Big Bend National Park is found at southernmost tip of Highway 385 in a lonely stretch of Texas. A weather-beaten desert makes up the majority of this park. Early visitors to this region found it so desolate; they named it El Despoblado – the uninhabited land!
“Big Bend” refers to the U-shape the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River takes on as it “bends” around the western spur of Texas. For 118 miles, the river separates Big Bend NP from our Mexican neighbor. This is a land of high contrasts. Stretching from the sun-scorched terrain of a desolate desert floor to its cool wooded mountain peaks this park is like no other!
Big Bend is famous for its geological characteristics and the diversity of its plant and wildlife. This park has more types of plants, birds, bats, butterflies and cactus than any other national park in America! The park’s fossil finds have included the skull of a Chasmosaurus – the largest known skull of a land animal - and the bones of a pterosaur – the second largest known flying creature with a wing span of 36 feet!
When to visit: The park is open year round. During the summer months, temperatures at the lower elevations can exceed 110°! Typically, the Chisos Mountain region will be 20° cooler than the lowlands. Winters are mild and the deciduous trees provide a splash of fall color during autumn.
What to do: Floating the Rio Grande provides an incredible view of the park’s steep canyons and a feel for the abundant wildlife that thrive in and along its shoreline. Sliding off the raft into the cool waters will offer a reprieve from the extreme summer heat! The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive will expose you to the geologic splendor of the park and give you a glimpse of how early settlers of this region lived.
Hiking: Big Bend offers day hikers or backpackers over 150 miles of trails located in the desert, about the rugged mountains and along the Rio Grande River. To escape the blazing heat of the desert floor during summer, hike the cooler Chisos Mountains.
Where to stay: The Chisos Mountain Inn is a 72-room hotel with hot showers, comfy beds and a “green certified” dining facility! For those who prefer camping under the stars, Big Bend offers three options: The 60 campsites located in the Chisos Basin Campground are the park’s most sought after due to the higher elevation, cooler temperatures and proximity to many of the park’s more esirable
hiking trails. The 100-site Rio Brand Village Campground is a favorite of those traveling in RV’s. The 31-site Cottonwood Campground is located in the southwestern stretches of the park.
Trivia: Black bears have returned to Big Bend! The Chisos Mtn. natives disappeared from the park in the mid-1940s. Wildlife biologists estimate the current Big Bend black bear population to be between 15 to 20 bears.