Big Bend National ParkShare
Located in southwest Texas Big Bend National Park extends along the Rio Grande river for 250 miles of the Texas/Mexico border and covers 1,250 square miles. It doesn’t have a “keystone” attraction that attracts visitors to it or even to congregate those that are there. It does offer mountains, desert, wildlife, and hiking with as much space and solitude as you want and possibly more.
To me Big Bend is all about its landscape. Rugged mountains occupy the center portion of the park providing home to black bears, mountain lions, and bobcat. The mountains rise several thousand feet and often end with sheer drops. Hiking trails abound throughout them offering scenic panoramas if you’re willing to put in the effort. Since the starting elevations are reasonable you’ll find yourself less out of breath here than when reaching the same panoramas as in other places.
Along most of the north, east, and western perimeters is stark desert scenery that hosts a variety of plant and animal life that one must slow down to see. I saw javelina (small wild pigs), coyotes, fox, a coachwhip snake, roadrunners, and many other birds while in these areas.
Several things are required to make the most of this area. One – bring water, twice as much as you expect to need just in case. Two – slow down. I found this park to be one of the subtlest places I’ve ever been. If all you do is walk and look you’ll miss 90% of what’s there. Every time I stopped for one reason or another I’d end up seeing five more things that I didn’t originally; a neat rock, a plant tucked in underneath another one, a new plant altogether, a lizard as it scampered away.
The southern boundary is defined by the Rio Grande river abutting it to Mexico. The first night I camped less than a mile from the river and must have had a few square miles to myself. The next day I rode down to the river and was Mexico – twenty feet away at it’s nearest point. And I may or may not have swam across just to know I could.
There were some park rangers down there on horseback. Apparently they roundup the stray horses and cattle that have wondered across the river every now and then to encourage their neighbors to keep them on their side. I guess Arizona isn’t the only one with immigration issues.
An oasis is found at the hot springs area near in the southeast portion of the park. It is a natural spring that has been used for hundreds of years adjacent to the Rio Grande river. A small holding area has been built up around the spring creating a natural hot tub. After 50 miles of riding my motorcycle on rough and rocky roads it was just what I needed. Add in the rushing water flowing by perfect. All they need is a bar.
There’s Big Bend in a nutshell for those, like me last week, that don’t know what it’s about. Still, as soon as I knew I was making a roadtrip west, I knew it was going to be my first stop. Far enough out of the way to make it intriguing, in an area I’d never been around before, and now, I am glad I went. Find out tomorrow about the other sides of Big Bend I found that aren’t so frequently visited.