Description - Big Bend National Park encompasses more than 800,000 acres in southwest Texas. The Park contains 118 miles of the Rio Grande, international boundary between Mexico and the United States. Within the 118 twisting miles that also define the parks southern boundary, the rivers southeasterly flow changes abruptly to the northeast and forms the "big bend" of the Rio Grande.
Copyright: National Park Service
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. Few areas exceed the parks value for the protection and study of geologic and paleontologic resources. Cretaceous and Tertiary fossil organisms exist in variety and abundance. Archeologists have discovered artifacts estimated to be 9,000 years old and historic buildings and landscapes offer graphic illustration of life along the international border at the turn of the century.
The 118 river miles that form the southern park boundary include the spectacular canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas. The Rio Grande, meandering through this portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, has cut deep canyons with nearly vertical walls through three uplifts, comprised primarily of limestone. Cultural resources in the park range from the Paleo-Indian period 10,500 years ago through the historic period represented by Native American groups, such as the Chisos, Mescalero Apache and Comanche. More recently, Spanish, Mexican and American settlers farmed, ranched and mined in the area.
- The biggest attractions of this National Park are the open spaces and few visitors. This is one of the largest national properties, outside of Alaska, and one of the least visited. Developed areas inside the Park include Rio Grande Village, Castolon and Chisos Mountains. In each of these areas visitors will find campgrounds, a visitor center and/or ranger station and trailheads. Also within the park is the historic La Harmonia Company Store, Daniel's Ranch Picnic Area, backcountry campsites and several unimproved roads.
Recreation - Recreation opportunities abound in this large preserve. Visitors can enjoy camping, picnicking, viewing exhibits, viewing scenery, scenic driving and hiking nature trails in the developed areas of the Park. The backcountry is open for backpacking, rafting, kayaking, four-wheel driving, hiking and horseback riding.
Climate - Annual precipitation is just under ten inches in most of the park, but in wet years may exceed 30 inches in the mountains. Typically, winter and spring are dry seasons; the rains usually begin in June and last into the fall. Summer brings hot days and warm nights. Dramatic afternoon lightning storms with high winds are common and come on quickly. Heavy downpours may result in flash floods. Winter days may be sunny and warm, but the nights tend to be cold. Winter storms can blow in suddenly with plummeting temperatures and rain or snow. The weather in Big Bend, hot or cold, injures and kills more hikers than any other factor. Come well prepared because weather changes can be dramatic and unexpected.
This large national preserve extends northward from the Rio Grande in southwestern Texas. It is accessible from U.S. Highway 385 and Texas State Highway 118.