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.
Jon and Lynn are two sixty-something, retired, PhD ecologists seeking the wisdom from the natural world that can only come from first-hand experience with things and events. Our current arrangement is to keep a house as a home-base near Ithaca New York, where we have lived for the past 35+ years, spend summers in our trailer around New England (where Lynn's extended family resides), return to Ithaca for the fall and early winter, and depart for warmer climes after the Christmas-New Years holidays. We travel with Moxie, a Bichon Frise, in an 28 ft. Airstream trailer pulled by a Ford F-250 dies... full info
Picnic lunch at Dugout WellsA 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 CampgroundPeter 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 campgroundIn 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.
RoadrunnerThese birds were thick in the campground like “robins in a park”. Jon was happy!
View of Rio Grande from campgroundThe 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 CanyonThis 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.
Rio Grande approaching Boquillas CanyonRiver 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. 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.
Souvenirs from Boquillas MexicoWalking 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 channelThe 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.
Victor serenades the gringosWhen 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.