The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Gulf States >> Texas
Big Bend National Park

The Big Bend region is one of the few places on Earth where geological processes are so clearly shown that an untrained person can understand them. The Chisos Mountains, for example, were created by volcanic eruptions during the Age of Dinosaurs and by the later action of erosion. Boquillas, Mariscal, and Santa Elena canyons reveal geological history for the past 100 million years, or about one-fifth of the earth's known history. Fossil trees millions of years old are also found in the park.

Some of the bizarre rock formations in the Chisos Mountains
some of the bizarre rock formations in the Chisos Mountains

Rio Grande River
the Rio Grande River

Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon

Big Bend National Park lies in southwestern Texas, on the Big Bend of the Rio Grande River. Three distinct ecological worlds exist within the park. Along the river, prickly-pear cacti grow beside a virtual wetland in the shadow of a desert mountain. The park is home to 75 species of mammals, 55 species of reptiles, 430 species of birds, and 1,000 varieties of plant life.

map showing location of Big Bend National Park

Relics of an ancient cave dweller civilization and of the later Comanche Indians have been found by archaeological excavations in the park. In the late-1800's the Big Bend was the land of Pancho Villa and Judge Roy Bean, of ghost towns and buried treasure, Indian wars, and of roving bands of desperadoes.

The Big Bend is the last great wilderness area of Texas. There is no public transportation to or within the park. The north entrance is 42 miles south of Marathon and the west entrance is 70 miles from Presidio; there is no east or south entrance. Although much of the park can be explored by automobile, there are many more miles of unimproved roads than of paved roads. From the park headquarters at Panther Junction, a paved road goes southwest 20 miles to Rio Grande Village, where visitors can park and hike along the river. A side road leads to the remains of what was once Hot Springs, Texas. The stone walls of an old post office and a motel are still standing, and the 105 spring is still impounded in a shallow rock pool that was once enclosed by a bathhouse. Another paved route leads to the Chisos Mountain Lodge, which offers 72 rooms that are usually booked far in advance. There are more than 150 miles of hiking trails in the park, but they are not intended for the casual hiker.

Texas gave the land that is now occupied by the park to the federal government in 1935, and the 1,252-square-mile park was opened in 1944.

Brewster County (Texas) Tourism Council
National Park Service

Rio Grande River
Pancho Villa

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Old Northwest >> Gulf States >> Texas

This page was last updated on June 25, 2017.