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As national parks go, Big Bend isn’t exactly a top draw. Due to its remote location and modest reputation, it tends to fall through the metaphorical cracks for many travelers. That’s a shame because this marvelous spot offers just as much all-natural eye candy as its flashier cousins. Take a look at these Big Bend National Park facts to find out why you should tack a visit on to your bucket list.
Where is Big Bend National Park located?
Big Bend National Park is situated along a stretch of the Rio Grande River, which forms the international border between Mexico and the United States. 118 miles of the river are located within the borders, including the “Big Bend” that gives the park its name. At Boquillas, there’s a port of entry that allows visitors to the park to cross over into Mexico.
A few interesting Big Bend facts: It’s one of the most remote parks in the national registry. As such, it sees relatively low traffic. In 2019, just under 464,000 people visited the park. By way of comparison, Acadia National Park in Maine hosted 3.44 million visitors during the same period.
Why Visit Big Bend National Park?
Because of its location, a visit to Big Bend can be considered something of an exotic experience. In fact, if you want to float through the Santa Elena Canyon—a popular activity for park-goers—you’ll need a passport, since the trip takes you through international waters. While this might sound complicated, it’s actually not a big deal long as you have all of your paperwork in order before you arrive.
Speaking of Santa Elena Canyon, the site offers a hiking trail that’s both simple and sensational. The round-trip hike will take you along the edge of the Rio Grande astride canyon walls that rise up 1,500 feet, giving you spectacular views with minimal effort. With an elevation of just 80 feet and a total length of 1.7 miles, you can finish the hike before lunch and have plenty of time left over for other pursuits. Other popular hikes include Chimneys Trail, with its excellent wildlife viewing opportunities; and the Marufo Vega Trail, a strenuous 14-mile loop trail that should be considered only if you’re in peak physical condition.
The park’s unique topography and broad elevation range also makes it a haven for biology lovers. At last count, Big Bend was home to no fewer than 1200 plant species, along with 75 species of mammals and 450 bird species. Because many of these birds spend time in the area during migration season, the park is especially popular with bird-watchers.
Some of the other animals you might encounter include golden eagles, roadrunners, black-tailed jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, and coyotes. Those with herpetophobia (fear of reptiles) might want to steer clear, however—56 species of reptiles can be found within Big Bend’s borders as well.
What is special about Big Bend National Park?
Every national park has its “wow” factor, and Big Bend is no exception. Because it has some of the darkest measured skies in the continental United States, the area is ideal for star-gazing. Prior to this unforgettable spectacle, the Chisos Mountains provide a jaw-dropping backdrop for the setting sun.
Big Bend National Park is larger than the state of Rhode Island, covering 8,000 acres of land. Its lowest elevation (at the Rio Grande) measures 1,715 feet, while it stretches to 7,832 at its highest point on Emory Peak. As such, it offers a diverse range of experiences, making it an appealing choice for all nature lovers.
Additionally, the park is thought to be the biggest Chihuahuan Desert protected region in the United States. The sheer size of Big Bend National Park, coupled with its fascinating topographical map, makes for some truly unforgettable scenic drives.
How old is Big Bend National Park?
Some of the most interesting facts about Big Bend National Park involve the history of the land. While it was named a national park as recently as 1935, there have been artifacts found on the site that is thought to date back at least 9,000 years.
What is the best time of year to visit Big Bend National Park?
Casual guests and experts alike are split on the best times of year to visit this unique geographical region. While the late spring-early summer months of May through July are prized for their sunny, temperate weather, the NOAA claims that the area is driest through mid-March to late May. Another dry spell occurs in mid-September and stretches through early November.
The takeaway? Visit during the summer months if you can, but don’t be discouraged if you have to settle for the spring or the fall. It’s possible to have a great time in Big Bend National Park no matter what time of year you arrive.
Where should I stay when visiting Big Bend?
The ghost town of Terlingua is a must-see, and the best place to hang your hat when you’re planning a multi-day visit to Big Bend. Though its glory days as a mining hub are long past, Terlingua maintains its Wild West vibe without sacrificing any of the modern conveniences.
If you’re planning a camping trip, check out the Chisos Basin. This area doesn’t offer much in the way of frills, but if you’re here to check out the starry skies, it’s the best option.
Finally, if there are youngsters in your party, we would recommend Alpine. It’s the safest spot in the region, and there are plenty of family-friendly activities available. Within easy driving distance is an airport offering hot-air balloon rides, and some of the local saloons host live music sessions.
And there you have it: A recap of the most pertinent Big Bend National Park fun facts. Although it’s not one of the most well-traveled spots on the national map, Big Bend is a worthwhile and fascinating place to spend your time. If you’re a bird watcher, a stargazer, or an all-around nature lover, you’re bound to find plenty to love within the borders of Big Bend National Park.