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Oak Spring Professional Review and Guide
"Oak Spring lies below the Window, a rocky gap in the west side of the Chisos Mountains that drains the large inner valley of the Basin. The rugged crags of Carter and Vernon Bailey Peaks rise above the narrow defile like ancient guard towers. Depending on rainfall, a small stream sometimes tumbles down through the Window, culminating at the Window Pour-off in a 220-foot cascade, one of the tallest waterfalls in Texas. Downstream lies Oak Spring, the Basin water supply. This hike goes by both the spring and the pour-off.The Window Trail leads to the upper trailhead of the Oak Spring Trail. Using this approach, you reach the upper end of the Oak Spring Trail near the end of the Window Trail. The upper third of the Oak Spring Trail is the most spectacular section, especially when combined with the Window Trail."
--Laurence Parent, Hiking Big Bend National Park (Falcon Guides).
September of 2003 was an extremely wet time for the Big Bend of Texas. As we turned off the pavement onto the hidden gravel road that leads to the trailhead, a shower moved out of the Basin cascading rain down the side of Blacktail Peak. Darting sunlight revealed the silvery slivers of ephemeral waterfalls pouring hundreds of feet from the sheer cliffs of the mountains to the desert floor below. Unknown to all but the most knowledgeable few, the Oak Spring trail serves as a clever hidden gateway to the crown jewel of Big Bend National Park, Cattail Falls. After hiking roughly a mile from the parking area, the service road/trail descends into a shallow canyon containing Oak Spring. Once there, signage points the way to the Basin pour off AND to Cattail Falls. This is the only official mention you will see of the falls existence, since rangers and old-timers alike remain tight-lipped about its location. After hiking roughly three miles, we began to descend into the narrowing canyon. The desert vegetation gave way to non-typical flora. Columbines can be found nestled in the tight canyon along with hardwoods normally found hundreds of miles to the north. The delicate ecosystem surrounding the falls demands that visitors tread carefully. I've visited Cattail on numerous occasions and each time water has cascaded down the sheer rock face into the pool at its base, sometimes at a trickle, other times enough to create random splashes. I've always stayed out of the pool, since it serves as the source of water for the Basin, but on this day the falls poured like a mini-Niagara out of Cattail Canyon above, so we stripped down and plunged into the angry pool. Surfacing beneath the falls, it felt as if crates of marbles were being poured on our bodies. Sitting in the swirling mist, the sound of thundering water echoed up the narrow cleft challenged by the occasional peal of distant thunder. If you visit, leave no trace...and watch out for the poison oak.
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