We save the real places that tell the real stories of Texas.
Named for the huge sweeping curve of the Rio Grande, this remote natural treasure covers 800,000 acres accessed by 200 miles of primitive trails, 112 miles of paved roads and more than 150 miles of dirt roads (some requiring high clearance vehicles).
The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River flows through and beyond the park, where river runners float through famous canyons Santa Elena, Boquillas and Mariscal and the rugged, remote Lower Canyons. The park lies within the Chihuahuan Desert, where nature lovers discover an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. Black bears and mountain lions roam the Chisos Mountains, where hikers explore wooded highlands above 7,000 feet.
Exhibits at the park’s five visitors centers –– Persimmon Gap, Panther Junction, Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin and Castolon –– interpret Big Bend’s geology and archeology, in addition to its natural and human history. Historical exhibits range from the Comanche Trail to the U.S. Army’s 1859–60 camel expeditions. Paleontological displays portray when dinosaurs ruled the area, and nature exhibits describe plant and animal adaptation in this harsh desert setting. Geology displays explain the uplifting and erosion that shaped the land. Drive-by exhibits along park roads further explore a variety of topics.
The park is a historical treasure trove, boasting six National Register sites or districts including the Mariscal Mining Historic District, Hot Springs Historic District, Castolon Historic District and the Alvino House. Homer Wilson was a pioneer Big Bend sheep and goat rancher. One of his line camps –– including foreman’s house, storage room and circular corral –– preserves a glimpse of remote ranch life of the early 1900s. Located outside the park’s northern entrance, Hallie’s Hall of Fame Museum houses mementos and historic photos commemorating Hallie Stillwell, one of Big Bend’s most colorful characters. As a pioneer ranch woman, justice of the peace and author, Stillwell epitomized the region’s rugged individualism.
Cover Photo by Robert Hensley via Flickr