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The Strong Medicine of Flint

Lying in the northeast corner of the Staked Plains, along the sloping sides of the Canadian River Valley, a rock can be found which has long been believed to hold mystical and magical powers. Traded and revered by Native American tribes across the nation for centuries, this particular rock can be identified by its unique color and smooth surfaces.

While flint does exist in other places, the color of the rock from this area is easily identified and like no other found anywhere else in the world. Pieces of Alibates flint have been identified as far away as Canada. The place where it was once harvested is known by us locals as Alibates.

Flint, also known as Chert, is a sedimentary mineral and cryptocrystalline form of Quartz. It crystallizes in the form of masses and nodules, while usually occurring in limestone and chalk.

The unique red is a result of the same fault that was involved in the formation of the Amarillo Mountains which lies deep under the flat, treeless plains of the Texas Panhandle.  As hot water from thermal springs moved through this fault, it passed around and through the Permian shelves which are made up of significant iron content. The silica rich water emerged to form the Alibates flint. The rusty red deposits are unique to this quarry, and can be found in abundance on about 60 acres atop a mesa where weathered flint is exposed on the surface. Unweathered flint can be found a foot or more below the surface.

More than 700 flint quarries have been identified during its heyday, extending four to eight feet deep. The path is an easy hike.

Our cow/calf operation, The Sanford Ranch, lies about ten miles as the crow flies from Alibates. Throughout the Texas Panhandle, around the natural springs or scattered under towering cottonwoods you can find pieces of flint, remains of the knapping process. I have discovered several fairly large chunks of unworked flint left in random piles of rocks. Two hours of sifting in a grey discolored spot on the surface dirt, which was surrounded by bits of burnt rock, resulted in a perfect point. The last hands that had held it was probably an Antelope Creek native who sat shaping arrowheads around the fire pit.

It is such a rush to find evidence of a society that lived here before, particular in what we consider the middle of nowhere. It’s fascinating to hold that proof in my hand and think about the people who existed at this very spot.

The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is a national park area once considered sacred and neutral ground. It was a place where tribes came in peace for at least 12,000 years to trade and mine the valuable rock, the best source for making hunting points and tools.

The rocks Native Americans mined were valued because of its ability to break into smooth flakes for a sharper, cleaner edge on their points, spearheads, scrapers, and knives resulting in deeper cuts on the game they hunted. “Knapping” means to break with a sharp blow, and the precise blow requires great precision.

Most traveled to the area in canoes on the muddy red Canadian River, which flowed deeper than it does today. Between 1150 and 1450 permanent villages were located in the area. it is believed that the Antelope Creek people lived a peaceful existence in this area about two thousand years ago. The severe drought and aggressive tribes, probably Apache and Comanche, drove the villagers out of the region. 

Harry Hertner, vice-chairman of the Potter County Historical Survey Committee, worked to inform Congress about the importance of the quarry. Letters of support were obtained from noted archeologists, and in 1960, along with help of Senators Ralph Yarborough and Walter Rogers, the Alibates flint quarries were established as a national monument.

Some believe that meditating with Flint and using it as a talisman of ancient power, one can consciously see layers of who they once were. By bringing your past-life to the surface, you can then draw knowledge from these experiences.

Getting There

The drive to the visitor’s center and the view of the river valley which now runs dry, is amazingly beautiful and so peaceful.

Start here at the Alibates Visitor Center. For more information click here.

Alibates Flint Quarries is located approximately 35 miles north of Amarillo, Texas. From I-40 in Amarillo, take Lakeside exit north towards Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Exit on TX 136 north towards Borger. The entrance to the park is on Highway 136 before you get to the little town of Fritch.

Natalie Bright writes for kids and adults. KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook has over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, which won a 1st Place Will Rogers Medallion. Along with co-author Denise F. McAllister, the Wild Cow Ranch Series is a western romance Christion fiction series. Book 1 in the series, MAVERICK HEART, was a #1 Amazon New Release. Coming in April 2024 is the history and authentic food of Cowtowns, in END OF TRAIL EATS. Natalie is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Texas High Plains Writers, and Oklahoma Writers’ Federation.