A Sneak Preview of Big Bend National Park

Leaving the Texas Canyons Behind

Before exiting Seminole Canyon State Park, we made a quick stop just up the road at awe-inspiring Pecos Canyon.  This canyon was formed by the Pecos River, which flows from the mountains of New Mexico for almost 1,000 miles through West Texas before dumping into the Rio Grande.   Folklore has it that the river is where the mythic wild west began, and was the stomping grounds of the legendary Judge Roy Bean – a Texas justice of the peace known as “The Law West of the Pecos”. 

Pecos Canyon

High canyon walls dominate the final miles of the Pecos River before it enters the Rio Grande

The Pecos River High Bridge was completed in 1957.  Previous to this structure, several low-water bridges had been built between 1923 and 1954, only to be destroyed by floodwaters.  The new 1,310 ft. long Pecos River High Bridge towers 273 ft. above the river, making it the highest bridge in Texas.

Pecos River High Bridge

Pecos River High Bridge

Leaving Seminole Canyon SP, our 80-mile drive along US-90 to Marathon followed Texas flatlands void of trees, vegetation, mountains, people and pretty much everything else.  I was getting a bit bored, then started seeing mesa-topped mountain grasslands in the distance as we ascended some hills.  Topping a final crest, we both got excited as we saw real mountain ranges come into view – yay!

US 90S towards Marathon

Oh look, mountains ahead!

Pardon my exuberance, but we’ve had “mountain withdrawal” since before our arrival in Texas last November.  I could hardly contain myself as these beauties came into view. Beginning now, I can finally resume posting about new mountain adventures, and show the west Texas range in its various shapes and forms.

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Discovering Big Bend

Marathon is considered the Gateway to Big Bend, and along with the rest of the region, it guarantees some of the darkest night skies in the continental U.S.  We made a quick stop at Marathon with the intention of seeing those dark skies.  Because of its remoteness, low population density (430 full-time residents), geographic location, and being surrounded by multiple mountains, Marathon has been blessed with the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Unfortunately, with a storm forecast to come through during our 2-night stay we knew we’d be disappointed.  At least we were able to drive into town to enjoy an excellent dinner at the historic Gage Hotel.  A bit pricey, but it was fun to check out such an interesting place in the middle of nowhere.

Gage Hotel

Getting Betsy back on the road, we were eager to begin our drive into Big Bend National Park.  Cruising along scenic HW-385, I snapped away at every mountain I saw – and there were a lot of them.  One of the most spectacular were the flatirons along East Bourland Mountain.  I learned that a flatiron is a short, triangular hogback which forms a ridge or spur on the flank of a mountain that looks like a flatiron.

Flat Iron Mountains

Our new home base was beyond the southwest side of Big Bend National Park, so we traversed through the park, entering via the north entrance and exiting out the west gate for our destination at the little town of Terlingua.  And it was quite a drive; Big Bend National Park encompasses over 800,000 acres, and we racked up almost 100 miles going through it just to get to our next stop!

Persimmon Gap

Persimmon Gap

Big Bend National Park

Mountain Bluebonnets in full bloom lined miles of the park’s road, the best bloom in many years according to the rangers

From here on I will let the pictures I snapped from Betsy’s passenger seat as we drove along speak for themselves.

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Panther Junction

Our first stop in the park was at the Panther Junction visitor’s center

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Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert scenery

Chisos Mountain

The Chisos Mountains were covered in fog the day we arrived

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The variety of geology here continued to amaze us, and reminded us a lot of Death Valley

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We finally arrived at our home base at BJ’s RV Park, which was located 20 miles outside the park’s west entrance.

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Not much more than a parking lot, but we’ll explain why we liked it so much in our review

Considering that  Big Bend National Park is so massive, these photos are just a teaser of what’s to come…

 

Next up:  Remote, rugged and wild – Big Bend National Park.