Gazing out at the barren, baked landscape of the southwestern Texas desert, visitors to the Big Bend region may not expect a thriving population of plants and animals to be nestled inside the cracks and crevices of the volcanic rock that comprise much of the terrain. A closer inspection of the area quickly reveals that this is not the case, as interesting flora and fauna are discovered, vegetation and wildlife that survive the arid heat of the day and the deadly cold of the desert night. Many of the organisms that call Big Bend home owe their sustenance to the Rio Grande, the river that winds its way through this rocky domain. In fact, Big Bend National Park and the surrounding areas that share the moniker obtained their nickname from the large U-turn that the Rio Grande takes there. It is the Rio Grande itself that offers visitors to Big Bend a wide variety of activities that are certain to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Guests of Big Bend do not even need to navigate the waterways of the Rio Grande to appreciate its beauty. Depending on the weather, season, or time of day, the river displays the many facets of its personality. Sunsets along Big Bend's Rio Grande are unmatched, as the rose-colored water washes a calm over sightseers that puts the mind at ease. Even when the sky peers down with a sullen, hazy eye, the Rio Grande stares back with gleaming waters that shine beneath the gloomy skies. Soon after the sun has set or just before it has risen in the morning, deep blue hues mix with rusty reflections of the surrounding cliffs to paint a portrait on the water that makes it rather easy to forget that technological intrusions such as automobiles and computers exist at all.
If it is action rather than sightseeing you seek, the Rio Grande can accommodate you in this department as well. Because of various irrigation projects, the river is usually too dry to fish or raft upstream of Big Bend National Park. Near Presidio, however, the Rio Conchos drains into the estuary to resuscitate the Rio Grande. A 191-mile stretch of the Rio Grande has been designated a national wild and scenic river. The scenic aspect has already been made apparent, and the wild aspect is soon clear to those brave enough to tackle the rapids and currents found on the mighty waterway. Because of the potential dangers, visitors are required to carry a permit to float the Rio Grande while in the park. These permits may be obtained from headquarters, ranger stations, and from rangers themselves. If the river has reached flood stage, permits are not issued because the Rio Grande can be flat out deadly when the waters have risen that high. The summer and early fall seasons experience a number of storms, so flash flooding becomes a concern during this period.
Though kayaking and canoeing are certainly welcome on the Rio Grande, river runners would be better served to traverse the waters via an inflatable raft. Kayaks and canoes are made of less forgiving material, and suffer greater damage when cross currents slam them into the rocky protrusions found along the route. It is highly advisable that no one heads out on the river alone due to the unpredictable nature of the currents and unforeseen rapids that may spring up in front of the raft. Life jackets are a necessity, and the ability to swim is highly suggested. This is not to make the Rio Grande sound prohibitively treacherous, it is simply to emphasize the importance of preparedness.
Inside the boundaries of Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande presents an aquatic adventure that is sure to please everyone from scenery lovers to marine thrill-seekers. It is an ancient reminder in an ancient land that nature still rules supreme, and that we humans are hardly grains in the sands of time. Those who have admired the Rio Grande both from its banks and from upon her waters are well aware of this fact.
There are some views you just can't take in all at once. Like a dazzling sunset or breathtaking field of wildflowers—you just can't appreciate such beauty in the moment, a moment that is often over before you realize it, the forms and colors of that marvelous vista already fading in your memory. Perhaps it was with the goal of preserving such scenes that the first camera was invented, a goal that you may still share when you visit a place as beautiful as Big Bend and the surrounding area. Why not take a look through our new and improved photo galleries to see what amazing sights have been preserved by astounded visitors and appreciative locals? When you see the mountains, plains, flora, and fauna displayed in those images, you'll be glad the gallery contributors took their camera along.
Among the many activities available in Big Bend National Park that highlight the region's diversity of wildlife, birding can be enjoyable and promising. Big Bend engulfs a vast area, bounded by the the rushing Rio Grande valley to the south, containing high peaks in the Chisos Mountains, and boasting both desert and forest climates between the two. It embodies the very diversity that makes America great, providing countless opportunities to spot more than 450 birds in one area.
What are your new year's resolutions for 2012? Did you keep your resolutions for 2011? While the top resolutions each year include losing weight, learning something new, traveling, or getting out of debt, here's a new challenge you can take on this year: spot all the bird species in Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend has some of the most spectacular scenery in Texas, if not the entire US. Our big sky country rivals any other state and our night skies are as dark as anywhere for excellent star gazing. The beautiful light and great scenery make for a photographer’s paradise.
There are many things you may love to do in Big Bend National Park in the heat of summer, but running or jogging is probably not one of them. With 90+ degree temperatures, there simply is no such thing as a nice July run in West Texas. With the dry weather we've had this year, you have truly hostile workout conditions. That all changes this time of year, though, as temperatures drop and the sun gives us a break for a few months. What a great time to get out on some trails in Big Bend!