To the west of the Big Bend National Park is the nearly-as-large Big Bend Ranch State Park. This park has fewer paved roads and is known primarily for its 4 wheel drive “roads” and multi use trails (equestrian, hiking, and mountain biking). Back in the trails you’ll find remnants of mining and ranching structures. There are a few short and easily-accessible hikes to features such as hoodoos, the Rio Grande river, and a closed canyon. Jeff spent several days mountain biking on the trails, but he’ll have to do his own post on that!
The paved road on the south side of the park parallels the Rio Grande River and is a beautiful drive, or motorcycle ride. Driving all the way through to the other side brings you out to the small town of Presidio, Texas. It is known as a border crossing town (accessing the town of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico) and for frequently being the hottest town in the US during the summer. There’s not much else going on there.
The south visitor’s center contains an informative exhibit describing the geological history, flora and fauna of the area. At the northwest entrance (near Presidio), you find the historic site of Fort Leaton, a well preserved fortified adobe compound. If offers a glimpse into the turbulent days when the fort served as defensive outpost and supply station in the wilderness on the Rio Grande.
Entrance to the park is $5 per person, per day and includes access to all features and the Fort.
Between the two Parks lies the town of Terlingua, TX. Known for it’s “ghost town” ruins, it was formerly a mining town. The ruins are remnants of worker housing. Some of the remnants have been restored and incorporated into modern buildings. One historic building that remains in use is the Terlingua trading company, the former mining company store. At the time, the store was the most fully stocked establishment between San Antonio and El Paso, serving the needs of the minors and surrounding community. It also harkens back to the time when miners were paid in “scrip” redeemable only at this store. The town also hosts a self-proclaimed “world’s best chili cook off” in November of each year. Visiting as we did in February, I can’t judge the validity of this claim.
About 70 miles north of Terlingua lies the town of Alpine, situated at an elevation of over 4400 feet. Alpine has the closest supermarket, fast food restaurant, and movie theater. It also is the home to the Museum of the Big Bend, a small but information-rich museum about the area’s history. Located on the campus of the Sul Rose University, admission to the museum is free.
Two weeks here has allowed us to explore this area and we are moving on to a new location: Las Cruces, New Mexico!