This period of (now east-west) compression caused the northeast-facing Mesa de Anguila (an uplifted monocline on the park's southwest margin), the southwest-facing Sierra del Carmen–Santiago Mountains (an uplifted and thrust-faulted monocline that forms the park's boundary on the east) and the Tornillo Basin.
Cultural resources in the park range from the Paleo-Indian period 10,500 years ago through the historic period represented by Native American groups, such as the Chisos, Mescaleros, and Comanche.
More recently, Spanish, Mexican, Anglo, and Irish settlers farmed, ranched, and mined in the area.
Throughout the open desert areas, the highly productive Rio Grande riparian zone includes numerous plant and animal species and significant cultural resources.
The vegetative belt extends into the desert along creeks and arroyos.