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  • Franklin Mountains State ParkFranklin Mountains State Park El Paso, Texas
    The Franklin Mountains State Park sits in the city of El Paso, Texas, and is the biggest urban park in the United States that lies inside a city's limits; spanning across 24,247.56 acres. The park was started by an Act of the Texas State Legislature in 1979, and creates a magnificent backdrop to the city, with a spectacular area of ecological and aesthetic importance to the city and its many visitors. Creating this mountainous park so that they could be protected and enjoyed, was a farsighted dream of many local residents and conservationists around the state and country. During the late 1970s, developers were encroaching into the beautiful mountains with roads, forcing the legislature to act on House Bill 867, which was passed in 1979, that allowed the state's parks and wildlife to procure the mountains so that any future infringement would not be possible. Their intent was to create a lifetime of protection to the pristine, scenic, historical and ecological treasures of the park so that future and present generations could enjoy and use the marvelous features of this park. The parks and wildlife department was able to gain control of the region in 1981 and it opened as a park to the public in 1987; becoming the biggest in the nation, almost 37 square miles, all lying within the city of El Paso. The gorgeous mountain range looks out over the Rio Grande River, part of the northern ramparts of the Paso del Norte ( Pass of the North) that goes from Mexico into an area that is now part of the United States. For millennia, Native Americans and then for the past 400 years, explorers, soldiers, priests, traders, adventurers, entrepreneurs and gold-seekers, as well as ordinary people looking for a new home passed through the gap going in both directions, raiding, settling, expanding and conquering. Native Americans would make this area their home, using the animal and plant resources found here for over 12,000 years, leaving their marks in the form of exotic colored pictographs on boulders, in the deep mortar pits and rock shelters and outcrops. In the 1580s, the Spanish conquistadors and priests came below the peaks of the Franklins on their way to conquer and then colonize the Puebloan villages in the area that became New Mexico. There are two hiking trails, with one under construction that will be part of a 100 mile system, and rock climbing is growing with great climbing opportunities in McKelligon Canyon. A few primitive campsites are in the Tom Mays unit, with traditional sites available for tents; and five self-contained RV sites have been put in. You should be aware of the fact that they don't allow camp fires in the park, and there isn't any water or electricity; so be sure to contact the park service. Nothing motorized is allowed in the park so that they can keep it in this wonderful condition, and not affect anything growing or running around. These mountains are the biggest sustained mountain range in the state, and the summit of the North Franklin peak reaches an elevation of 7192 feet, of which 3000 feet is above the city that sits below it. On the east side of that mountain, you can see the remains of the only tin mine, mill and smelting operation that ever existed in this country that ran from 1910 until 1915. The park does have tours, which are ranger led and held on the first and third weekends of the month, but try to make a reservation since there are only room for ten people per tour. The park is more than willing and happy to accommodate scout groups, school groups or any clubs. Good sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended, with weather appropriate clothing and you should always travel with a partner; and remember to bring lots of water since there isn't any in the park. You can mountain bike in the western area of the park and it is an exciting adventure to be sure. There are numerous other attractions in the area, so be sure to check before coming here.

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  • Insights Science MuseumInsights Science Museum El Paso, Texas
    The Insights Science Museum in El Paso, Texas first opened in 1980, in the basement of the El Paso Electric Company building downtown. The museum opened after three years of study, campaigning and fund raising by some of the community's leaders, after they had realized that the region was in need of a science facility that could interact with the local schools, as well as the community. They found that a hands-on science museum would be the best investment for future development of the area and since that opening, the museum has grown into a full fledged science center where the study of science is the main goal, and a free standing building is located near city hall and the city's Museum of Art. With permanent displays like the Tesla coil, centrifugal force spinner and others, as well as traveling temporary exhibits coming here from places like the Smithsonian Institution and other marvelous scientific facilities, Insights is filled. The permanent gallery contains many hands-on activities for the children enticing them to try many experiments that are not only teaching them about science, but is also fun and entertaining. Many are about electricity, optical illusions, light bending, magnetic and so much more. One is called "To the ends of the Earth: UTEP at the Poles", which is a wonderful exhibit that enabled UTEP biology students and teachers, as well as high school teachers from the city and students from around the nation went to the Arctic and Antarctica to be involved in research projects and found out first hand what it meant to jump out of the frying pan into the frozen tundra of the north and south poles. The exhibit showcases their work and research, including new findings about global warming and climate changes, so that the museum is now able to explain the variations and differences between the two poles. You can learn about origami and try your hand at making an origami penguin, as well as finding out how what you do in El Paso affects the climate of the world. A wonderful environment for school age children and their parents as they can share this exciting experience in El Paso, Texas.

January 11, 2011