Big Rock Shelter  LbNA # 34704

Placed DateSep 2 2007
LocationEustace, TX
Planted Bymonarchtrailer    
Found By Blue Butterfly
Last Found May 15 2009
Hike Distance?

The ancient hieroglyphics and etchings at Big Rock Shelter, located in northern Henderson County, have held the interest of amateur and professional archeologists for many years. Big Rock is the only known rockshelter in the Caddoan area of East Texas. Because the shelter has protected the archeological deposits, materials such as floral and faunal remains have been well preserved. Excavations by archeologists from Southern Methodist University indicate that the shelter was first occupied about a.d. 600 by prehistoric Indians. The designs carved into the surface of the shelter were made, at least in part, by these people. Later, prehistoric Caddo Indians occupied the shelter.

The site is located on a high ridge that forms the divide among the Trinity, Neches, and Sabine rivers. The shelter overlooks a vast area of hickory and oak uplands that is transitional from the East Texas pine forests to the prairies. The sand hills of the ridge are the site of permanent springs that supplied water for the occupants of the shelter.

The shelter was most likely never a permanent residence but a place for occasional overnight stays that may have had religious significance. It opens to the north and therefore provides poor protection from winter weather. However, during the rest of the year it forms a cool, protected location.

Petroglyphs were carved on both the ceiling and back wall of the rockshelter and to the east of the shelter's drip line. The carvings are of two general categories, representations of animal footprints and clusters of abstract geometrical designs; the latter consist of both rectilinear and curvilinear motifs. The recognizable animal prints, all of which occur outside the shelter, are deer, turkey, turles, and raccoon.

Faunal remains from the shelter indicate that the Caddoan occupants made use of deer, rabbits, turtles, and mussels, the latter two from the permanent springs located only a few hundred feet away. Remains of hickory nuts were also found. Stone tools found at the site were made of pebbles probably brought in from the gravel deposits on the Trinity and Sabine rivers. The most common arrowheads were Scallorn and Alba points. The few prehistoric ceramic fragments recovered in the Caddoan deposits seem to be representative of the Saunders Focus, a prehistoric Caddoan unit.

To the letterbox:

Since Big Rock Shelter is no longer open to the public, the only way to view it is from the road. From Eustace, travel FM 316 past Purtis Creek State Park approximately 3 miles. You will turn right onto FM 1861 and travel 2 miles until you see Big Rock Ranch on your right and CR 2804(Big Rock Road). Turn right onto 2804 and travel 1.5 miles on this blacktop road. On your lefthand side you will see gated Melton Rock Ranch. Since this is a private ranch now, you can park on the road and face the ranch entrance. If you look up the hill to your left you will see Big Rock Shelter. The letterbox is hidden directly across from the ranch entrance behind a small oak tree, covered with the usual debris.
After leaving 2804 if you turn right, you will be about 2 miles from the Meredith Campground letterbox. If you return the way you came, Adams Trails has 3 boxes hidden at Purtis Creek State Park and An Apple for the Teacher and 2 boxes in Goshen Cemetery are also located on 316.