SALT BASIN. 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.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, "SALT BASIN," accessed February 28, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...