Big Bend National Park   5 comments

Big Bend NP 00Where Is It: It’s the most remote NP in the lower 48. It’s not near anything … that’s part of the challenge to getting there. 329 miles southwest of El Paso and 406 miles west of San Antonio. It’s on the border with Mexico.

The Birth: From the Texas State Historical Association:

The legislative history of the park began in 1933, when the Texas legislature inaugurated Texas Canyons State Park on fifteen sections of land in the vicinity of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas canyons on the Rio Grande in southern Brewster County. Later that year the name was changed to Big Bend State Park and the Chisos Mountains were added to the park acreage. The National Park Service investigated the site in January 1934 and recommended establishment of both a Civilian Conservation Corps camp and a national park. The NPS regarded Big Bend as “decidedly the outstanding scenic area of Texas.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt took a personal interest in Big Bend because of a proposed international, or companion, park in Mexico (still being discussed decades later). The United States Congress passed the enabling legislation on June 20, 1935, stipulating that acquisition of the park acreage “shall be secured…only by public and private donations.” By 1942 most of the land was purchased with a $1.5 million appropriation from the Forty-seventh Texas Legislature. Although several thousand acres remained in private hands, the park opened to the public in 1944. In 1972 the Congress appropriated $300,375 for the last 8,561.75 acres, finally placing the entire original park area of 708,118.40 acres in federal ownership. Subsequent additions have increased the park acreage to 801,163.02 acres, of which 776,693.22 acres are federal land.

It Happened Here: National Park Service rangers were surveyed in 2002, and Big Bend NP was voted the 2nd most dangerous park in the system. Cited sources of violence included drug smuggling, illegal immigrant traffic and poachers of plants and animals … all taking advantage of more than 100 miles of border with Mexico.

Size: 801,163 acres

# Visitors: 292,055 in 2012. August is the least-attended month (average high temperature is 101*), and February the most-attended month (average high temperature is 62*).

Plants: The park is home to about 60 species of cacti.

Animals: 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, 450 species of birds (more than half of the species found in the US) and about 3,600 species of insects. The park has more types of birds and bats than any other US National Park. About 2 dozen mountain lions live in the park; two attacks on humans have happened since 1984.

Choices: The Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only alternative to camping in the park. The lodge makes available rooms in the lodge itself, as well as a the Casa Grande Hotel, Rio Grande Motel and additional, nearby rental cottages. Get information, here.

Fees: $15 for a 7 day pass per vehicle

Staying There: There are over 200 campsites available for $10 per night.

Contact Info:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX  79834-0129


Current Issues: Air pollution from coal-fired power plants has reduced visibility in the park from 180 miles to 30 miles.

Don’t Miss This: Here are the recommendations from the Friends of Big Bend National Park:

Families flock to the Rio Grande Village area for birding. There is a great boardwalk called the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail, and a small visitor center. Helpful rangers can tell you what birds are out and about.

Kids will be happy playing on the sand dunes along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Find them via a short hike at Boquillas Canyon.

After a long day, relax at the Hot Springs, an historic area of Big Bend where you can soak your bones.

Take a drive. Follow the Old Maverick Road, an improved dirt road that is wide and easy to navigate, into the mountains. There are great cultural stops along the way, such as Luna’s Jacal and Terlingua Abajo, as well as some historic overlooks.

Explore the Dorgan Sublett Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that offers panoramic views of Santa Elena Canyon, the Rio Grande River, Mexico, and cultural ruins.


National Park Service: Big Bend National Park

Trail Running in Big Bend National Park

Friends of Big Bend National Park

Up Around The Bend

Chookooloonks Wild West Road Trip

Steve’s National Park Blog: Big Bend NP

5 responses to “Big Bend National Park

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  1. Stunning shots!!

  2. Your tax dollars at work. All are from the National Park Service website.

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