An Administrative History
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Dog Canyon

From the time of the establishment of the park, road access to Upper Dog Canyon was a problem for park managers and for the rangers assigned to duty at the Dog Canyon station. Although Dog Canyon is only some 15 miles north of Pine Springs, by road the distance from Pine Springs to Dog Canyon is approximately 120 miles. In 1972, persons traveling by vehicle to Dog Canyon followed New Mexico State Road 137 to El Paso Gap, then took Eddy County Road 414 to the Hughes Ranch, about one and one-half miles north of the park boundary. Until 1975, the Hughes permitted vehicles to travel the one and one-half miles to the park on a ranch road, the condition of which often required a four-wheel-drive vehicle to negotiate.In 1975, because increased traffic to the park infringed upon the Hughes's privacy and the safety of their livestock, they closed the ranch road to all but park personnel.

visitor contact station
Figure 24. In 1978, after completion of the new access road to McKittrick Canyon, park managers moved a camping trailer to the Canyon to be used as a visitor contact station until a permanent facility was constructed. (NPS Photo)

visitor contact station
Figure 25. The permanent visitor contact station in McKittrick Canyon, completed late in 1982. Numerous problems plagued construction of this facility and delayed its completion by nearly two years. The contact station includes office and information space, restrooms, a patio area with exhibits, and an automatic audio-visual program with recorded narration by Wallace E. Pratt, donor of much of the land in McKittrick Canyon. (NPS Photo)

Historically, another road, generally parallel to but about half a mile east of the one through the Hughes ranch, provided access to Dog Canyon. This road, across the Magby ranch, was the route the Kincaids first used when they lived at Dog Canyon. Apparently established in the early part of the century, the road was maintained by the county on an irregular basis. In 1964, Laurie Kincaid, with the oral consent of the elderly Lee Magby, who lived on the family ranch, convinced the Eddy County commissioners to improve the county road to the state line. The road crew completed upgrading the road to the Magby ranch house. When they were about half the distance from the house to the state line, one of Magby's sons, who had obtained power of attorney for his father, obstructed any further improvement of the road. The Magbys refused to allow the Kincaids to use the road any longer, so the Kincaids resorted to traveling across the Hughes ranch instead. [16]

While it was necessary to obtain passage of federal legislation to acquire the right-of-way for an access road to McKittrick Canyon, Park Service officials believed the situation surrounding access to Dog Canyon was quite different and could be resolved without the federal government acquiring more land. As early as 1972 officials of the Park Service began negotiating with Eddy County and with the Hughes and Magbys for an access road to the park. Although county officials indicated a willingness to construct a high-standard road to the state line, the estimated cost to acquire the right-of-way, to meet the demands of the ranchers regarding fencing and underpasses, and to construct the road was approximately $100,000, an amount the county officials considered excessive. [17]

In 1973 Park Service officials sought the cooperation of the State of New Mexico to resolve the problem of public access to the northern part of the park. At that time, David King, planning officer for the state, said he would try to obtain state assistance to fence the five and one-half miles of road north of the park boundary. His efforts, however, were unsuccessful and in 1974 state officials indicated they could do nothing more to remedy the situation until Eddy County acquired right-of-way for a road. [18]

Negotiations in 1975 accomplished nothing. Hughes demanded a financial consideration in addition to fencing and underpasses, and Magby increased his price for the right-of-way. At this point Hughes closed the road across his ranch to all but Park Service vehicles. In 1976 Superintendent Dayton sought the help and advice of the field solicitor, Gayle Manges, in reaching a solution to the problem of a road to Dog Canyon. He asked Manges to investigate reopening the Magby road, based on historical evidence that the road was a public road, or, alternatively, reopening the Hughes road, based on the fact that it became a public road after 1964. Soon after receiving Dayton's request, Manges asked the U.S. Attorney General for the District of New Mexico to initiate action to reopen the road through the Magby ranch. No immediate action resulted, but in February 1977 Dayton consulted with Mike McCormick, the district attorney in Carlsbad, and obtained help that ultimately resolved the situation. [19]

For reasons that are not clear, but which may have been related to the adverse publicity generated by the condemnation proceedings undertaken by the government to acquire the Glover property for the park, Eddy County commissioners resisted the idea of bringing suit against the Magbys and Hughes. However, when Tom Rutledge, assistant to McCormick, approached the commissioners and recommended pressing suit to reopen both roads, they agreed to negotiate again with the two families.

As a result of the negotiations, Rutledge and attorney Harvey Fort, who represented Hughes and Magby, achieved a compromise acceptable to county officials, the ranchers, and park officials. Each rancher received $12,000 for a right-of-way three miles long and 60 feet wide, which ran along the fence line separating the two ranches. The county agreed to install sheep fence on both sides of the right-of-way, to install a cattle guard at the beginning of the new road, and to build two underpasses large enough for a horse and rider to pass through. The road would follow the fence line to the southwest corner of the Magby property, then veer southwest to the state line. The agreement included abandonment of the existing road to the Magby house and the construction, by Magby, of a new road to connect with the county-maintained road. The ranchers retained the mineral rights to the right-of-way. [20]

Although the legal problems had been resolved, construction did not begin immediately. Costs for construction of the road were to be shared equally by the state and the county. Since the state eventually would be responsible for maintaining the road, it had to meet their design standards. Problems related to design delayed construction for more than 18 months. At one point, in an effort to eliminate costly elevated crossings at washes, the county went back to the ranchers to seek a different route for the right-of-way. After meeting stout refusals to renegotiate, state highway officials agreed to allow several low-water crossings in the road. By that time, late 1978, park managers wanted to begin drilling a well at Dog Canyon, but no road existed over which a drilling rig could be moved. Dayton devised a creative solution to the problem. He engaged a U.S. Army Reserve engineering unit scheduled for a training session to use their equipment to bulldoze a one-lane route, 10 feet wide, over the county's right-of-way. The county agreed to provide a grader and crew to "finish" the primitive road, which would be used by administrative and contractor vehicles. Eighteen months later, in May 1980, the county completed construction of the permanent access road. Further improvement of the road to Dog Canyon occurred in 1984 and in 1986. In 1987 the state accepted transfer of the Eddy County portion of the road and redesignated the route as part of New Mexico State Road 137. Only four miles of the road, between the western boundary of the Lincoln National Forest and El Paso Gap, New Mexico, remained unpaved. [21]

In 1979, day laborers, using rented equipment, built the road from the park boundary to the ranger station in Dog Canyon. At the same time, park personnel built the permanent campground at Dog Canyon, which was ready for use when the county road opened. The campground, built on the same site as the temporary campground, contained chemical toilets, five parking spaces for recreational vehicles, and 15 walk-in tent sites equipped with tables, charcoal fire grills, and trash receptacles. Until 1982, campers arriving at the park by vehicle had to bring their own water, but the ranger provided water for backpackers hiking into the campground from Pine Springs or McKittrick Canyon. In 1982 contractors built a modern comfort station and brought water lines to the campground. In 1985 the graveled parking area for recreational vehicles was extended 60 feet, and in 1986 park personnel installed a sink and light behind the comfort station for the convenience of campers. [22]

While working to find a resolution to the problem of access to Dog Canyon, park managers also began searching for a water source for a permanent ranger station and residence in Upper Dog Canyon. The rangers who lived in the old Kincaid house (see Figure 26) from 1971 to 1975 hauled water for domestic use from a well 15 miles away. Drilling efforts in 1973, 1974, and 1975 all failed to produce a good well. In 1975 workers cleaned out the spring above the ranch house to provide a temporary on-site water source for the ranger. The next year a mile-long pipeline was laid between the spring and the house and two water storage tanks were installed. In 1977, a chlorinator and cover for the spring were added to the water system. [23]

Management refused, however, to give up the idea of a well. The spring system was less than satisfactory for the development of a residential area meeting Park Service standards provided only emergency water for visitors. In 1978 Congress funded the construction of the new facilities for Dog Canyon, and Garland Moore, the hydrologist who successfully located the well at Pine Springs, took on the job of trying one more time to locate a well site at Dog Canyon. Roger Reisch, remembering Moore's work in the park, recalled that "he got us water everywhere he looked!" In 1979 park managers awarded a contract for $129,546 to Perry Brothers Drilling Company of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Dell City, Texas, to drill the well at Dog Canyon. By the end of 1980, after innumerable problems, creating delays that extended the work over more than a year, and increasing the cost of the project by $30,000, a well, drilled to 3,000 feet, pumped water of acceptable quality at a rate of 12 gallons per minute. Late in 1981 the pumphouse was constructed and plumbing work was completed. A 10,000-gallon reconditioned water storage tank, another salvage item from the former FAA station at Salt Flat, was the reservoir for the new water system. In 1985 park personnel removed the spring box and returned Upper Dog Canyon Spring to its natural state. [24]

ranch house and trailer
Figure 26. An existing ranch house and a trailer moved to the site by the Park Service served as ranger housing at Dog Canyon during the first decade of park operation. (NPS Photo)

The contract for construction at Dog Canyon was one of three tied up in negotiations with the Small Business Administration during 1979 and 1980. In October 1980 the Small Business Administration designated J. T. Construction Company from El Paso to receive the $334,213 contract. The contract included construction of the ranger station, residence, barn, corral, comfort station, and utilities at Dog Canyon. [25]

The Environmental Assessment for the Dog Canyon Development Concept Plan offered four alternative arrangements for the campground and residential area. Management adopted the alternative in which the ranger's residence and a separate contact station were nearest the entrance to the park, west of the entrance road (see Figures 27 and 28). The barn and corrals for Park Service livestock and the corrals for visitors' horses were farther south on the entrance road, near the trailhead on the west side of the road. Existing stock sheds and corrals were removed and an earthen stock tank was filled and graded to match the natural contour of the land. A ribbon-cutting for the new facilities and a barbecue to celebrate their opening took place in May 1982. [26]

Funding granted in 1978 only allowed for construction of one house. After 1979 a trailer, moved from Signal Peak, served as a patrol bunkhouse and quarters for seasonal workers; in 1983 two additional mobile homes were moved from Signal Peak to Dog Canyon to be used as housing for seasonal rangers and workers. Located near the old ranch house, the mobile homes were out of sight of the campground and trailhead but were still located in a flood plain. In 1983 a new sewage disposal system was added to serve the ranch house and the two mobile homes. One of the mobile homes was later relocated out of the flood plain and near the new ranger residence. Managers disposed of the other mobile home, which was no longer safe for use. In 1987, park managers agreed that besides the visitor center at Pine Springs, an additional residence at Dog Canyon was the only planned residential facility that the park still needed. [27]

Dog Canyon ranger residence
Figure 27. The new residence for the Dog Canyon ranger, completed in 1982. Planners located the house near the park entrance, on the west side of the road, a short distance from the campground area. (NPS Photo)

visitor contact station
Figure 28. The visitor contact station at Dog Canyon, completed in 1982. The contact station is near the ranger residence, which is visible at far right in the photograph. The contact station is across the entrance road from the campground. (NPS Photo)


Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001