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The Camel Experiment -- Dog Canyon Trail, Big Bend NP TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 29° 37.353 W 103° 08.578
13R E 679796 N 3278402
Quick Description: This sign details the history of the US Army's experiment using camels to traverse and patrol remote and arid parts of Texas in the 1860s
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 1/31/2017 10:35:31 AM
Waymark Code: WMV05H
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
Views: 0

Long Description:
This sign is located along the main Park Road toward Persimmon Gap at the trailhead for the Dog Canyon Trail.

The sign reads as follows:

"THE CAMEL EXPERIMENT

You will probably not see any camels in the park, but they would look perfectly at home in this landscape. In 1859 in 1860, camel caravans pastor dog Canyon, directly to the east.

Convinced the camels could help patrol the new Southwest frontier, the US war Department shipped 33 camels in their native handlers from North Africa to Texas. Big Bend, with several days right between watering holes, offered ideal conditions for the test. Each camel in the 1859 expedition carried more than 400 pounds of equipment, travel at least 72 hours without water, and survived on the ubiquitous creosote bush that no other stock would eat.
The Civil War and a burgeoning railroad brought an end to the camel experiment

[graphic]
Summarizing the camel’s performance at Big Bend, Lt Edward L Hartz noted that they crossed terrain of the” most difficult nature”, covering between 20 and 34 miles a day.

The camel expedition crossed the Big Bend in 60 percent of the time it would’ve taken men and horses."

An Article in the Austin American Statesman gives more details of the larger US Army Camel Experiment: (visit link)

"Big Bend treks retrace history of camels in the U.S. Army

Texas Camel Corps offers overnight trips near Fort Davis each spring and fall

By Pam LeBlanc - American-Statesman Staff
Posted: 1:00 a.m. Saturday, April 05, 2014

I’m lumbering through the West Texas desert aboard a beast with legs as tall as stepladders, a fuzzy topknot that looks like early Justin Timberlake and squishy, pie-sized feet.

Ibrahim — that’s the name of the straw-colored camel I’m riding — swings his head back and grins at me, showing off a row of finger-thick, peg-shaped teeth, then ambles on. I lurch along with him, taking in an expanse of cactus-topped mesas straight from a John Wayne movie.

Camels in Big Bend might sound like a mixed-up mash-up, but really we’re just reliving history out here. The U.S. Army experimented with the heat-tolerant creatures in the 1850s and 1860s, and this overnight trek retraces some of those steps.

Ibrahim and I are third in a line of four camels on today’s expedition, organized by Doug Baum of the Texas Camel Corps. Our group includes a history buff from the East Coast, his daughter, who is an environmental engineer, and a retired Texas A&M veterinarian.

We gathered in the morning at the headquarters of a private ranch west of Fort Davis. There we handed our bedrolls to Baum, who tucked them into giant canvas saddlebags and strapped them to the camels’ shoulders. Then, at his gentle command, the camels knelt before us. We eased into the saddles and rose up so high all I could see of Baum was the top of his cowboy hat.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about camels. I’ve discovered they are gentle, patient and affectionate. They don’t spit (why waste the water?), their nostrils can seal shut during sandstorms and you can use their poop as fire kindling. They pace instead of trot, too — moving their right legs simultaneously and then their left legs for a swaying ride. Riding one is like sitting on the deck of a rocking boat only better, because these boats come with personalities and peach-sized eyeballs fringed in 3-inch lashes.

They’re also very chatty. Take Irenie, the camel that marched along just behind me. I scratched her nose from my high-as-a-basketball-hoop perch, and she made gurgly noises back at me. Before we saddled up, she alternately bellowed, grunted, moaned and, well, farted. Loudly. That kind of behavior has earned her the nickname of “the gassiest camel on the planet” and a recording contract with Nintendo, which Baum told me is using her vocalizations in a video game.

After a couple of hours of riding (we cover 8 miles the first day), we stopped for sandwiches in a cave at the top of a hill while our steeds nibbled leaves from trees. As we lunched, Baum regaled us with history.

The U.S. military, under the direction of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, sailed to Egypt in the 1850s and shipped 75 camels back to the Texas. Davis figured the animals could handle the hot and dry conditions of the region.

He was right. The creatures were headquartered at Camp Verde, south of Kerrville, where they went to work hauling supplies just as effectively as mules. Some headed west toward California to help with a military crew surveying roads; others spent time in present-day Fort Stockton, which served as a home base as the Army explored the Big Bend area.

According to historic accounts, the camels fit in well alongside the javelinas and yucca. One report explains how an Army leader had to abandon 30 mules in the rugged countryside of West Texas but all 24 of his camels finished the trip.

The experiment ended when the Civil War erupted and the army sold its camels. Some found work carrying cotton to Brownsville for trade, others ended up in the silver mining business in California; some helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, some became freight animals and many ultimately ended up in traveling shows. A few were even stationed on South Congress Avenue in Austin, not far from the river, Baum told me.

“I’m amazed at their steady pace. I can absolutely see their military value because of their endurance,” said Bob Jackson, one of my fellow travelers.

Baum, a red-headed Texan and one-time drummer for the Trace Adkins band, fell in love with camels while working at a zoo. As we mounted up for the final few miles into camp, he smooched each one on the cheek.

Baum owns nine camels in all, both one- and two-humpers. He uses them for educational purposes and rents them out for nativity scenes or movie sets. In 1999, he began offering treks. Now he leads trips each fall and spring in Big Bend, plus longer tours through the Sinai Desert of Egypt.

Along the way he’s on a mission to dispel myths about his towering steeds.

Most people think camels are mean, smelly creatures that spit and carry water in their humps. Wrong, wrong and wrong. The hump is filled with fat. Camels can be downright snugly, and they don’t spit. (Llamas, a close relative, do.) The smelly part, I’m afraid, is true. Camel breath is really bad, in part because they chew their cud.

Camels’ feet have no hooves — just two fig-sized toenails. As they walk, the flexible pads on the bottom of their feet mold over the stones and gravel beneath them. Camels are born hump-less, too. When they’re babies, their football-sized bodies, ostrich-like heads and gangly legs fold up like a Swiss Army knife. Baum is crossing his fingers that at least one of his camels has a 75-pound bun in the oven now.

When we arrived at camp, Baum set out chips and salsa. Ibrahim nosed his way over to investigate. It was like Chewbacca had bellied up to the table, and when he sighed, I gasped. The air that seeps from his lips could knock a prize fighter unconscious.

We shooed him off, and Baum retreated to a tent, where he chopped vegetables for the homemade sausage and nopalito soup we were having for dinner. We stayed up long enough to watch the stars pop out, and that night I dreamt about riding a camel through a sandy Egyptian desert.

When I woke up in the morning, Baum already had coffee brewing. We nibbled pastries and breakfast tacos, then loaded the camels for the two-hour trip back to ranch headquarters.

After two days on the trail, camels no longer seemed out of place in this landscape. And I’m pretty sure the Lone Ranger would have felt right at home atop one.

IF YOU GO
Texas Camel Corps leads guided camel treks in the Big Bend region of Texas. Two-day trips, held in March, cost $750. Three-day trips, in September, cost $1,050 per person. The company also organizes trips to Egypt. For more information, go to www.texascamelcorps.com or call Doug Baum at 254-675-4867.

To watch video of a Texas Camel Corps trek through a private ranch west of Fort Davis, go to www.statesman.com/travel."
Group that erected the marker: National Park Service

URL of a web site with more information about the history mentioned on the sign: [Web Link]

Address of where the marker is located. Approximate if necessary:
Main Park Road at Dog Canyon
Big Bend National ParkTexas United States


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Benchmark Blasterz visited The Camel Experiment -- Dog Canyon Trail, Big Bend NP TX 12/26/2016 Benchmark Blasterz visited it