This park is reportedly larger than Rhode Island! However, with the free map and a few drives along the main routes, you quickly capture the layout and realize the opportunities that lay before you! Admission to the park allows a visitor to stay for 7 days. There is an additional fee for camping at the improved campground areas or back-country camp sites. The park does not allow bicycles or dogs on the trails, only in campgrounds and along roadways. But we managed to work with that and still experience the opportunities of Big Bend!
There are three campgrounds, each with very different features and terrain. We spent the first night at Cottonwood Camp. The dogs loved the grassy location, and we let them run a bit in the fenced area. This is an irrigated, grassy, low desert campground, on the shores of the Rio Grande in an area of the park that is low desert with mountains in the distance. A storm brewed over the mountains and brought us some light rain and cooler temperatures. We hiked to Santa Elena Canyon, along the Rio Grande and saw the Mules Ears formation through the clouds in the distance.
The icy cold wind stayed around, and we moved to a different camping area called Rio Grande Village. This area of the park is high desert with desert hiking opportunities. From here we took a trail called Hot Springs Trail and hiked for just over 3 hours. It was beautiful scenery
Along the trail we saw a wide variety of fossils, including this large one. It is about 13 inches across!
There are many stations along the trail such as this which have been set up by Mexicans from the other side of the river. We never saw the vendors, but they seem to be doing a brisk business based on the amount of cash in the can. They are selling twisted wire scorpions, roadrunners and ocotillo and hand painted walking sticks. I should mention that there is a hefty fine for possessing one of these items according to the Park Service brochure- as this traffic along the trails is illegal, and so are the folks crossing the Rio Grande. However, in our time there, we never saw any immigration activity at all.
There is also a petroglyph area along this trail. These photos show the details as the camera gets closer.
The Hot Springs Trail ends at the site of a former hot springs retreat and small homestead. It was a cold day, but we vowed to return when the weather warmed up. Luckily there is a road to within ¼ mile of this because I did not want to hike it again!
The next day we had the unique experience of crossing the border through a cooperative agreement between US Border Patrol and US Park Service. They operate a crossing station designed to allow Big Bend visitors to cross the Rio Grande to a small village (Boquillas Del Carmen). Then entire arrangement is very official, with passports required and visas completed. The crossing takes place in a flat-bottom boat which is paddled across the Rio Grande in about 4 strokes, by a Mexican cowboy while a Mexican grandfather is sitting in the shade singing from the shore. Upon landing they want to sell you a ride to the village on their donkeys. The village is about ¼ mile from shore, and operates exclusively for this commercial exchange. The return to the US side leads you through the same office where passports are again checked and you have returned to the US with your requisite bag of Mexican souvenirs.
The weather cleared and we moved into the higher mountain area of the park. This is the Chisos Basin. It offers mountain vistas and viewpoints that reach through many small ranges towards the desert This area includes a store, campground, lodge and restaurant. The wildlife are unfazed by the structures, as you see these two small deer wrestling, the lodge is their backdrop.
Today we leave Big Bend National Park and head out into the middle of Texas. This is a beautiful park with a wide variety of opportunities for every type of traveler.
6 thoughts on “Big Bend National Park- Texas, USA”
Enjoyed meeting yall at Farr camp in BR today.
Hope yall got to Robertos and it did not dissappoint. Will be in New Orleans Friday nite
seaux send me some good tips.
Les bon tems rouler trailhead bound, Obie. LSU
Great narration of your trips! I don’t keep up well, and read your last 3 postings today.
Reminded me of an adventure trip my wife and I took 2 years into our marriage. We had moved from Dallas to NYC in Feb of that year. We returned to Dallas in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with my wife’s family and attend the wedding of dear friends. There was a week between Thanksgiving and the wedding, so we took my wife’s old Chevy S-10 pickup on a camping trip to Big Bend (eventually).
We stopped and camped outside Ft. Davis in a great little campground where the mule deer ate from my hand. We slept in the back of the pickup truck and were awakened by a pack of javelinas in the middle of the night. McDonald-Douglas Observatory (I think) is near there and we missed a cool thing they do. They have a dinner/viewing night where you eat dinner there and then you get to view space through the telescope.
We made our way south to Alpine, then south to Big Bend. I think we took a picture at that save big teepee on the side of the road! We spent the night in the lodge at Big Bend and drove along the Rio Grande the next day back up to Presidio. I think I remember an odd little town along the way that had a golf course “way” too nice for that location. I just looked it up on the map…maybe Lajitas? Got some great Mexican food in Presidio with “hot” salsa. Made our way back to Marfa and don’t recall the remainder of our trip. We didn’t hike and enjoy the scenery as much as you and Mike, but that’ll come in the future as we have grown from a NYC couple to Midwesterners with a Westy 🙂
Blessings on your continued adventure! I’ll look for some pix tonight of our trip.
*————* *Bob Griner*
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wow it does look beautiful. funny parts of it remind me of Arizona, here at least. I love the idea that people from Mexico get to make a bit of cash out of the park. Seems only right to me. Enjoy the rest of Texas
I’m a little behind, but I love reading about your travels. Be safe, enjoy, and keep in touch! 🙂
Thanks for the great travel report. Big Bend has long been in our sights, and now we are definately putting it on our list. Happy trails!
This was a great read! I could relate to you not wanting to hike back out the same trail you came in on when you took the hot springs trail. Reminded me of the hike we did at Auburn back in New Zealand. Once was quite enough, thank you!
One day I would very much like to go exploring as many of the national parks as possible. But I think when we get back from this journey I may burrow in like a tick and do some serious nesting before traveling again! Although, I must say, today we had a phenomenal time snorkeling – calm, warm waters with amazing visibility and a riot of fish of all sorts. As much as we miss home – and we DO miss home – discovering new places all over the Pacific is pretty dang cool.
NO volkswagons on this entire island as far as I can tell, but I am keeping my eyes peeled!
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2015 04:43:11 +0000 To: email@example.com