Photo credit Flickr user Brandon Satterwhite.

Hitch Up an Airstream to these Texas Geological Destinations

As the summer heat starts to taper off, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about fall camping getaways. Whether you enjoy hitching up an Airstream trailer or roughing it in a tent, there are plenty of places in Texas to enjoy sitting around a campfire in the shadows of some incredible geological formations. Inspired by our sponsors at Airstream DFW, here are some great Texas weekend getaways. Remember, if you’re looking for camping luxury, Airstream offers unmatched craftsmanship and design. To see new and used travel trailers for sale, visit their showroom in Fort Worth or click here.

Enchanted Rock

This interesting granite dome has attracted visitors for thousands of years. Photo credit Flickr user TimothyJ.
This interesting granite dome has attracted visitors for thousands of years. Photo credit Flickr user TimothyJ.

Just 17 miles outside of Fredericksburg sits this domed rock formation that has been inhabited and visited by Texans for as many as 11,000 years. Named Enchanted Rock because of the folklore of Native Americans who ascribed magical powers to the rock, this formation now sits within the boundaries of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Composed of pink granite, this exfoliation dome emerged as part of the Town Mountain Pluton almost 1.2 billion years ago. It first surfaced during the Cambrian period and was re-exposed most recently during the Tertiary and Quaternary Erosion cycle. Today, visitors can scramble up the 425 feet to the dome’s peak or go spelunking in the rock’s hidden caves. Make it a weekend and pitch your tent (or trailer) at one of the park’s many walk-in and primitive campsites.

Guadalupe Mountain Range

Located in the far western reaches of the state sits Texas’ highest mountain range, the Guadalupe Mountains. During the Permian Period, much of present day Southwestern United States, including West Texas and New Mexico, lay in the Permian Basin. At this time, the Permian Basin was a large inland sea teeming with oceanic flora and fauna. Eventually, events occurred that caused the sea to start evaporating, leaving in its wake a large fossil bed, the Capitan Reef, in the area known as the Delaware Sea. Millions of years later, this dried-out sea bed was displaced by tectonic events which pushed the Capitan Reef to its present altitude, thousands of feet above its original location. Today, this area is known as the Guadalupe Mountains, a range that contains Texas’ highest peak, Guadalupe Peak. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can scale the 8,751 feet for a lofty view of the Chihuahuan Desert. If heights aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other trails that will let you explore the geological wonder of this National Park.

Palo Duro Canyon

Hoodoos, like the Pillar of Palo Duro, pictured here, were carved out by the Red River millions of years ago. Photo credit Flickr user RichieBpics.
Hoodoos, like the Pillar of Palo Duro, pictured here, were carved out by the Red River millions of years ago. Photo credit Flickr user RichieBpics.

If you’ve ever visited the Amon Carter Museum of Art in Fort Worth, you may have caught a glimpse of Georgia O’Keefe’s watercolors of Texas landscapes in its permanent collection. This famed American painter spent a couple of years living in Amarillo, painting Palo Duro Canyon when she wasn’t busy teaching classes at West Texas A&M University. Long recognized for its rugged yet beautiful landscape by both professional artists like O’Keefe and even amateur eyes, the Palo Duro Canyon is also a geologist’s dream. Just 2nd in size to the Grand Canyon, this North Texas Canyon was carved out by the Red River during the Pleistocene. The river left behind dramatic geological features including hoodoos that tower above the rest of the red rock, dusty canyon. If you decide to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park for a weekend of camping, make sure to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated in the park’s dry desert clime.

These geological formations just scratch the surface of Texas’ diverse and interesting geology. There are plenty of great places in Texas that allow you to indulge your passion for geology and love for adventure.


9 Fast Facts About the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin is a vast area covering West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico that has been known for decades as a region dripping with oil and gas reserves. Today, the Basin continues to produce, even as companies in other major shale regions fold under the pressures of low oil & gas prices. Here are 9 fast facts to familiarize yourself with the Permian Basin:

1. It’s Older Than Its Namesake

Though named after the Permian Period, the Permian Basin got its start as many as 1.3 billion years ago as tectonic shifts started molding the West Texas landscape into what it is today. During the Permian Period, seas teaming with flora and fauna covered the area’s basins. Later, these oceans would dry up, leaving behind the organic matter that would later turn into rich petroleum deposits.


2. It’s Huge

The Permian Basin stretches approximately 250 miles wide by 300 miles long, covering dozens of counties in Texas and New Mexico. One of the ten largest shale plays in the U.S., the Permian Basin produces a whopping 5 billion cubic feet of gas per day, plus 1.3 million barrels of oil per day.

3. Permian Rocks Were Discovered in 1858

Benjamin F. Shumard, a doctor turned paleontologist, was appointed Texas’ Chief Geologist in 1858. In his new position, he organized the first Survey of Texas, which included exploration of the Permian Basin area of West Texas, and subsequently, the discovery of Permian-aged rocks. Along with his brother George, and four other assistants, Shumard carried specimens by wagon from the Permian Basin to St. Louis. Unfortunately, these original samples were later destroyed in a fire.

4. It Isn’t Just Filled with Oil & Gas

The Permian Basin also holds large reserves of potash, salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. Used in textile bleaching, glass making, and soap making, potash is most commonly used for manufacturing fertilizer. Most of the potash deposits along the Permian Basin lie in Southeastern New Mexico, in the Carlsbad Mining District. These commercial deposits contribute to New Mexico’s role as the #1 producer of potash in the United States.


5. First Commercially Drilled in 1920

On the surface, the Permian Area was covered in grasslands, which were inviting to farmers and ranchers who settled the area. In order to have adequate water supply for crops and livestock, landowners will drill for water, often discovering oil and gas along the way. In 1920, a discovery well was drilled in the Westbrook field of Mitchell County in West Texas. This well was successfully drilled to a depth of 2,498 feet, proving that oil and gas production from the Permian strata was viable.

6. Deep Drilling Came Later

Lack of infrastructure to move oil and gas to distant markets prevented deep drilling early on in the Permian Basin’s production. In 1928, a deep test at Big Lake oil field revealed ample resources at a depth of more than 8000 feet. Still, petroleum companies continued drilling at more economically feasible depths until the appropriate technology came along.

7. It Got Us Through World War II

Some attribute production from the Permian Basin to the Allied victory during World War II. At the time, the Permian Basin was responsible for half of the world’s oil and gas production, helping fuel the tanks, jeeps, ships, and planes the Allies used to win the war.

8. Fracking Has Been Instrumental to Deep Drilling

Over the past decade, drilling activity has boomed along the Permian Basin as hydraulic fracturing has enabled drillers to extract oil and gas from previously unreachable depths. Though a controversial practice, fracking has been key to unlocking deep drilling, greatly boosting local economies. Local land owners can lease or sell mineral rights to companies like Caddo Minerals for a hefty sum, while the area as a whole benefits from increased sales tax revenues and more job opportunities.


9. It’s Been More Resilient in the Oil & Gas Downturn

In 2015, as oil and gas prices and stocks plummeted, things continued looking up for producers in the Permian Basin. The Wall Street Journal cites prolific wells and low costs as the reasons the Basin remains a viable area for production, when production in other shale plays has slowed to a trickle. Despite prices hovering around $40/barrel, companies like Pro Petro have been able to stay alive in a down market, thanks to their hefty investment in the Permian Basin.



Photo credit

What the Oil Downturn Means for South Texas

Eagle Ford Shale Production

The Eagle Ford Shale runs across a large swath of counties in South Texas, stretching in a check-mark shape from just north of Laredo in the west to just north of Houston in the east. The most active counties for production along the Eagle Ford are McCullen, Maverick, Dimmit, La Salle, Karnes, Live Oak, and Atascosa counties, primarily rural counties with rich histories in ranching and agriculture. Eagle Ford energy reserves were first targeted as a drilling area by 2002, but production in the area didn’t really ramp up until 2009, when companies began exploring fracking techniques to extract hard-to-reach oil. Companies flocked to the area to stake their claim, beginning a furious cycle of drilling. In 2009, there were fewer than 50 active rigs in the area, but by 2012, there were over 275 productive wells. Production steadily increased from 2012 to 2014, when OPEC’s decision to inundate the oil supply devastated the price per barrel.

Most rigs across the Eagle Ford Shale now sit unproductive due to the drastic drop off in oil prices.
Most rigs across the Eagle Ford Shale now sit unproductive due to the drastic drop off in oil prices.

Boom Towns Turned Ghost Towns

Towns like Cotulla, which sits about 90 miles southwest of San Antonio, flourished during the boom years. There weren’t enough beds to sleep the thousands of oil workers who flocked to the area, so the town hastily quintupled its number of hotels, adding 16 new lodgings to its modest count of 4. As hotel revenues soared, so did sales tax collections, helping the sleepy town pay off its debts. And Cotulla wasn’t the only place where this happened, towns all across the Eagle Ford region boomed. Then out of nowhere, all the buzz stopped as oil prices plunged in late 2014. Now thousands of workers have been laid off, and there is no longer a need for all the recently constructed hotels. In Cotulla and other towns, hotels sit empty as local populations have returned to their pre-boom numbers. As production dried up, so did the inflated economies of these tiny Texas towns. The town of Pearsall reported a 30% drop in sales tax revenue as oil field workers fled to San Antonio in pursuit of other jobs. Residents of these tiny towns are hopeful that the boom will one-day return, but as rig counts continue to drop, it seems like that day may be in the very distant future.

Small towns, like Cotulla, TX, were overrun by oil and gas workers during the heyday of Eagle Ford. Today, these towns have returned to their usual slow pace. Photo credit Cotulla Chamber.
Small towns, like Cotulla, TX, were overrun by oil and gas workers during the heyday of Eagle Ford. Today, these towns have returned to their usual slow pace. Photo credit Cotulla Chamber.

San Antonio Remains Resilient

Though the small towns of the Eagle Ford oil boom, may be suffering, it seems that the area’s largest metropolitan area is doing just fine. Just north of Eagle Ford lies Bexar County, home to San Antonio, where many oil & gas companies staked out headquarters to manage their interests in Eagle Ford production. Here, despite some of the local oil and gas companies going belly up, the overall economy remains strong. San Antonio’s well diversified economy enabled the city’s job market to continue growing even with the loss of oil and gas jobs. The bustling city even had the 6th lowest unemployment rate in the state; a sign that it’s not too reliant on oil and gas cycles. Local business like Apple Moving, movers in San Antonio, say that they haven’t seen any noticeable effects of the oil downturn. For them, business has been busy as usual, particularly in July and August as families try to settle in before the school year starts. Overall, they say it seems that more people are moving to the Alamo City for new job opportunities than are leaving. Housing data corroborates their assertions. While the housing market here hit a low in 2012, it has steadily risen ever since despite slashed oil prices. In 2012, median home prices in the San Antonio metropolitan area hovered at around $132,000; today that median is well over the $200,000 mark.

Despite Oil, Texas Economy Remains Strong

Texas as a whole has remained remarkably resilient in the face of the oil crisis. Though thousands of people in the energy sector have endured lay-offs, the state’s flourishing hospitality, education, health, tech, and financial sectors helped create enough jobs to keep the economy stable. In fact, the energy sector only accounts for 2% of state’s entire job market and 10% of its GDP. Evidence shows that the lost jobs may have contributed in a drop off in the state’s sales tax collection, but the state GDP still managed to rise 3.8% in 2015. Legislators also ensured that the state’s budget remained padded, with a surplus of about $10 billion sitting in its coffers. Overall, Texas is fairing this oil and gas glut far better than it did when oil busted in the 1980s.

For those relying on an uptick in oil production in Eagle Ford and other areas of Texas, there is a glimmer of hope. In the last month, prices have eeked up to over $40/barrel – far from the $100+/barrel during the boom, but more promising than the $26.68/barrel in January of this year.

Shale Drilling in Texas

Shale Drilling in Texas

Concern for climate change has made the world take a look at our dependence on oil and the fragile relationship we have with the environment.  The increases in greenhouses gases and carbon emissions have forced government, environmentalists and energy companies to search for alternatives that allow them to meet energy demands while trying to limit damage to the planet.

The Natural Gas Alternative

Natural gas extraction has emerged as one of the options for a sustainable and renewable energy source.  Environmental advocates and even oil industry experts have agreed that if you compare gas with coal natural gas cuts the carbon foot print by as much as 80% under the right conditions.  Natural gas can also be used to generate electricity, run your car, heat your house and cook your food.

Texas is listed as one of the major “plays” along with Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  A “play” simply means it is a location with potentially large reserves.  Oil and gas industry in the state of Texas remains the biggest in the entire US.

The geological history of Texas shows that 65 million years ago Texas was covered by a shallow sea, this created a sedimentary rock that had a high organic content.  Over time, 65 million years of time, this organic material was pressurized and cooked which produces a particular chemical formation.  In Texas this formation that produces natural gas is called the Eagle Ford Shale.

There are other types of shale spread across the country, here are some examples:

Fayetteville Shale

Spread across central and northern Arkansas, this deposit is more than 300 million years old. The shale, made from a sedimentary deposit is more than 6000 feet deep

Marcellus Shale

The shale is named so because of its nearness the town of Marcellus, New York the shale remains largely untapped.  This deposit is more than 400 million years old and there is lots of interest in the deposit because it is so close to energy consumers along the East Coast.

Haynesville Shale

Another large rock formation that can be found in Texas, along the border it shares with Louisiana.  Geologists believe that these deposits started during the Jurassic Age roughly 170 million years ago.

Barnett Shale

This shale covers more than 17 counties in Texas and 6000 square miles it is considers the be the biggest oil reserve in the entire United States.  This geological formation goes back more than 300 million years.

Shale drilling happens all across Texas, but did you ever wonder exactly how they got it out of the ground?  Here is a video with a 3D rendering showing you exactly how it is done.

Oil, Gas and the Texas Way of Life

Oil, Gas and the Texas Way of Life

Texas may have once been considered an agricultural backwater but all that changed once that first oilfield started spilling black gold.  It all started with that first field, Spindletop in Beaumont, who could have predicted how much things would change for Texans.  There are two things deeply entrenched in the culture of Texas, the fierce and proud independence of the people and the importance of oil and gas that helped build Texas into what it is today.  It’s all about oil, gas and the Texas way of life.

Oil and the Economy

The consistent demand for oil and now with the emergence of natural gas as another cash cow has proved to be a boon to the state government.  It has allowed them to stave off recession and earn millions in tax revenue.  When financial collapse has happened to the rest of the country, Texas proved to be one of the last states affected by economic downturn and one of the first states in recovery.  In keeping the independent Texas spirit they keep and maintain their own electrical grid.  This keeps them insulated from the fickle nature of federal politics.

Oil and Education

Look around any town in Texas and you can’t help but notice the influence and contributions of the oil industry.  You can credit the wells from Big Lake Field for the wealth that the University of Texas holds.  Public schools have also benefitted, there is a permanent fund to help struggling school districts educate the children of Texas.

Oil and Culture

Education wasn’t the only sector that reaped the benefits of the oil and gas industry.  There are have been strides in medicine, culture, arts and engineering that owe their success to big oil.  Museums, theaters and libraries were all built and funded both indirectly and directly with money from the oil and gas industry.  While it may seem contradictory but the Welder Wildlife Refuge gives grants to students studying and managing wildlife is funded from oil and gas.

The Future

There are people claiming that Texas is suffering from an oil glut but speculators would disagree with that assessment.  There is still big money keeping an eye on the state and looking for areas to drill.  There are still counties in Texas that haven’t been drilled on with potentially huge oil reserves.  There is one company that is watching more than 80 counties for just that reason.  The history of Texas is filled with self made billionaires and it will continue making them.  The oil and gas industry hasn’t reached its potential in Texas just yet.