ability to hold a sharp edge. Alibates flint was highly
prized and traded throughout much of North America.
The flint quarries can only be viewed by a
ranger-led guided tour. Tours are offered by reservation only.
Please call for tour times, and give park staff ample time to
schedule a tour. A few days in advance is best.
Any size group is welcome to take the tour,
but groups of less than twenty-five are recommended. The tour
involves a 1 mile round trip hike up a moderately steep trail that
is covered with loose gravel in places. Comfortable sturdy walking
shoes are recommended.
Reservations may be made by writing the
Superintendent, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, P.O. Box
1460, Fritch, Texas 79036 or by calling park headquarters at: (806)
You can enjoy the scenery, take a tour of
Alibates, go on a hike, or just sit and view wildlife. Wild turkeys,
quail, roadrunners, deer, antelope, and coyotes are just a few of
the animals that can be seen here. Who knows, you might even be
lucky and see a bobcat! We also have some of the most impressive
sunrises and sunsets that you will find in the Texas Panhandle.
You can also visit nearby Lake Meredith
National Recreation Area for water sports of all kinds.
Archeological traces of prehistoric Indians
homes, workshops, and campsites dot the entire Canadian River region
of the Texas Panhandle but few sites are as dramatic as Alibates
Flint Quarries. Actually an agatized, or silicafied dolomite, the
flint is distinctive for its many bright colors.
This flint comes from a 10-square mile area
around the monument but most is concentrated on about 60 acres atop
a mesa in the heart of the 1,000 acre monument. More than 700
hundred quarries exist where this flint was dug out by hand. The
quarries today are usually round ovals about six or more feet in
diameter with depressions in the center.
As soil washes in by rain, and blown in by
wind, it fills the once four to eight foot deep holes. Unweathered
flint was obtained by digging a foot or more below the surface. The
flint bearing dolomite layers are up to eight feet thick. Tools made
from Alibates Flint have been found in many places in the Great
Plains and Southwest. It's use dates from 13,000 years ago to about
Between 1150 and 1450, Indians identified as
the Plains Village Indians, ancestors of Caddo, Pawnee and Wichita
Indians, lived here in large permanent villages and smaller,
outlying farming and gathering communities. Villages were built of
rock-slab houses from one to 100 rooms. Most were single-unit
dwellings although some rooms were connected.
Architecture of this period featured
rectangular, semi-circular rooms with funneled entranceways and
stone enclosures. It is believed that extensive severe drought,
coupled with raids from aggressive tribes, probably Apache, from the
west drove these indians out of this region by the end of the 15th
The Alibates flint is more correctly called
agatized dolomite, or silicified dolomite. Many archeologists also
refer to it as Alibates chert because of it's striking colors. The
colors in the flint are caused by trace mineral elements within the
silica. The most common colors of red, orange and yellow are caused
by iron; blues and deep greens are usually caused by manganese.
There are several theories as to how the flint
formed within the dolomite. The most widely accepted theory is that
about 670,000 years ago volcanic eruptions occurred in or around
what is now called the Yellowstone Country of Wyoming.
The resulting silica rich ash drifted upon and
above the Permian era dolomite and as slightly acidic rainwater
peculated through the ash the silica was able to go into solution.
As it soaked into the much older dolomite, the calcium carbonate was
washed out leaving the precipitate, silica dioxide (flint or chert),
The Alibates flint is located only within the
eight foot thick dolomite caprock layer found throughout the region.
Even then, the flint is only found in specific areas, where
conditions were favorable for it's formation. The dolomite caprock,
which is highly resistant to erosion, protects the softer, more
erodable, underlying layers.
The result is the 'Canadian Breaks' which is a
broken landscape, formed mostly by water erosion, contained within
one of the flattest surfaces on the planet, the southern Great
Plains of central North America. As the dolomite caprock finally
breaks down, large boulders are left. Where the capstone is still
intact, mesas and buttes often appear.
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