About Pratt's Gift
In 1921 a young geologist named Wallace Pratt accepted an invitation from Culberson County, Texas Judge Robert Drane to travel from the town of Pecos some 100 miles over rocky, roadless country to visit what the judge called “the most beautiful spot in Texas,” a canyon named after one of the first Anglo settlers in the Guadalupe Mountains, Felix McKittrick. So taken was Pratt with McKittrick Canyon that by the 1930s he had purchased eleven sections of it and built a four-room home he called the Stone Cabin at the convergence of its north and south branches.
Eventually, after using the cabin as a summer home for several years, a flood trapped Pratt and his family in the canyon for a few days, causing him to rethink his home's location. He decided that it would be best to build another home outside of McKittrick Canyon where they wouldn’t be as susceptible to nature’s whims. His new home, the Ship on the Desert, was completed in 1945. Pratt and his wife, Iris, would spend fifteen years there before health concerns caused them to move closer to medical facilities.
During the years that the Pratts owned their property, which they called the Manzanital Ranch, they often shared it with friends and with scientists who wanted to study the geologic formations and wildlife there. The years and his experiences convinced Pratt of McKittrick Canyon's suitability as a park. However, he also recognized the need for professional management of a fragile resource. So, in 1958, he donated his land to the National Park Service. It became the foundation of what is today Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
As anyone who has been there can attest, McKittrick Canyon may indeed be the most beautiful spot in Texas. To possess such a place and willingly donate it to the public seems unimaginable today. Though Wallace Pratt was an accomplished and well-respected geologist, his most enduring legacy is his unfathomable generosity and love for one of the jewels of Texas. As such, Pratt’s Gift is a collection of images created as a celebration of the magnificence of McKittrick Canyon and a tribute to a true Texas hero.