Big Bend National Park


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North America » United States » Texas » Big Bend
March 17th 2009
Published: March 17th 2009
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After leaving Chiracahua National Monument and with a brief overnight at a nondescript RV park in Van Horn, Texas, we set out for a week of exploration of Big Bend National Park. Although Peter had canoed on the Rio Grande through the eastern end of the park before, this would be all new for Trudy, Lynn, and Jon (and of course the dogs, Moxie, Katie, and Modoc). When we arrived so did a warm spell, with daytime high temperatures in the 90's at river level. The pictures and captions tell the story.


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Photos: 52, Displayed: 22


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Following “Bob” into Big Bend National ParkFollowing “Bob” into Big Bend National Park
Following “Bob” into Big Bend National Park

We are awe-struck as we approach Rio Grand Village with the cliffs of Boquillas Canyon on the horizon. "Bob" is Peter and Trudy's Bigfoot trailer.
Picnic lunch at Dugout WellsPicnic lunch at Dugout Wells
Picnic lunch at Dugout Wells

A functioning windmill water pump keeps this small part of the Chihuahuan desert moist and loaded with birds. Jon had a sandwich in one hand and binoculars in the other.
Rio Grande Village CampgroundRio Grande Village Campground
Rio Grande Village Campground

Peter organizes; “Silver Palace” in the background; cliffs of Boquillas Canyon on horizon. Rio Grande Village was our home base for a week as we made day-trips to other sites. “Dry camping” (no hookups, but nearby water faucets) made conservation important. Both trailers have solar panels, so that helped with electricity.
High water mark in the campgroundHigh water mark in the campground
High water mark in the campground

In mid-September 2008, a Pacific tropical depression in Mexico dropped 30 inches of rain in the state of Chihuahua. Much of this flooded the Rio Conchos River and was released into the Rio Grande resulting in much damage to downriver areas. Rio Grande sediment was everywhere, but most of the campground was open.
RoadrunnerRoadrunner
Roadrunner

These birds were thick in the campground like “robins in a park”. Jon was happy!
Vermillion Flycatcher in flowering acacia tree in campgroundVermillion Flycatcher in flowering acacia tree in campground
Vermillion Flycatcher in flowering acacia tree in campground

We saw the first Vermillion Flycatcher before we were parked at our campsite. They were abundant in the campground and along the river. Jon was very happy!
View of Rio Grande from campgroundView of Rio Grande from campground
View of Rio Grande from campground

The water level in the river was somewhat low, making kayaking with our flat-water boats difficult. Lynn and Jon spent several hours paddling back and forth between riffles in a river section near the campground. Even so, it was good to be on a river.
Trailhead into Boquillas CanyonTrailhead into Boquillas Canyon
Trailhead into Boquillas Canyon

This short trail leads to spectacular views of one of the major river canyons in the park. Before 9/11, the Mexican village of Boquillas was a destination for many park campers and the villagers depended on tourism as a major source of income. The Border Patrol now prohibits river crossings here and the village is largely abandoned.
Moxie and Katie and Modoc (in rear-seat) patiently waitMoxie and Katie and Modoc (in rear-seat) patiently wait
Moxie and Katie and Modoc (in rear-seat) patiently wait

Due to the park’s rule prohibiting dogs on any trails, our pooches spent some time waiting in vehicles (during cool periods) or in the trailers while we took only short hikes. It was not the best arrangement.
Rio Grande approaching Boquillas CanyonRio Grande approaching Boquillas Canyon
Rio Grande approaching Boquillas Canyon

Peter and Lynn prepare to descend to the opening of Boquillas Canyon
Rio Grande approaching Boquillas CanyonRio Grande approaching Boquillas Canyon
Rio Grande approaching Boquillas Canyon

River tours by raft and canoe through Big Bend NP are very popular. The next inhabited village down river from the entrance to Boquillas Canyon is at La Linda, Texas, 30 river miles away. This is very isolated country!
Rio Grande enters Boquillas Canyon. Rio Grande enters Boquillas Canyon.
Rio Grande enters Boquillas Canyon.

The rock walls rise 1000 feet above the narrow river channel through the canyon; class 2-3 rapids can be encountered, depending on river conditions.
Resting Mexican with horse on the south side of the Rio GrandeResting Mexican with horse on the south side of the Rio Grande
Resting Mexican with horse on the south side of the Rio Grande

Commerce is now restricted to the surreptitious collection of “donations” left by tourists for souvenirs picked up on the American side.
Souvenirs from Boquillas MexicoSouvenirs from Boquillas Mexico
Souvenirs from Boquillas Mexico

Walking sticks, crystals, and handmade jewelry. We were warned by park officials not to take any souvenirs, since Border Patrol would confiscate any items they found and fine us. One wonders how this is protecting us from terrorist attack. The sign says that all donations will go to a local Mexican school.
Dry river channelDry river channel
Dry river channel

The river often changes course during flood. Since the international border between Mexico and the US is defined as mid-channel, the location of this border also fluctuates with the river.
Cliffs on the Mexican side.Cliffs on the Mexican side.
Cliffs on the Mexican side.

Cliff diving anyone?
Victor serenades the gringosVictor serenades the gringos
Victor serenades the gringos

When we arrived the man waving was singing Mexican ballads that echoed eerily through the canyon. His name is Victor and he said (in good English) that for 35 years he had been the ferryman that transported tourists across the Rio in a small flat-bottom boat. They would then take burro rides up to the village of Boquillas for a meal and to purchase souvenirs. He said that he is now unemployed but was happy because today was his birthday. We left Victor a small birthday present.
Canoe on Mexican side to collect “Birthday presents”Canoe on Mexican side to collect “Birthday presents”
Canoe on Mexican side to collect “Birthday presents”

The Border Patrol was nowhere in sight (but it was hot and about lunch time).
On the banks of the Rio GrandeOn the banks of the Rio Grande
On the banks of the Rio Grande

Peter and Lynn consider the scene.
Rock Wren on the beachRock Wren on the beach
Rock Wren on the beach

We also heard the beautiful, echoing song of the Canyon Wren and saw and heard the ubiquitous Cactus Wren.
Hawk Moth visits cactus flowerHawk Moth visits cactus flower
Hawk Moth visits cactus flower

These insects were almost the size of an average hummingbird.


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