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BRAVE / PRAXIS: This Article Is About Mountains In Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Well, not when it comes to mountains apparently. Out of the tallest 200 mountains in the entire 50 states, Texas doesn’t even come close to breaking the list. Well, you say, don’t include Alaska, right? It’s not even really part of the US anyway. Unfortunately we still don’t crack the list. Dang, Colorado has a lot of mountains.


So quick, what’s the tallest mountain in Texas? Answer: Not El Capitan. It’s Guadalupe Peak, elevation 8,749. Oh, then El Capitan in second place right? No, its 8th at 8,085. What? Ya, that’s what I said too. I had no idea. Culberson County has all the tall Texas mountains.

If you said Enchanted Rock, you need to get out more. I’m not counting the landfills around Houston as mountains either, so don’t go there.

Well if you didn’t know any of that, then you’re sure to blow this one too.

What’s the 53rd highest peak in Texas? What? Since you’re from Southeast Texas your like, bull, there’s not 53 mountains in Texas. Drive west my friend. They are out there. They apparently aren’t big, but there are lots of em. At least that’s what she said.

So, the answer to the question: What’s the 53rd tallest peak? Santiago Peak, elevation 6,524, in Brewster County. And Santiago Peak is old, 35 million years old. From a geologic standpoint, it is a large intrusive mass, nearly 3/4 of a mile in diameter.

It’s irrelevant knowledge. Unless, like me, you need it as a reference while hunting on a large spread. Being anywhere amongst the vastness of Creosote Bush on tens of thousands of acres, Santiago Peak is a great reference. From where I am, anywhere on the ranch, it is due west. It’s easily the most recognizable landmark in Brewster County, especially from Road 385 between Marathon to Big Bend.

The Texas State Historical Associations list a couple of ways it got its name:

“One holds that it was named for the son of a nineteenth-century Spanish soldier, a youth who set off in pursuit of a band of Indians who had stolen some cattle. He caught up with them and bravely engaged them in combat, but the Indians killed him at the foot of the mountain, which now bears his name. Another version of the same story, however, says that the young man was actually killed at Puerto Potrillo, thirty miles west of Santiago Peak.”

“A second explanation of the mountain’s name holds that it honors the patron saint of the Spanish military order of Santiago (St. James). Supposedly, a small band of Spanish soldiers was passing near a cloud-capped mountain in the mid-eighteenth century when they met a larger group of hostile Indians. The Spanish commander told his men that their patron saint might be watching from the clouds around the summit; thus heartened, the soldiers yelled “Santiago!” and charged, scattering the Indians.”

“According to the third tale, in the late nineteenth century a group of Indians under a chief named Santiago raided the Mexican village of San Carlos, a few miles south of the Rio Grande, and carried off several captives. The inhabitants of the town gave chase and managed to kill off all the raiders except Santiago himself. They tracked him to the foot of the mountain, where he abandoned his horse and began climbing. He evaded his pursuers until nightfall. Then he yelled, “Soy Santiago!” (“I am Santiago!”) and followed his taunt with a stream of boasts in broken and obscene Spanish and in his own language. The next morning the Mexicans could find no trace of him.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Walter Fulcher, The Way I Heard It: Tales of the Big Bend (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959; rpt. 1973).