Big Bend doesn’t set itself up to be a winner. Some of the park literature even says things along the lines of “Some people just don’t get Big Bend National Park.”
I’ll admit it. When we drove in to the 1,000+ square mile park it didn’t seem like anything special. Sure, it was hillier than the rest of the state of Texas. But beyond that? Not much.
Everything that I had read pointed to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive as the best introduction to the park. So I’ll give you the scoop. The park is pretty, but it’s also desert-pretty. If you’ve seen prickly pear cactus and some good-size craggy mountains, you’ve seen 99% of the park.
But there’s one part of the park that you won’t find anywhere else, and that’s the “Big Bend” itself. For more than 1,000 miles the meandering Rio Grande River marks the US / Mexico border, and over 200 miles of that goes through the National Park. At the end of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive the river takes a sharp 90-degree turn, creating a spectacular canyon titled Santa Elena. That canyon is a definitely a place worth writing home about. Rumor has it that at one point you needed a passport to raft down the river!
The middle of the Rio Grande conveniently marks the international boundary between the United States and Mexico, and wading across the river is strictly forbidden – even at parts where the “river” is shallow and maybe 25′ across.
Ayo’s Big Bend claim to fame is that she increased the land mass of Mexico by tossing a couple of rocks across the river. I can’t match that, but I can happily report that a $10 backcountry camping permit gets you up to two weeks of camping at an assigned spacious backcountry site – even in an RV. That’s pretty unusual for a National Park.
posted by yair