December 3, 2010

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is a somewhat hidden treasure in Texas.  I say somewhat hidden because it's off the beaten path by miles.  It is about a 7.5 hour drive from Austin but it's well worth the effort.  This was our third Thanksgiving in the park with a group of close friends.  Our kids have grown up together and both families will be sending one off to college so we thought it a good idea to have one more year of what we lovingly call "forced family fun".

Big Bend is named after a large bend in the Texas-Mexico border.  The park shares approximately 244 miles of border with Mexico along the Rio Grande river.

Big Bend National Park has the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United Sates which includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals.

The park covers 801,163 acres and archaeologists have discovered artifacts estimated to be 9,000 years old. Historic buildings and landscapes offer clear illustration of life along the international border in the 19th century.

We camped outside the park at Study Butte and drove into the park daily.  The first day we chose to go off road on the Ore Road Trail.

Four wheel drive is recommended on the off road trails.  It's not a particularly difficult road but it's a 34 mile loop - so it's a commitment!  We traveled along through desert toward the mountains.

The plant life is what you'd expect in the desert...lots of cacti and succulents.  Most everything had thorny spikes.

Fortunately we stopped several times along the trail to take in the scenery so I was able to take photos...I'm sure you're all familiar with how much your family hates it when you want to stop and take a picture!  Honestly, they were good sports about it.

Are you surprised by the variety of color in the desert?  We definitely were!

We came across these ruins along the trail where miners worked decades be honest though, the sky stole the show for me.

At the end of the Ore Road we came upon this escarpment of rock.  You can get an idea of the vast scale by comparing the size of my family and friends with the surrounding canyon.  There were caves to be explored and standing water at the bottom of the canyon.

I hope you'll join us again soon as we travel along this winding road to other adventures in the park...I'll be posting about the beautiful vistas from the Lost Mine Trail which we hiked through in the Chisos Mountains, the highest elevation in the park, and the Sand Hill in Boquillas along the Rio Grande river which is the lowest elevation in the park.



  1. What amazing shots of amazing scenery, particularly like the one of the road into the mountains. You are incredibly lucky to have such a wide range of flaura and fauna!
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  2. Hi, wonderful pictures..i really liked.. I will keep coming by to see this wonderful space you have.

  3. Spectacular scenes and so different from my part of the world. Trust me, forced family fun will become treasured stories in the future... I love to listen to my grown kids embellish tales of our trips from long ago. Thanks for the tour!

  4. Awesome! We went out west last summer and visited over a dozen National Parks, but this one wasn't on our list. If I get a chance to go back to Texas I'll definitely try to see it!

  5. Thank you so much for telling me about this beautiful national park, which I had never heard of. It's a hike from PA, but I can add it to my life list. Carolyn

  6. Big Bend is spectacular!! When we went there a few years ago, I was amazed at the pink prickly pear :-) Can't wait to see the rest of your pics! Did you get a chance to go to the Botanical Garden down that direction? I had no idea such a variety of plants grew in the desert. Big Bend is a gorgeous display of God's creation indeed!! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  7. Thanks for sharing these photos. I find the scale of things amazing and as you say the colours. It is nice to see these views which are so different from what we have here in the UK

  8. Add some protea filled fynbos on the mountains and you could swop our pictures. We have the prickly pears too (invasive aliens ;>) Lucky both of us have cameras so when one stops, the other makes use of the chance!

  9. These are really awesome shots. They all look like a great postcard image. It looks like a great trip and beautiful park. Hiking would be a grand experience. Loved the tour.

  10. Awesome trip Cat - thanks for taking us along ! Love those sky shots. And what an understanding family you have to stop to let you make photos (I too have lots of photos of my family going on ahead and calling me to hurry ;-)

    Oh, and those close-ups of the cacti are superb !

  11. What a gorgeous park! Your photographs are spectacular. Beautiful skies and vistas! Then you bring us up close and prickly. I would never have guess this would be Texas. Thanks for the education!

  12. What a fantastic time you all had! This is a park that has long been on my list! It's so beautiful~the sky is certainly attention stealing! gail

  13. Thanks for visiting John, we are blessed to live in such a beautiful state!

    Thanks Stone Art and DS, glad you enjoyed the tour.

    Hi Laurrie, I look forward to those embellished stories very much! Thanks for stopping by.

    Eliza, wow 12 national parks! Amazing - there are so still so many I need to see! Big Bend is worth the trip for sure though.

    Dear Carolyn, yes, definitely a hike from PA but well worth it! Thanks for visiting!

    Thanks Toni! God's glory is revealed everywhere you turn in the park...didn't make it to the botanical wouldn't have stood for that! (Not with all the hiking, etc. to do).

    Dear Patient Gardener, The vast, immense openness of the park is awe inspiring! I enjoy your posts for the very same different from my own neighborhood in many ways but in a lot of ways the same...

    Elephants Eye, I often marvel at how similar our landscapes are and the similarity in plants we garden with. It makes me happy to watch your garden blooming as mine is going to sleep for the winter.

    GWGT, hiking is amazing there and I'll post about a 5 mile hike we took into the Chisos Mountains next. I hope you enjoy it!

    Thank you Rick. Yes, there are quite a few times that my son gave me the heavy sigh with the sideways smile...his way of saying he's had enough!

    Dear Carol, Thank you. Texas is an amazing state with such diversity that I'm often amazed. I think the next couple of posts will surprise you as well! Stay tuned ;-)

    Dear Gail, thank you. I hope you can visit he park soon...maybe next Thanksgiving...the weather is beautiful there this time of year!

  14. Stunning photographs, Cat! You really captured the essence of the West Texas dessert. I agree with you, the sky does it for me too!

    Thanks for sharing :)

  15. Thanks Diane, I'm glad you enjoyed the tour!

  16. Thanks for sharing your family expedition and incredible photos! (I did laugh at your comment 'stopping for photos'... I drive my family nuts.) You brought us a part of Texas many would have never known about - way cool. (Though Austin rocks!!!)

  17. BTW Cat - you have an amazing gift for photography (which I'm sure all your blog visitors and followers would agree with). Anyone can have the 'tools', and digital photography amps it up for many ... but it is a true artist that has the eye you do.

  18. Dear Shyrlene, I can't argue with you-Austin definitely Rocks! I'm glad you enjoyed the tour of Big Bend - it truly is a magical place.

    And thank you so much for your generous compliment. There is so much joy and beauty to be found in our gardens and it brings such pleasure to be able to capture it in photography. I never dreamed when I started this blog that I would have "followers" and I so appreciate you all and your thoughtfulness and encouragement - it means so much to know that a photo I've taken brings some happiness and joy to others and maybe just made their day a little bit better ;-)

  19. It is quite a beautiful park. I've never been to this area of the country so I really enjoy traveling with bloggers to new places. The vistas are magnificent. I hope your Thanksgiving even grander too.

  20. Thanks Tina. We had a most unconventional Thanksgiving of tenderloin, asparagus and spinach salad! It was delicious but we're missing the turkey and dressing so will be having a "normal" Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow! I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful too ;-)

  21. What a great idea to visit Big Bend at this time of year. We might just have to try it next holiday season! My hubby and I have been talking for a long time about taking the kids to Big Bend -- we made it as far as the Davis Mountains this year (on the way back from our summer vacation to CO, AZ, and NM)... now we just need to go a bit farther!

  22. Your pics, as always, are beautifully composed and stunning. Do you use a polarizing filter for those blue-sky shots?

    We have not yet been to Big Bend and kick ourselves every year when we see bloggers post pics of it.

  23. I would highly recommend the trip Meredith. It is one of our favorite places along with CO and NM. I remember enjoying your pictures this summer of your trip -they were amazing! My son and husband went to the Davis Mountains late in the summer for a primitive camping trip and loved it! I still haven't been there but it's on my list!

    Hi Pam, I would definitely put Big Bend on your list of places to visit - I don't think you would regret it!

    Thanks for the compliment on the photos. No, I don't use any filters, the sky was just that pretty!


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

Thanks for taking the time to visit!