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Date of visit:
April 5, 2002

For location of this site in TX, click on the map:
Location of Big Bend National Park ...

We rate this site a:

Site Highlights:
 Isolated location
 Popular in spring
 Magnificent mountains
 Great hiking
 Bear & Lion country
 Hike Windows trail
 Hike Lost Mine Trail
 View Mexico
 Santa Elena canyon
 Step on Mexican soil
 Chisos Mtn. Lodge
 Scenic drives


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Big Bend National Park
View from top of Lost Mine Trail
View from the top of Lost Mine Trail

Big Bend - An Overview
Welcome to Big Bend National Park In Big Bend National Park all roads end at the Rio Grande, the boundary between the United States and Mexico.

But far more than two nations meet here. Three states come together at Big Bend: Texas in the United States and Coahuila and Chihuahua in Mexico. And many of the park's famous, expansive vistas mix scenes belonging to both nations.

One of the park's best-known features, Santa Elena Canyon, is only half a canyon on the U.S. side. Its canyon walls on the river's south side tower high above Mexico. Big Bend National Park also marks the northernmost range of many plants and animals, such as the Mexican longnosed bat. And ranges of typically eastern and typically western species of plants and animals come together or overlap here.

Here many species are at the extreme limits of their ranges. Latin American species, many from the tropics, range this far north, while northern-nesting species often travel this far south winter.

Its location on a bird migration route between South, Central and North America makes the park excellent for bird-watching. The Rio Grande corridor also provides a migration highway by which many species pass through the desert.

Contrasting elevations here create additional, varied micro-climates, which further enhances the diversity of plant and animal life and the park's great wealth of natural boundaries. Birders and other wildlife watchers know that the greatest numbers of species often are found at the ecotone or transition area between adjacent ecological communities or habitats. In Big Bend the varied ecotones formed by river, desert, and mountains result in an outstanding diversity of wildlife.

The Windows Trail to the Chisos pouroff
This way to the WindowsThe Window Trail begins in the Chisos Mountains Basin and can be easily reached from the lodge or campgrounds. The trail goes to The Window, a gap in the Chisos Mountains, where all of the basin's pouroff is chanelled into the valley below.

A Warning!For a good portion of the hike, you are following a creek that eventually drains off the Chisos down into the desert. If you walk from the Basin to The Window and return, the total distance is about 4 miles. The hike begins at 5300 feet and The Window is at about 4800 feet so it is a rather gradual drop except for the last section where you approach The Window.

The Window ends in a nearly vertical 600 foot drop to the desert floor so BE CAREFUL as you approach it. The rocks are very slippery, even when dry, and even more treacherous when wet. You can hike down into the desert by taking the Oak Spring Trail but the descent (and subsequent ascent) are rather steep.

Site Gallery - Windows Trail
On the Windows trail On the Windows trail On the Windows trail
On the Windows trail On the Windows trail On the Windows trail
On the Windows trail On the Windows trail On the Windows trail
On the Windows trail On the Windows trail On the Windows trail
The Lost Mine Trail - The Grand View
This way to the trail .... The head of the Lost Mine Trail is located by a parking lot on the road leading to the Chisos Basin. It is not clear if the Lost Mine is lost or if it never really existed.

There are plenty of rumors about "lost" mines and caches of gold and older valuables throughout the Southwest. You will not find the lost mine when on this trail but there are plenty of other things to see.

The trail is a dead end and the round trip distance is 4.6 miles. The last portion of the hike is rather steep and rocky so sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended. The end of the trail has a wonderful view and is a good place to take a rest before starting the downhill journey.

Site Gallery - Lost Mine Trail
On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail
On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail
On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail On the Lost Mine Trail trail
The Boquillas Region & Hot Springs
To Boquillas Drive to the Bolquillas Overlook and gaze at the village of Boquillas del Carmen on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande. Another spot that you can drive to by car and explore relatively easily is nearby Hot Springs. There are several hot springs in the region of the Rio Grande, but this one is apparently the largest, with a flow of 250,000 gallons per day at a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It is located in an isolated area adjacent to the Rio Grande River.

Native Americans were apparently the first users of the hot spring, as indicated by the hollowing out of the rock, resulting in a tub of sorts. Other indications of their activities are pictographs on the cliffs.

The site was homesteaded by J. O. Langford in 1909 but was deserted in 1913 due to problems with Mexico. The Langfords returned in 1927 and built a post office/trading post, a motel, and a camping area. Charles Livingston built a bathhouse around the hot springs. The post office building remains, along with the foundation of the bathhouse.

Bathers still use the hot springs, which historically have been credited with curing a large number of ailments. It is very relaxing to sit in the hot spring water and watch the Rio Grande.

Site Gallery - Boquillas and Hot Springs
Boquillas Overlook
The Boquillas Overlook into Mexico
Boquillas Overlook Boquillas Overlook Boquillas Overlook
Boquillas Overlook Boquillas Overlook Boquillas Overlook
Hot Springs
Hot Springs Hot Springs Hot Springs
Hot Springs Post Office Hot Springs Motel THE Hot Springs
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive - Castolon
The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive skirts the Chisos Mountains on the western side of Big Bend. A one-way trip, this drive highlights the desert landscape of the Big Bend area. Accessible from this road are numerous attractions including the Wilson Ranch, Mule Ears Peaks, the Chimneys, Burro Mesa Pouroff (similar to the Chisos Pouroff) and finally the Historic District of Castolon -- on the way to the Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande.

Set below the towering cliffs of Mexico's Sierra Ponce, Castolon was a small trading and farming community if far southwest Texas, active in the early and mid 1900s. While the existing buildings were constructed in 1920 during a brief period of military occupation (see Castolon Compound), the community and its history span a larger area and a longer time period.

Castolon's history includes famed tales of bandits and soldiers, farmers and ranchers, and the overlapping cultures of Mexico and the United States. The story of castolon includes the everyday lives of people who lived, worked, raised families, and sometimes died here.

Site Gallery - The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and Castolon
View from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Along the Maxwell Loop Wilson Ranch Santa Elena Canyon in the distance
Santa Elena Canyon in the distance Mule Ears Peaks  
Castolon Historic District
The greater Castolon View
Castolon - early farming along the Rio Grande
Magdalena House Guard Shack Granary and tack shed
Enlisted Barracks (La Harmonia House) Enlisted Barracks (La Harmonia House) Officers' Quarters
NCO Quarters Alvino House Alvino House
Alvino House Alvino House Greater compound view
Santa Elena Canyon & Santa Elena, Mexico
The Canyon ... Except during the flood season, the quiet waters of the Rio Grande do not appear to be strong enough to carve out the Santa Elena Canyon. But the canyon, at 1,500 feet deep and composed principally of limestone and lying mostly in Mexico, was carved out just that way. Walk from the parking lot, along the dry river bed of the river's overflow into the mouth of the canyon.

Walk down the dirt road to the river, pay $2 per person to be rowed across the Rio Grande, and walk ashore at Santa Elena, Mexico.

A small community nestled on the banks of the river, Santa Elena is frequented by many Big Bend visitors bent on having a quick lunch, south of the border. Other than that, there is virtually nothing to do or see here. Just an hour's diversion ... but interesting. Santa Elena is NOT A SANCTIONED PORT OF ENTRY. (see plat of village)

Site Gallery - Canyon & Village
Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon Panorama
Santa Elena Canyon Santa Elena Canyon Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena Canyon Santa Elena Canyon Santa Elena Canyon
Santa Elena, Mexico
Santa Elena Santa Elena Santa Elena
Santa Elena Santa Elena Santa Elena
Santa Elena Santa Elena Santa Elena
For More Information
ParkNet: Gateway to the National Park Service
Visit Your National Parks

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