Since we made that short trip to the Big Bend last week, I haven’t touched on it much in my blog. Now that I have gotten things caught up here a bit, I think I will try to enlighten you a little bit.
First of all, Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County, Texas. A
few facts about Brewster County. It is the largest county in Texas. It is larger than the state of Connecticut. It is larger than the combined states of Vermont and New Hampshire. Now mind you, this is a County that I am talking about. The largest city in Brewster county is Alpine, population a little over 6,000 and it is the county seat.
Big Bend National Park covers 801,000 acres. It is the largest in land area of the national parks, but the least visited. That honor goes to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the busiest day of Big Bend NP it is still less busier than the slowest day in Great Smoky Mountains NP. It is estimated that on an average day in Big Bend NP there is 200 acres per visitor. That is lots of elbow room. But of course, that is by no means a negative against Great Smoky Mountains NP. I’ve been there twice and I absolutely love it, even though there are more people. I just wanted to make the point that Big Bend NP is desolate, dry, sparsely populated, but there is a rugged beauty that will leave you in awe. But you must take care. Everything there will either sting you, prick you, or bite you.
There are approximately 2 dozen each of mountain lions and black bears.
You will also see coyotes, javelinas, white-tailed deer, red coach-whips, scorpians, etc. But will you will also see awesome rock formations, mountains, and deep canyons. One of the most accessible canyons is Santa Elena Canyon, formed by the Rio Grande river. The walls tower above you to 1,500 feet and it is less than 100 yard wide. It stretches about nine miles along it’s length. The Ross Maxwell Drive takes you right up to the mouth of it.
The Chisos Mountains is the center-piece of the park. Towering to an altitude of around 8,000 feet they are hard to miss. The center of the range is bowl shaped and the floor of it, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, is referred to as the Basin. There you find the Lodge with excellent accomadations. Also camping facilities. There are hiking trails galore in the Chisos, with one that will take you up to the south rim where is there is sheer 2,000 foot drop-off, and a view where you can see forever.
Two of the most photographed sights in the Chisos are Mount Casa Grande and The Window. The Window is a large V-shaped opening on the west side of the mountain range. All of the water that falls in the Basin drains down through that opening. At the pour-off there is a steep, very slippery, drop-off. The sunsets that can be seen through The Window are a sight that you won’t soon forget. And the view isn’t bad either. You can see for 50-60 miles to the west from that 5000 foot elevation.
When we made the trip last week, we were unable to get reservations at the
Lodge in the Basin. It books up several months in advance. We however, had nice accomadations outside the west park entrance in Study Butte. Our first day we traveled up into the Chisos and the Basin. We ate lunch there, done a little birding, then we left and proceeded to tour the Ross Maxwell highway. There are a lot of interesting sights along there, including some awesome scenic view pull-offs. We stopped at the store in Castolon for a break, then proceded to Santa Elena Canyon. After doing a little photography there we headed back to Study Butte, for dinner at La Kiva restaurant. Then back to the motel where we sat outside our rooms and watched the sun set over the mountains to the west.
On Tuesday, we drove back in to the park, all the way over to the east side, to Rio Grande Village. Nearby is an equally impressive Bouquillas Canyon, but because of muddy conditions, and because we had seen it on two other occasions, we by-passed taking that trail back to the entrance. Rio Grande Village is an RV park. There was a massive, devastating flood in Big Bend NP nearly a year ago. The Rio Grande was 24 feet over flood stage, the worst flood since the park opened in 1944. It took quite a toll on the infrastructure, and you can still see the signs of the damage. But on the other hand, there are great signs of recovery, too.
So, that’s about in on my travelogue.
more photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com