Abandoned since the 1940s, and isolated by its remote location in the middle of Big Bend National Park, the Mariscal Mine is the best preserved mercury mining site in the state of Texas, and is a listed historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mercury or "quicksilver," as it is known commercially, is the only metal that appears in liquid form at ordinary temperatures. Centuries of use as an amalgam to process precious metals, a detonator for explosives, an electrical conductor, and an agent for dental and medical preparations, made the enigmatic metal a highly valued commodity. While California was the first United States producer of mercury beginning in 1824, the industry advanced to West Texas by the end of the 1800s. From 1900 to 1930, the Terlingua Mining District, which borders present Big Bend National Park on the west, accounted for approximately one-third of the total U.S. output.
Altough Terlingua's Marfa and Mariposa Mining Company and the Chisos Mining Company were the region's preeminent producers of mercury during these decades, a second source of cinnabar ore was Mariscal Mountain, forty miles southeast near the Rio Grande. Soon after local ranch owner Martin Solis discovered ore deposits along Mariscal's northern ridge, U.S. Immigration Inspector D. E. (Ed) Lindsay filed mining claims and commenced prospecting. From 1903-06, Lindsay produced a modest amount of high-grade ore that he transported on burros to the Chisos Mine for refining. Concurrent with the First World War, the market value for mercury increased. In February 1916, W.K. Ellis, a Midwestern businessman and owner of a wax production plant at nearby Glenn Springs, patented all of the Lindsay claims.
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Tornillo Creek drains the eastern portion of Big Bend National Park. The usually dry creek bed is named for the screwbean (tornillo) mesquite. For brief periods after summer thunderstorms, this desert stream roars. Tornillo Creek joins the Rio Grande at Hot Springs. More...