Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Bend

We made a day trip out of our time at Big Bend National Park.  We left the Roadrunner at the RV park in Alpine, drove in a counter clockwise direction through Study Butte/Terlinqua (stopped for gas), then to Santa Elena Canyon, Panther Junction and down to Boquillas Canyon, back to Panther Junction, to Marathon and back to Alpine.
It was an ambitious day and we would have preferred to spend more time and take some hikes, but our reservations only lasted until Wednesday morning.  The Cowboy Poets Gathering is coming to Sul Ross State University for the 25th annual event and reservations are hard to come by.

So we started out and saw the spectacular high desert and mountains south of Alpine.
 This part of Texas is really three distinct environments:  The desert, the mountains and the river. The Chihuahua desert landscape reminded me of the Tucson area at times.  The high mountains rise to over 7800 feet in the distance and are quite scenic.  Then the Rio Grande river serves as the border between Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico.
 Once at the entrance to Big Bend, we used our America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.  It was $80 and entrance into the park would have been $20 for us so we are going to get our monies worth pretty quickly.
Along the way, we stopped at a number of overlooks on the way toward Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon.
 In the distance we could see Mule Ears and we stopped near Tuff Canyon.  It had a short trail down into the bottom but we decided to keep moving.  The canyon is has a distinct look with the 'consolidated or cemented volcanic ash'.  Reminded us a little bit of the Badlands of South Dakota.
The Visitor Center at Castolon was a little sparse but adequate and we only stopped for a few minutes on our way over to Santa Elena Canyon.
Near the canyon, we saw the dramatic cliffs bordering the Rio Grande.  It didn't really seem like Mexico could be so close but there it was.  We stopped for lunch at an overlook and had a picnic.
 The canyon is spectacular.
 After time on the west side of the park we made our way over the Rio Grande Village and the visitor center on the east side.  We thought the scenery on the west side was much more interesting.  We wanted to see Boquillas Canyon and stopped at another overlook along the river.
At a rest stop we could see some trinkets for sale.  Purchases were on the honor system.  Everything was $6.  Across the river, we could see some Mexicans who were anxiously hoping tourists would buy their wares.  It looked like they cross the river on the horse, set up their modest displays, then watch all day for people to buy something.

The economy has severely affected the nearby town.  The folks live in a village of about 20-30 people but a couple of years ago the village had about 200.

After that, we drove back up to Panther Junction, then on to Marathon and Alpine to complete our driving tour of Big Bend.  It was a long day of driving but with our limited time here, we wanted to see as much as we could.  We are glad we came and got to see it.  It was worth the trip.

Thanks for checking in on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. Big Bend has been on our list of places to go for the last few years! We're definitely taking the motorhome there next fall...thanks for the photos!

  2. Big Bend looks like a picturesque place to tour around..thanks for the great tour and sharing all the photos!

  3. Last time we drove through Big Bend we didn't own an RV...There are definitely places you couldn't take one...loved the tour.We hope to get there again one day..

  4. Great pictures. Big Bend is on our list for next year, probably in early January.

  5. Thanks for the nice tour of Big Bend. The pictures are great!

  6. Big Bend is one of the first National parks we will visit full time. Thanks for the great preview.

  7. Oh ambitious driving indeed! Wow!

    Big Bend is one of our favorite places, we'll be going back for a couple of weeks in April. Gotta do it before fuel prices skyrocket again!

    Too bad you're going to miss the cowboy poetry festival, it's one of the most authentic ones in the country.See if BC Ranch will put you up in a boondocking spot (they did for us last year). Even if you only have a day to spend at the campus listening to poets and music, it is SO worth it!

    Happy Travels!

  8. Beautiful pics and thanks for the tour of Big Bend. It sure looks like a great spot to visit.

    By the way, in answer to your question on Live Writer, unfortunately it is not available in a MAC version. It's another one of those Microsoft vs Apple problems!

  9. LOVE all the pictures thanks! We are debating a dip down to this park on our travels...from your photos I think we should squeeze it in :) There is so much to see and so little time really with only 4 1/2 months for this trip. I heard somewhere that big bend is better for smaller RV's do you know this to be true or not? Our trailer is 35' but with our truck we are about 51' and and I would hate to squeeze the trip down in and then not find a place to park :) Thanks!