Big Bend National Park
PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
Weather Information Hotline
WELCOME to Big Bend!
Big Bend National Park encompasses more than
800,000 acres in southwest Texas. For more than 1,000 miles, the Rio
Grande forms the international boundary between Mexico and the
United States; Big Bend National Park administers approximately
one-quarter of that boundary. Within the 118 twisting miles that
also define the park�s southern boundary, the river�s
southeasterly flow changes abruptly to the northeast and forms the
�big bend� of the Rio Grande.
Because the Rio Grande serves as an
international boundary, the park faces unusual constraints when
administering and enforcing park rules, regulations, and policies.
The park has jurisdiction only to the center of the deepest river
channel; the rest of the river lies within the Republic of Mexico.
- Castolon Visitors Center
- Chisos Mountain Lodge
- Daniels Ranch
- Dugout Wells
- Persimmon Gap Visitors Center
- Rio Grande Village
South of the border, people call the Rio
Grande by its Spanish name, Rio Bravo del Norte. South of the river
lie the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila and the new
protected areas for flora and fauna, which are comprised of regions
known as the Maderas del Carmen and the Ca�on de Santa Elena.
Big Bend National Park has national
significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert
topography and ecology in the United States. Few areas exceed the
park�s value for the protection and study of geologic and
paleontologic resources. Cretaceous and Tertiary fossil organisms
exist in variety and abundance.
Archeologists have discovered artifacts
estimated to be 9,000 years old, and historic buildings and
landscapes offer graphic illustration of life along the
international border at the turn of the century.
The park exhibits dramatic contrasts; its
climate may be characterized as one of extremes. Dry, hot late
spring and early summer days often exceed 100 degrees in the lower
elevations. Winters are normally mild throughout the park, but
sub-freezing temperatures occasionally occur.
Because of the range in altitude from
approximately 1,800 feet along the river to 7,800 feet in the Chisos
Mountains, a wide variation in available moisture and in temperature
exists throughout the park. These variations contribute to an
exceptional diversity in plant and animal habitats.
The 118 river miles that form the southern
park boundary include the spectacular canyons of Santa Elena,
Mariscal, and Boquillas. The Rio Grande, meandering through this
portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, has cut deep canyons with nearly
vertical walls through three uplifts comprised primarily of
Throughout the open desert areas, the highly
productive Rio Grande riparian zone includes various plant and
animal species and significant cultural resources. The vegetative
belt extends into the desert along creeks and arroyos.
Cultural resources in the park range from the
Paleo-Indian period 10,500 years ago through the historic period
represented by Native American groups, such as the Chisos, Mescalero
Apache, and Comanche. More recently, Spanish, Mexican, and American
settlers farmed, ranched, and mined in the area.
Throughout the prehistoric period, humans
found shelter and maintained open campsites throughout the park. The
archeological record reveals an Archaic-period desert culture whose
inhabitants developed a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle that
remained virtually unchanged for several thousand years.
The historic cultural landscape centers upon
various subsistence or commercial land uses. The riparian and
tributary environments were used for subsistence and irrigation
farming. Transportation networks, irrigation structures, simple
domestic residences and outbuildings, and planed and terraced farm
land lining the stream banks characterize these landscapes.
Big Bend National Park lies in south Brewster
County, one of the most sparsely populated areas of the country.
Brewster County consists of 6,204 square miles and has a population
of approximately 13,000 people. Most of the population resides in
two towns: Marathon and Alpine, which lie 69 and 100 miles
respectively to the north and northwest of park headquarters.
The western gateway communities of Study
Butte, Terlingua, and Lajitas have experienced growth in recent
years but still lag behind Marathon and Alpine in terms of
There are as many ways to enjoy Big Bend as
there are people who visit. The diversity of recreational options
here offers something for almost everyone.
While many visitors are content to enjoy Big
Bend from the comfort of the paved scenic drives, others with rugged
vehicles prefer the challenge and remoteness of the park�s many
unimproved dirt roads.
Any park ranger will tell you that neither
desert nor mountains will truly reveal themselves to a motor
vehicle. To experience the best of Big Bend, you should get out on
foot, if only for a short time, and become part of the landscape.
Listen to the desert silence, smell the creosotebush, and gaze
towards a distant mountain range, and you will soon realize how
special this place is.
Did You Know?
While exploring the Big Bend in 1849, U.S. Army Caption Richard
Whiting crossed the Comanche Trail and later reported: "We
struck a large Comanche path. Close together twenty-five deep-worn
and much used trails made this a great road, by which each year the
Comanches desolate Durango and Chihuahua."
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