Crossing Rio Pecos

by Dearen, Patrick


The Pecos River flows snake-like out of New Mexico and across West Texas before striking the Rio Grande. In frontier Texas, the Pecos was more moat than river, a deadly barrier of quicksand, treacherous currents, and impossibly steep banks. Only at its crossings - with such legendary names as Horsehead and Pontoon - could travelers hope to gain passage. Even if the river proved obliging, its Indian raiders and outlaws often did not.

Its banks echoed with the sounds of the mythic Old West - the war cry of the Indian, the blast of the cowboy's six-shooter, the crack of the stage-driver's whip, the thunder of the stampeding longhorn. While documented history was painting dreary lives for pioneers in many other locations, the Pecos stirred with color and drama and nurtured the stuff of legend.

Long after irrigation and dams rendered the river a polluted trickle, Patrick Dearen went seeking out the crossings and stories behind them. In Crossing Rio Pecos, a follow-up to his Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, he draws upon years of research and relates the history and folklore of all the crossings: Horsehead, Pontoon, Pope's, Emigrant, Salt, Spanish Dam, Adobe, S, and Lancaster. Meticulously documented, Crossing Rio Pecos is the definitive study of these gateways which were so vital to the opening of the western frontier.

Texas Christian University Press, 196 pages
Available in softcover


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