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Salt Basin

General Entry

The Salt Basin covers most of northeastern Hudspeth County. Its floor is characterized by numerous dry lakes and ponds, gypsum dunes, and extensive salt deposits. The central area of the basin is essentially devoid of vegetation; creosote bush, mesquite, yucca, cacti, and grasses grow on the broad flats around the lakes. The area was occupied and exploited by hunter-gatherer tribes during the Ceramic Period (A.D. 800–1500). Before the Civil War the residents of several towns along the Rio Grande, including most notably San Elizario in El Paso County, got salt from Tularosa in New Mexico; in 1862, however, following a rumor that the owners might close the Tularosa supply, residents of the area turned their attention to the Salt Basin, two days' journey to the northeast. They cleared a road from Fort Quitman to the basin, drove their carts there, filled them with salt, and sold the salt upon their return to the Rio Grande valley. In the 1870s attempts to control these traders' activities set off the Salt War of San Elizario. The salt flats were still largely covered with water in the 1920s, and H. A. Pitts continued to mine salt there in the 1930s, but the area subsequently lost its importance as a source of salt. The town of Salt Flat arose in the late 1920s, when U.S. Highway 62 was built from El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. Dell City became the center of a mild agricultural boom after the discovery of underground water in the late 1940s, but the drilling and pumping of wells lowered the water table seriously.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Salt Basin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 21, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.