TERLINGUA CREEK. Terlingua Creek is formed by the confluence of Paradise and Hackberry draws, a mile east of the Presidio county line and thirty-two miles southwest of Alpine in west central Brewster County (at 29°54' N, 103°47' W). It runs southeast for eighty-three miles to its mouth on the Rio Grande, just east of Santa Elena Canyon and six miles northwest of Castolon in Big Bend National Park (at 29°10' N, 103°37' W). The stream is intermittent for the first fifty miles. It traverses variable terrain surfaced by shallow, stony soils and sandy and clay loam that support Mexican buckeye, walnut, persimmon, desert willow, scrub brush, juniper, oak, chaparral, cacti, grasses, water-tolerant hardwoods, and conifers. Most sources state that the name Terlingua is a corruption of the Spanish tres lenguas, meaning "three tongues," either for the three forks of the creek or for the three languages spoken by the Apache, Comanche, and Shawnee Indians who lived along the creek. Another story, however, holds that Terlingua is an old Indian name, the meaning of which has been lost. According to one source, Spanish-speaking people were living along the lower reaches of Terlingua Creek possibly as early as 1800, and certainly by 1859, when a military expedition under Lt. Edward L. Hartz passed through on camels. At any rate, Mexican immigrants had established a town called Terlingua two miles north of the Rio Grande well before the discovery of mercury in the area in the late nineteenth century (see MERCURY MINING). After the Chisos Mining Company began operations in 1903 about eight miles further north, the mining town that grew up around it became known as Terlingua, and the original Mexican settlement became known as Terlingua Abaja (Lower Terlingua).
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