Article Contributer James Stafford
Big Bend National Park in West Texas’s Chihuahuan Desert exceeds 800,000 acres. To put that into perspective, the park is bigger than Rhode Island. Big Bend boasts breathtaking desert landscapes, hundreds of bird species, dozens of reptile species, buildings dating back to the 1800s, artifacts dating back 9,000 years, and animal fossils dating back to the Cretaceous Period. The park also includes these exciting features.
The Window Trail
The Window Trail is a path leading to a V-shaped canyon called the Window, a perfect vantage point for sunset-viewing. The hike towards the Window is downhill all the way; the hike away from the Window is especially strenuous. The backdrop is one-of-a-kind, though, and the desert peaks magnificent to behold.
Boquillas Canyon Rapids
Boquillas Canyon offers a whitewater rapids expedition you’ll never forget. It‘s a 33 mile-long trip down the Rio Grande, and includes two nights of camping out beneath a canyon rising 1,200 feet. The experience is mystical.
Langford Hot Springs
Sitting in Langford Hot Springs, situated adjacent the Rio Grande, is like sitting in a hot tub, but even more refreshing. The waters of these springs are about 105 degrees Fahrenheit; the springs were formed by volcanic activity.
Emory Peak is the highest point of the Chisos Mountains, a mountain range completely contained within Big Bend National Park. And you can scale Emory Peak via the Emory Peak Trail. No climbing gear is necessary, but you should be cautious the whole way up. You should also watch out for mountain lions.
The adobe buildings of the Castolon Historic District give guests a taste of an earlier era. This section of the park was once home to a U.S. Army camp and to an encampment for Mexican refugees during the Mexican Revolution. The Castolon Visitor Center houses exhibitions related to both camps.
Chisos Mountains Lodge
If you’re looking to spend the night inside Big Bend but aren’t quite up to roughing it, the Chisos Mountains Lodge provides luxurious accommodations. The only lodge inside the park, it’s open all year long, and lets you stay in either a room or a cottage. And because Chisos Mountains Lodge is perched at an elevation of 5,400 feet, every room offers views that seem to stretch on forever.
Old Ore Road is 26 miles of unpaved scenic glory. This road served as a transport route for mining companies at the start of the twentieth century. Motorized vehicles have long since replaced the mules, however. Be sure your camera’s ready to go: Old Ore Road provides countless terrific shots of the mighty Chisos.
Big Bend was once home to many a homesteader; the land resembled a John Wayne movie. One of those brave and hearty settlers was Sam Nail. Nail arrived in 1909, amassed 15,000 acres in the ensuing years, and departed in 1946. Today Nail’s former ranch is a place to sit beneath a willow or a walnut tree, admire the hummingbirds, and reflect upon the beauty of it all.
The Colima Warbler
The Colima warbler is a mostly brown or gray bird , about 4.5 or 5 inches in length, with a yellowish-orange tail and white circles surrounding its eyes. The male Colima warbler also has a splash of orange atop its head. This bird nests on the ground, and is native to an area that extends from central Mexico to southwestern Texas. Each year between April and September, however, the Colima warbler can be found in the Chisos Mountains, and nowhere else in the world.
Big Bend is far from city lights and sources of air pollution. As a result, the starfields visible from the park are stunning: The stars are vivid, sharp, and shaped like diamonds.