Texas Travel

Stories From Texas’ Comanche Trail

By Peter Simek 6.25.18

Two hundred years ago, much of West Texas, the Panhandle, western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, and parts of Kansas and Colorado were all Comanche country. The vastness of the area dominated by the tribe is a testament to their skill as horsemen, hunters, and warriors who were feared and respected throughout the western United States.

The world of the Comanche was held together by a large network of trails that snaked through West Texas, connecting what is now Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert to the upper reaches of the Red, Brazos, and Pecos rivers.

Origin Trails

Riding under a full moon, the Comanche made their way along paths and trails that followed water sources and mountain passes. Knowledge of where to find water was key to surviving on the harsh West Texas plains.

Over the centuries, the Comanche paths were beaten down by horses, marching prisoners, and the marks and remnants of dragged loot and plunder. The well-worn trail was so distinctive by the 19th century that some observers described it as looking as if engineers had laid it out.

Tracing the Route

Today, it is difficult to see the remnants of the trail. But traveling down U.S. Route 385 will roughly trace the path the Comanche took on their regular migrations south.

  • Begin at Fort Stockton, where travelers and settlers once found protection along the Texas frontier.
  • The road travels south past the Sierra Madera Astrobleme, a crater left by a comet that impacted the earth’s surface some 65 million years ago.
  • Pass through the edge of the Glass Mountains before entering the wide, empty high desert.
  • The desert continues past Marathon until you enter Big Bend National Park at Persimmon Gap.

Comanche Trail

Tribal Wars

Persimmon Gap, a Santiago Mountain pass in the northern part of Big Bend, was the point where the Comanche entered the territory of other tribes, such as the Apache and Chiso Indians. Sometimes the Comanche would raid Chiso farming communities. Or bands of Apaches would ambush the advancing Comanche. But often, the other tribes would retreat into the hills and allow the Comanche to pass through toward their ultimate destination: the Spanish presidios along the Rio Grande.

There, the Comanche would raid and plunder the villages of New Spain, taking loot and prisoners along on the long march back northward along the trail, occasionally setting fires behind them to impede the pursuit of avenging parties.

Find out more about the region’s Comanche history at the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center — and there’s plenty more to do in Big Bend National Park.

© 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance