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Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument  - BEST Places to Picnic

P.O. Box 1460
Fritch, Texas 79036

Phone
Visitor Information
(806) 857-3151

Explore the Alibates Flint Quarries!

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) 857-3151.

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.

History

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 1870.

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 century.

Nature

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), behind.

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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