The namesake bend of the Rio Grande extends for 118 miles along the southern boundary of Big Bend National Park (BBNP), flowing past Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas canyons. In this huge park between Texas and Mexico, find a geological array from fossils to tectonic plates. The area has hosted humans for about 10,000 years. Visitors see evidence of prehistoric people, Native American tribes, settlers, ranchers, miners, cowboys and even outlaws. The terrain includes riparian areas, mountains, canyons, mesas and desert. Flora and fauna are distinctive and perhaps a little odd. Weather is warm, but you can climb above the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert to a cooler climate.
All the Usual Activities: Far from Boring
Put aside a week to see even a little of this 800,000-acre park. Choose a couple of activities from the many available: horse riding, paddling or floating the river, hiking, backpacking, sight-seeing by paved and dirt road, ranger-led activities and mountain biking. Do things on your own; you may opt to hire a ranger or guide company. Camp or stay in the lodge or bunkhouse. Best of all, take time to absorb the variety of beauty all around.
Big Bend National Park
PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
Far Flung Outdoor Center.
PO Box 377
Terlingua, TX 79852
Strike Out in New Ways
If you don't already keep a Lifetime Log of bird sightings, BBNP is an excellent place to start one. Bring binoculars, and you can see year-round avian residents and transients on their northward or southward migration routes.
Rock climbing isn't for everyone, but it's a great way to pit strength, flexibility and mental acuity with--not against--Nature. The visitor center carries David Home's "A Climber's Guide to Big Bend National Park" and a list of park climbing regulations. First-time climbers may hire a river guide-rock climbing instructor from such companies as Far Flung Outdoor Center, depending upon season and availability.
Nighttime skies are dark in places as remote as BBNP, which makes the stars appear more clearly. After dark, stargazing is unavoidable and engrossing.
Nearby Sights and Activities
BBNP's next-door neighbor is another large park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, with even fewer people and a plethora of sights, history and activities. A visit to the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center will start you off in a scientific direction: geology, archeology, biology or history. Fort Leaton State Historic Site lets visitors see a settler's trading post. In the south, old mining towns of Terlingua and Study ("stoody") Butte have reincarnated as artists' colonies and tourist destinations. Visit the spa at Lajitas. To the north, see picturesque Marathon and Marfa.
Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center
HC 70, Box 375
Terlingua TX 79852
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
PO Box 2319
Presidio TX 79845
Terlingua, Study Butte, Lajitas
Big Bend Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 607
Terlingua, Texas 79852
HC 70, Box 400
Lajitas, Texas 79852