Franklin Mountains State Park, in El Paso County, was created by an act of the Texas State Legislature in 1979. The Franklin Mountains form a striking backdrop to the city of El Paso and constitute an area of regional ecological and aesthetic significance. Making the mountains a park for the protection of their natural features and the enjoyment of the public has long been a dream of farsighted El Paso residents, as well as conservationists across the state and nation. In the late 1970s, when developers began carving roads into the almost pristine mountains, House Bill 867 was passed by the Texas Legislature authorizing Texas Parks and Wildlife to acquire Franklin Mountains, thus preventing further urban development. The intent of the Legislature was to provide lasting protection to the outstanding scenic, ecological and historical features of the Franklin Mountains so they could be enjoyed and appreciated by present and future generations. Parks and Wildlife acquired the property in 1981; it was opened to the public in 1987. The park is the largest urban park in the nation at 24,247 acres, covering approximately 37 square miles, all within the city limits of El Paso.
Overlooking the Rio Grande, the Franklin Mountains are the northern ramparts of the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North), leading from Mexico into what is now the United States. For thousands of years, Native Americans, and for the last four centuries, soldiers, priests, traders, adventurers, gold-seekers, entrepreneurs, and just plain folk have passed through the gap in both directions in an endless procession of expansion, settlement, raiding and conquest. Native American groups made the area home, using the plant and animal resources of the Franklins for more than 12,000 years. These people left their marks in the Franklins - colorful pictographs on boulders and in rock shelters and deep mortar pits (used to grind seeds) in rock outcrops near scattered water sources. Beginning in the 1580s, less than a century after Columbus, Spanish conquistadors and priests passed beneath the peaks of the Franklins on their mission to conquer and colonize the Puebloan villages in present-day New Mexico.