Our Thanksgiving Road Trip covered 1,829 miles and that’s after flying from Sacramento, California to Tucson, Arizona to start the trip and flying back home to Sacramento from Midland, Texas to finish the trip! We visited Saguaro National Park, Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, as well as many other roadside attractions and tourist destinations.
As we began our drive from the hotel in Carlsbad to the Midland Airport, Brian and I realized that we were going to arrive at the airport very early, so I started searching for things to do along the way. I searched and searched, and basically found nothing — and our drive confirmed it. The entire drive was pretty much through nothing but a barren desert dotted with oil rigs, but luckily I did find one interesting pit stop… a Stonehenge replica in Odessa, Texas.
A Stonehenge in Texas? You may think it far-fetched, but after visiting the Maryhill Stonehenge in Washington State, we weren’t that surprised. There is also one Kerrville, Texas and in Montana, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Georgia, and Virginia. There’s even a Stonehenge made from old refrigerators in Santa Fe New Mexico!
While the original Stonehenge in southwestern England took 2,000 years to complete, the Odessa Stonehenge, officially named the University of Texas of the Permian Basin Stonehenge, took only six weeks and was unveiled in the summer of 2004.
The Stonehenge replica consists of 20 limestone blocks that are arranged in the same layout as the original, but measure about 70% the height. The tallest stone at the original Stonehenge is 22 feet tall, while the tallest at the Odessa Stonehenge is 19 feet tall. Each stone weighs anywhere from 15 to 20 tons and were moved from the quarry two at a time on tractor trailers. Once the stones arrived, they were lifted into place and seated on cement footings made of reinforced concrete.
During the Summer Solstice at sunrise, the Heel Stone, located across the street, will cast a shadow that penetrates directly into the center of the monument.
We arrived at the Stonehenge on the edge of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus just after lunch and we were the only people there. It was quiet and quite beautiful. We walked the trail around the structure, stopping to read the informational displays that share the timeline of the original Stonehenge construction and tell the story of the Odessa replica installation. If you look closely at the limestone blocks, you can see fossils from the Cretaceous period, when much of Texas was under the sea.
After snapping a few photos and marveling at the size of the rocks, we hopped back in the car bound for the airport and eventually, home.
How The Odessa Stonehenge Came To Be
The idea of creating a Stonehenge in Odessa, Texas came from three local men:
- Chris Stanley: Chairman of UTPB’s Humanities and Fine Arts Department who required art students to build models of Stonehenge.
- Dick Gillham: Retired contractor and longtime patron of the art who seeks to bring culture to Odessa.
- Connie Edwards: Owner of TexaStone Quarries about 60 miles from Odessa who is a Stonehenge fan.
Friends Stanley and Gillham, when reviewing a Stonehenge model made by students remarked, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get a real Stonehenge?” That thought later became a reality when Edwards stepped in. His limestone quarry sold stones used in a Stonehenge replica built in Montana, which inspired him to donate the stones for a Stonehenge in Odessa.
University of Texas of the Permian Basin Stonehenge provided approval to build the Stonehenge on campus and plotted to position the stones exactly as they are in England. They then hired a surveyor to ensure the stones were positioned properly and raised money from the local community to move the rocks into place.
Know Before You Go
- The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Stonehenge is located on Preston Smith Road in Odessa, Texas 79762 in Ector County.
- Directions: From I-20, take Exit SE Loop 338/Major Road. Travel north on 338 for 1.5 miles, turn left on 42nd Street, and then turn left into the campus. The Stonehenge will be on your right.
- The Odessa Stonehenge replica was built in 2004 and took six weeks to create. It stands 19 feet tall and each giant limestone slab weighs 20,000-40,000 pounds.
- Signs around the enormous installation tell the story of it’s creation.
- It is free to visit.