Big Bend or Bust – January 2018

I’ve wanted to visit Big Bend for a very long time and finally we are going. Of course it seems like driving there takes forever and ever! The road goes on endlessly through plain desert surrounded by mountains. And on, and on. And after driving a very long time through the park, we finally got to our campground, the Rio Grande Village campground.

This wall of rock behind the campground was lit up every night.

It was a large campground without any hookups. Every evening at sunset the Del Carmen mountains behind our campground lit up a beautiful pink and then red. It was a very special sight. There is a lovely trail at the back of the campground which leads you up the mountain to get better views of more mountains, the river, and even to look back over the campground. The evenings are full of bright beautiful stars. Although, we did not stay out too long to gaze at them because the nights also became very cold with below freezing temperatures while we were there.

A portion of the campground is visible in the distance.
Boquillas Hot Springs

We spent one afternoon at the Boquillas Hot Springs. It’s a gravel road down to the river which leads to an upper parking lot for rv’s and dually’s. Then the road narrows and leads down to another parking lot for cars. It’s about a half-mile hike between the parking lots and then another half-mile on the trail to the hot spring. There are a few historical old buildings of a store, an office, and a motel from when it was once a private business.

The natural hot spring on the river has an amazingly beautiful location. We enjoyed some entertainment while we were there as well. Some of the young people just had to jump in the river and swim to the other side, about 40 feet, step on the sand embankment, and swim back. They then declared they had been to Mexico and could scratch it off their bucket list. The current was moderately strong, but they all proved their strength and swam well.

This was our first time we entered another country by rowboat.

The next day we decided to legally cross over the border at the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry with some friends we made at the campground. Here you will need a passport. Then you walk down to the river and a friendly Mexican man will row you across to the other side, maybe 75 to 100 ft., in his rowboat for $5.00, which includes your passage back. Then you can ride a mule, horse, or pickup truck for another $5.00 for both ways or walk. We were cheap and chose to walk into town.

There were two restaurants in town (at least that catered to US visitors). We had some very good goat tacos here.
From the river, you could walk, ride a mule or ride in the back of a pickup truck. The mules were self-guided, as you can see.

When you get there, you must stop at the immigration / customs office and get your passport stamped and we received a short term visa slip. We did some shopping in one of the stores and then walked through the very little and humble town for a while. Next, we settled in one of the two restaurants there for lunch and we all enjoyed a plate of goat tacos. It was truly delicious.  Satisfied with our lunch and shopping, we walked back to the river and got our rowboat ride back across to the U.S. The river here is very scenic and the rowboat ride is much too short. Now a short walk back up to the U.S. customs and immigration and see if we can get back into our homeland. You need to fill out some paperwork and slide your passport into a machine, then use the phone to call an agent in El Paso who asks a few questions, and if you answer them correctly, you are free to go. It was a fun touristy activity. I got a big kick out of it. Only one problem. We forgot to turn in our visa’s back to the Mexican immigration office, and get our exit stamp. Well the fellow on the U.S. side didn’t think that was an issue. And we are back home.

A view of the river from town.

It was so beautiful there along the Rio Grande River at the border. I can’t even imagine the thought of spoiling all this beauty by a big ugly wall. All that time I spent along the river and camped near the border, and saw no problems and not even a need for guards or policing. Why not strive for peace like this instead?

Old Maverick Road was scenic in places, but probably not worth the nearly constant washboard.
Gilberto Luna apparently raised a large family in this jacal (house). It was remarkably cooler inside than out, although I could not stand up inside and can’t imagine raising a large family here.

Time for more exploration of the park. We drove the scenic drives and stopped for photos and points of interest, and short hikes. First we drove the Old Maverick Road, which was a gravel road and pretty much a washboard all the way. I truly would not need to do this road again and don’t recommend it for any rv’s or low clearance vehicles.

A view up the Santa Elena Canyon from the end of the trail.

This road then led to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive which had many stunning views and stops, including the beautiful Santa Elena Canyon, Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook, and a few more splendid sights.

The Mule Ears (upper left) were one of many interesting rock formations in Big Bend.
Roadrunners were everywhere.

We spent another day taking a drive to the Chisos Basin.   The road rises over two thousand feet above the desert floor with stunning views of the mountains. There is a campground, a visitor center, a lodge, and many lovely trails to meander on. However, the road is limited to vehicles under 25 ft. because of its winding up the mountain. That is why we did not camp in that campground.

A view from the Chisos Basin.

We also managed another afternoon of the scenic drive. There were a ton of trails, but we kept mostly to shorter ones (under two miles) on this visit. Even with that limitation, there was tons to see.

There is so much more to do at Big Bend NP. But we had reservations at our next stop near Fort Davis and needed to move on. I do hope to go back and explore some more and hopefully ride a rowboat back into Mexico again with no wall.

A horseman following the Rio Grande.

4 thoughts on “Big Bend or Bust – January 2018”

  1. The pictures are amazing of BigBen and the San Antiona we stayed a month in Harlington,TX and
    went across into Mexico and shopped. The first time we walked across and thesecond time we
    had the Mexicans pull us across by boat and that was something…….
    Aunt Doris Have Fun! I am enjoying your travels.

    1. Big Bend is definitely a beautiful area we’d like to return to sometime. I guess we went first class since they rowed us across into Mexico. Still have to get to the far south of Texas near Harlingen and Brownsville. Perhaps next year.

      Glad you’re enjoying our posts and can come along with us (virtually, at least).

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