Amistad National Recreation Area

Panther Cave

NPS Archaeologist Jack Johnson explains rock art in Panther Cave. Photo by Lynn Boswell.

At Amistad National Recreation Area visitors can do more than fish, boat, hike and camp. Rangers at this national park lead expeditions to another time and to an ancient rock shelter called Panther Cave that’s home to some of the most beautiful cave paintings in the United States.

“There’s nothing like this in the world,” said National Park Service Archaeologist Jack Johnson. “It’s so complex and so beautiful and so mysterious that it’s just an incredible things that we want to be able to share with people.”

The rock art was probably painted between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. But it’s so well-preserved it may seem like it was just painted.

It’s a spectacular site but not what Amistad is most known for. What brings most visitors here is Lake Amistad. The park straddles the border between Mexico and the U.S. Three rivers join here and it was once the site of devastating flooding. When a dam was built to tame the floods and create this reservoir, the lake also became a big draw for visitors.

Amistad attracted more than 1.2 million visitors in 2015 that’s more than almost every other national park site in the state and it makes a big difference to the economy in this border town.

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