Big Bend National Park is named after the big bend in the Rio Grande where it takes a sharp turn north. It is literally in the southwestern point of TX and miles from everything. It is at least 100 miles south of I10 and mostly out of reach of any TV, Radio, internet or phone service. So, if you really want to get away from IT ALL, this is the place to go.
The park is bordered on the south by the Rio Grande and Mexico, it includes the entire Chisos mountain range and a large part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Which makes for some amazing geological features. Mountains, desert and a mighty river all in the same place for a 100million years and this is what you get. From the ocean floor to dinosaur habitat to what you see now. Femur bone from a dinosaur found in the park.
The Rio Grande was a mighty river before irrigation diversions along the way. Although it swells with seasonal rains while we were there the river levels were very low its hard to imagine the river being navigable but it must be, there are lots of outfitters. There are three major canyons within Big Bend carved by the Rio Grande. West to east they are Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas canyons. Mariscal is only accessible via high clearance 4×4 and a long hike, so we did not get to see it.
The river flows gently out of Santa Elena so gently it’s hard to believe that over thousands of years that meager river cut thru solid rock creating 1,500 feet high cliffs that are as close together as 30 feet in places.
The layers of rock on the canyon wall make the river appear to be running steeper than it actually is, this created a real weird visual mind game about what level actually is. Pretty cool optical illusion.
What an awesome canyon, and when you got deep enough in that the cliffs provided shade the temp dropped at least 15 degrees!!! We did see canoe/kayakers paddling up river into the canyon, guess the steep sides squeezes the water into a narrower path with enough depth to paddle, still looked pretty shallow though.
On the other end of the park the river flows into the Boquillas Canyon. This canyon and the surrounding Del Carmen mountains contain the longest and deepest canyon at 33 miles long without put in or take outs and over 7,000 feet from this tallest peak of the Del Carmen’s (Pico peak) to river level.
We found it hard to understand how a river could flow into a mountain range and the canyon when the river is what supposedly cut the canyon??? It should be flowing out of the mountains not into them. And the surrounding area is mostly flat desert??? That is when we learned that over these 100s of millions of years, the surrounding desert actually sank leaving the large sheer cliffs around Santa Elena and the craggy mountains of the Del Carmens. The Boquillas canyon does not have the straight up canyon walls of Santa Elena, but is beautiful in its own right.
Peace, Love and Justice for all!!!