BURNT HOUSE CREEK
BURNT HOUSE CREEK. Burnt House Creek rises high in the Glass Mountains thirteen miles north-northeast of Marathon in northeastern Brewster County (at 30°23' N, 103°10' W) and extends north-northwest for twenty-four miles to its mouth on Coyanosa Draw in western Pecos County, two miles west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 67 and the Santa Fe Railroad (at 30°39' N, 103°17' W). The creek heads in various tributaries in Permian rock more than 5,200 feet above sea level. In its upper reaches it runs through a narrow, steep-sided gorge known as Hess Canyon, with cliffs some 500 to 600 feet high. After 4½ miles this gorge opens out into a wider and shallower canyon called Burnt House Canyon, where Cretaceous formations are encountered. Among residents of the region the name Hess Canyon has largely fallen into disuse, and the two canyons together are known simply as Burnt House Canyon. The Glass Mountains in this area are crossed by numerous northwestward-running faults, and the stream's course may thus be in part fault-controlled. As the stream leaves the mountains, it issues out upon a broad, open plain, crossing Quaternary alluvium derived from erosion of the Glass Mountains. From the mountains to the creek's mouth is semiarid grassland, which is being largely displaced by various encroaching species of Chihuahuan Desert scrub because the grassland has been damaged by overgrazing of cattle. Upstream from the flatlands in its canyons, Burnt House Creek is lined with more riparian vegetation, including southwestern chokecherry trees, willows, and numerous Mexican walnuts. Near the headwaters in the high elevations of the Glass Mountains, piñon and various junipers are also common. The name of the creek comes from a disagreement in the early 1900s between two squatters in this area, one of whom had built a cabin near the creek. This man went to Marathon, and while he was gone the rival squatter burned his cabin. The smoke from the burning house was seen in Marathon, although the owner was unaware of its origin. Reportedly, remnants of the cabin may still be found at the site.