Big Bend National Park vs. Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend National Park vs. Big Bend Ranch State Park
Deciding which of two similarly-named wilderness recreation areas in west Texas to visit is a matter of taste. Big Bend Ranch State Park lies west and is one-third the size of Big Bend National Park. Both have extensive frontage on the Rio Grande River. In either, you can hike, paddle the river, ride horses, climb mountains, go birding, mountain-bike, visit prehistoric ruins, and learn about native tribes, cowboys and settlers, miners and candelilla wax makers, and smugglers, rustlers, bandits and other outlaws. In only one can you become a temporary cowboy.

Big Bend National Park

The National Park Service runs this 800,000-acre gem of diverse terrain, which nestles in a curve of the Rio Grande River between the U.S. and Mexico. Water sports abound, you can also explore mountains, canyons and the history of several cultures. The park contains developed, primitive and backcountry camping. If camping isn't for you, stay in the Chisos Mountain Lodge, in Terlingua or in Study Butte. If you want to trek by bicycle, foot or boat but don't want to brave the Chihuahan Desert terrain on your own, take a trip with a guided tour company. If prehistory is your thing, go see the fossils; you can also view Native American ruins and the remains of Spanish exploration and Wild West settlement. If solo activities suit you, you'll find 200 miles of trails and 175 miles of unpaved roads in the park.

Big Bend National Park
PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
(432) 477-2251
www.nps.gov/bibe

Chisos Mountain Lodge
Big Bend National Park
Basin Rural Station
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
(432) 477-2292
reservations.foreverresorts.com/ReservationCalendar.do?propertyKey=73

Big Bend Ranch State Park

To the west of the national park, Big Bend Ranch State Park occupies 300,000 largely wilderness acres abutting the Rio Grande River. For more than 100 years--the 1870s until its sale to the state of Texas in 1988--Big Bend Ranch was a working ranch. In this park you'll find canyons, volcanoes, two mountain ranges, desert and that rare desert commodity: water. Above all, you'll find solitude. Much of the land may be accessed only by trail. Most services are concentrated at Saucedo Complex, but campgrounds are scattered throughout the park. More civilized lodging is available at the luxurious Big House or the dormitory-style Sauceda Lodge Bunkhouse, an economical choice at $25 a person (as of 2009). Hike, bicycle, ride horses and backpack the 65 trails--some 236 miles--or take to the river.

Big Bend Ranch State Park
PO Box 2319
Presidio TX 79845
(432) 358-4444
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/parkguide/rgn_bb_010.phtml

How to Choose

Big Bend Ranch State Park hosts ten times fewer people than Big Bend National Park--about 2,500 visitors a year. You can truly retreat from civilization at the state park. Also consider the "ranch" in its name. Once nearly extinct, Texas longhorn cattle now range there and must be gathered twice a year for care and counting. Twenty-five lucky people may help with the semi-annual three-day roundup. Horses and equipment, meals, instruction and park fees all are part of the event registration fee.

Big Bend Ranch State Park Roundup
(432) 358-4444
www.texastripper.com/blog/2008/03/352008-longhorn-roundup-at-big-bend.html

Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at Trails.com or at Azacda.presspublisher.us.

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