One of the lesser visited national parks, due to its remote location in southern Texas, is Big Bend. Big Bend had been on our itinerary since Day 1, we just weren’t sure how best to attack it given its massive coverage. Having read that it was a good 1.5 hours from Alpine, we opted to stay as close to the park as possible, allowing us an early start near the park entrance. Our camp for several nights was on the outskirts of Terlingua, known as a ghost town. There wasn’t much to do in Terlingua, but they had the basics, presumably due to being used as a base for Big Bend visitors.
Big Bend National Park covers ~1250 sq miles, and its roads end at the Rio Grande, which defines the park boundary for 118 miles and acts as the border between the US and Mexico. The park includes 5 visitor centers (several with exhibits), primitive camp sites as well as a developed area toward the center near the Chisos Mountains. We drove through the developed area as part of our exploration of the park and it included a lodge, restaurant, and amphitheater, but what caught our attention most is that the area was heavily forested compared to the remainder of the park’s arid, harsh landscape. It was a noticeable contrast both in climate as well as native flora and fauna. Fun fact: mountain lions are locally referred to as panthers, from which several areas of the park get their name (Panther Pass, Panther Junction). Mike continues to get his hopes up – and then dashed – when it comes to encounters with predators. However, I’m perfectly content to keep our Caira-girl safe and elude dangerous predators unless, of course, we’d be fortunate enough to admire them from afar. We did happen to notice a tarantula hurriedly crossing our path, but not in time to grab a photo before it scurried into the brush.
We spent approximately 8 hours traversing various parts of the park, and ended up skipping the Rio Grande overlook section altogether due to running out of time. We did manage to catch a glimpse or two of the Rio Grande in other sections of the park. Although, during our visit, it would be more appropriately named the Rio Pequeno. We’d imagined it as a raging river and were truthfully a bit disappointed at its gentle flow in the sections we saw up close (photo below). Would we return? Absolutely, though it would be a biped expedition in order to take full advantage of the hiking and kayaking sans canine restrictions.