Big Bend National Park, Texas

Pointing Out The Obvious, Are We?

 

Never before have we been in a situation where the name of the place we were talking about was truer. In fact, everything about the Big Bend National Park is…well, big! No, wait – even that is an understatement! It’s actually huge! But, then again, that is the way things are in the state of Texas. Them Texans don’t do anything small and simple, do they? That has also never been truer than in the case of the Big Bend National Park.

Ever heard of the saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”? Again – this is another thing that is right on point about the Big Bend National Park. Why do we say this? Could it really be that obvious? Well, all we can say is – yes, it IS that obvious. The BIG in Big Bend National Park can be said to stand for Blatantly, Insanely Ginormous! Truth be told – we’re just trying to make sense of the Park’s name here, and we’re obviously failing miserably. So, let’s just get back to the facts.

Hate To Break It To Ya…But Size DOES Matter

 

There’s a good reason why it’s called BIG Bend National Park – the darn thing covers 801,163 acres (324,219 hectares)! Let’s put it this way: have you ever been to the state of Rhode Island? You have? Well, if you visit this National Park, you’ll be standing in a place larger than the aforementioned state! Do you get the picture of how huge it is now? After all, how could it not be? It has 75 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles, 450 species of birds and in excess of  1,200 species of plants!

The Big Bend National Park is in Texas, we’ve already told you that. But what we didn’t tell you is that this Park is of great national significance. Why? Because it is the location of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion – the largest one of its kind in the entire United States!  Also, when it comes to the study and protection of paleontological and geologic resources, this Park is one of the most valuable on the planet. Several artifacts have been discovered within the Park that archaeologists have determined to be more than 9,000 years old. In addition to this, 19th century life along the international border is vividly illustrated by breathtaking landscapes and historic buildings throughout the park.

A Blessing And A Curse

 

Since Big Bend National Park is located in Texas (for the third time), you can understand that it borders Mexico. In fact, the international boundary between United States and Mexico is partially formed by the Rio Grande (otherwise known as Rio Bravo). Along this natural boundary is also the Big Bend National Park, for a section of 118 miles (190 kilometers). This area of the river is administered by the Park for recreational purposes. Actually, we too were surprised to hear that this particular area was how the Park got its name. A large bend in the river itself, and consequently – the border between Texas and Mexico, is the reason for the name Big Bend National Park.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the Park when it comes to the Rio Grande. It can be said that the river is a double-bladed sword. Precisely because it serves as a natural boundary, the Rio Grande causes atypical constraints for the Park’s staff in their daily duties of administering policies, regulations and rules. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 is the reason for this. It states that the territory of the Park cannot exceed the center of the deepest river channel. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Treaty didn’t refer to the flow of the river as it was in 1848. Additionally, the Treaty also states that the remainder of the land to the south of that particular channel (including the river) falls under Mexican jurisdiction.

Big Bend National Park, Texas – Plenty To Offer, But Only Few Enjoy It

 

The Big Bend National Park is also a place of contrasts. It would be completely logical to assume that visitors are swarming the place on a daily basis. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Although it’s one of the largest National Parks in the country, it also happens to be one of the least-visited ones. Perhaps this has to do with its relatively remote location and perhaps with other reasons. Be that as it may, the number of visitors in recent years has not climbed higher than 350,000.

Considering its size, the primary attractions of Big Bend National Park are backpacking and hiking trails. When it comes to these, several stand out. For example, the Outer Mountain Loop trail features a thirty-mile loop through the high mountains, the desert and the Chisos basin. The Marufo Vega trail is also a loop that takes you to the Rio Grande and back, cutting through beautiful scenic canyons along the way. Also, the Chimneys Trail is another popular trail that takes you to an interesting rock formation in the middle of the desert.

There are also several other features of the park that are very interesting for visitors. One of them is the Mule Ears, which are two towers made of rock standing in the middle of the desert. Others include the Grapevine Hills, Santa Elena Canyon etc.

Plan Wisely

 

If you happen to be from out of state, the best option for visiting the Park would definitely be to land in Midland/Odessa and then rent a car for the rest of the way. It would probably be good to use one of the larger cities near the airport to stock up with food, gear, tents and everything else you may need for camping. This because small towns in the vicinity of the Park simply don’t have everything you may need if you plan on camping. Also, make sure you check the weather no matter what season of the year it is, because the last thing you want to do is be surprised by an unforeseen circumstance. Other than that – just go with the Park’s name and make a BIG experience of it!

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