Humans by far have had the largest impact on the park, life within it and the level of enjoyment for visitors. Because of the park's location, it faces some unique problems. The trails of drug-smuggling operations from south of the border cross the park land. People attempting to illegally cross into the U.S. from Mexico randomly wander the land, alone and in small groups.
Security is a concern, as some of these people are armed, others dangerous and a few desperate. There is a lack of U.S. Border Patrol focus in the area and park rangers are stretched thin across the vast acreage. Informal crossings, once part of business as usual along parts of the Rio Grande, are now illegal.
Big Bend is being hit from both the U.S. and Mexico with emissions from coal-fired plants. The air quality is in decline.
The clear views and panoramic vistas are limited by a particulate-filled haze. According to the National Park Service, most days, the view is impaired by pollution that reduces the visibility from what was once 180 miles down to 30 or less.
The Rio Grande River forms the southern border of the park and the boundary between Mexico and the U.S. The river is a destination for sightseeing and exploration, bird watching and outdoor activities such as canoeing, boating and fishing.
Demand for water in the West Texas area and Mexico has led to lower water levels in the Rio Grande. The river water is being used to supply irrigation to arid parts of the region. With the population of the West Texas area expected to double within the next 40 years, the fight over water resources could become critical.
Water use draws upon resources that some of the inhabitants of the more fragile portions of the ecosystem depend on. Aquifers, springs and small tributaries of the river are all affected as water is drawn away, artificially managed and not allowed to replenish.
Article Written By Alice Moon
Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.