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Enchanted Rock

In the Texas Hill Country a massive granite dome rises 325 feet above the surrounding terrain. Called Enchanted Rock by early settlers, this awe-inspiring formation is the tip of the second largest batholith in the United States. Long before European settlers came to the area, Native Americans believed the domes of Enchanted Rock to be inhabited by spirits. On cool nights, as the rock contracts due to the dropping temperature, eerie, creaking noises can be heard. These noises coupled with the majestic visual impact of this vast exposed mass of pink granite make it easy to imagine the source of the tales and legends surrounding this unique area.

The 1,643 acres of this site were purchased in 1978 by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of the Texas Nature Conservancy and has been designated as a state natural area. This designation means that much of the area is protected from over use by visitors. Designated trails are clearly marked and it is requested that you tread lightly on the flora, be kind to the fauna and carry out whatever you carry in. This amazing piece of geology is located approximately 150 miles North of Austin, Texas.

Enchanted Rock is a well-known geological feature of the Central Mineral Region of Texas. The pink granite that makes up Enchanted Rock has a measured age of one billion years and is among the oldest exposed rock in North America.

Through the eons, overlying ancient metamorphic and younger sedimentary rocks have been stripped away by erosion, thus exposing an extensive igneous feature known as the Enchanted Rock batholith. Enchanted Rock proper is but one small exposed part of this ancient batholith and is called an exfoliation dome because of the way plates of rock break away (exfoliate) from the main dome along curved joints. Geologists also call Enchanted Rock an "inselberg" an island mountain, for obvious reasons.

Other exposed masses of igneous material both within and around the park represent outcrops of the Enchanted Rock batholith (which covers about 90 square miles) and occur as angular blocky hills. This variation is due to differences in the composition of the magma and its cooling history prior to exposure.

Weathering has produced a variety of features including small circular depressions with raised rims called rock doughnuts, shallow depressions from an inch up to 50 feet in length called gnammas or weather pits, and incised flutes and channels on the surface of the granite rock. The mushroom shaped formations found throughout the park were formed by freeze-thaw weathering or by other processes related to chemical weathering in ancient soils that may have once covered these features.

Other features of geological interest include Enchanted Rock Fissure that developed under talus blocks along a sheeting joint. It is one of the largest known granite caves. Smaller structures called A-tent caves have also been formed by sections of exfoliated sheets.

The local Comanche and Tonkawa Indians both feared and revered the rock, and were said to offer sacrifices at its base. One Indian tradition holds that a band of brave warriors, the last of their tribe, defended themselves on the rock from the attacks of other Indians. The warriors, however, were finally overcome and killed, and since then Enchanted Rock has been haunted by their ghosts. Another legend tells of an Indian princess who threw herself off the rock when she saw her people slaughtered by enemy Indians; now her spirit is said to haunt Enchanted Rock. Yet another tale tells of the spirit of an Indian chief who was doomed to walk the summit forever as punishment for sacrificing his daughter; the indentations on the rock's summit are his footprints. Finally, there is the story of a white woman who was kidnapped by Indians but escaped and lived on Enchanted Rock, where her screams were said to be audible at night. The Indian legends of the haunting of Enchanted Rock were probably bolstered by the way the rock glitters on clear nights after rain, and by the creaking noises reported on cool nights after warm days. Scientists have since theorized that the glittering is caused either by water trapped in indentations in the rock's surface or by the moon reflecting off wet feldspar, and the creaking noises by contraction of the rock's outer surface as it cools.

A number of stories involve rumors of great mineral wealth to be found at Enchanted Rock. Spanish explorers believed it was one large chunk of silver or iron. They also sought legendary gold and silver mines nearby, and some early Texans believed that the lost "Bowie Mines" were in the vicinity west of Enchanted Rock. Some gold has in fact been mined near Enchanted Rock, but not enough to be commercially profitable. According to an account written in 1834 the rock was once supposed to be of platinum.

One of the most enduring and romantic stories involving Enchanted Rock is that of a young Spanish soldier, Don Jesús Navarro, and his rescue of the Indian maiden Rosa. Navarro supposedly came from Monterrey to San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission in San Antonio in 1750. At the mission he met and fell in love with Rosa, the Christian daughter of the Indian chief Tehuan. But Rosa was kidnapped by a band of Comanches bent on sacrificing her to the spirits of Enchanted Rock. Her daring lover followed them there and managed to rescue her as she was about to be burned at the stake.

Another tale, given official credence when the state of Texas commemorated it with a plaque near the summit of Enchanted Rock in 1936, relates a heroic episode in the life of Capt. John Coffee Hays Cut off by Comanche raiders from his company of Texas Rangers on a surveying trip in the fall of 1841, Hays took refuge on Enchanted Rock and single-handedly held off the Indians in a three-hour battle that ended when the frustrated Indians fled, convinced even more firmly than before that Enchanted Rock was possessed by malevolent spirits.

Enchanted Rock Photos
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Many of the photos used in this document are © Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

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