Big Bend National Park
Our first National Park in the United States, Big Bend NP is located in the very remote SW of the state and not usually a destination on very many travellers itineraries.
It was a 1000km drive from our home base in College Station to Big Bend NP. We headed west not really knowing if this long drive was going to be worth the trip but the reviews of the park definitely sounded promising.
We didn’t want to travel the whole 1000km’s in the same day so we broke it up with a stop over in Garner State Park near Uvalde, Texas. This park was massive, we saw Jack Rabbits, White-tailed Deer, Armadillo and Wild Turkeys. We even had a couple of late visitors to camp a Raccoon and an Opossum! 🙂
We got up early the next day, the main target was a bird called a Caracara which is a Mexican native but can be found along the roads around Uvalde if you’re lucky. We were lucky enough to see 5 of them, the very last one we spotted stopped long enough for me to get this photo!
The road we travelled to Big Bend then followed USA / Mexican border for a fair bit of the trip which was exciting. They police this area very heavily, federal border police were everywhere and a couple of times we needed our passports ready at a checkpoint.
We entered into the park from the eastern entrance and from the moment you drive into the park you are just in aww of the beauty of this place! There are interesting new plant species everywhere including Agaves and Cacti, some were even in flower which was great to see as we were told some only flower for one day per year.
There are three campgrounds in the park, all costing $14 per night (tho no showers), we started at the closest which was Rio Grande village. The campground is set right on the Rio Grande river which is the border between the United States and Mexico. This beautiful oasis was a great introduction to Big Bend NP, within the first 2 hours we saw Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Vermilion Fly-catcher, House Finch and Roadrunner. Here at this end of the Rio Grande river you can cross the border into Mexico at the Boquillas crossing, you have to take your passport with you obviously but you can pretty much just walk over the river if you wanted to.
The next morning we headed towards our next camp spot which was Chisos Mountains. On the way there we stopped in at the Boquillas Hot springs which was well worth the stop. This amazing little pool was set right on the banks of the Rio Grande and you could literally swim 30m to Mexico.
Chisos Mountains campground is located high up in the Chisos Mountains, a very different spot than the lush river side location of Rio Grande village. It was surrounded by massive peaks and is a very popular spot for hiking. Being Easter long weekend we were lucky to get a spot here, it was full up by 4pm.
We found a great little camp spot looking over the valley, it was a spectacular view! We meet the local camp host and she told us of the local Black Bear and also that they often see a Mountain Lion from the camp.
Big Bend NP has around 15 – 20 Mexican Black Bears and about 25 Mountain Lion so our hope of seeing one of them was very slim.. but we were still hopeful! Everyone keeps telling me my middle name is “LUCKY”.
Late afternoon came and we thought we would go and explore the area the Black Bear was spotted which was at the bottom of the camp ground in the valley. The bear was seen sitting in the middle of the pond grazing on the vegetation. Sadly we did not get to see him but we did see a Western Tanager, Acorn Woodpecker and a very very rare Black-vented Oriole.
The next morning we left early heading for Cottonwood campground to make sure we got a spot as they were first come first served and this final camping spot was the smallest. We had a few stops along the way to look for wildlife with not much luck except this beautiful Mexican Jay.
But to our great surprise and excitement we spotted a Mexican Black Bear about 150m off the road.. Even luckier is that he posed for a photo for us!
We made it to the next camping spot by 11am and there was still plenty of room. This place was an amazing little oasis in the desert, we were soon greeted by the local Javelina family (Pig like creature).
This campground was buzzing with wildlife as all the camp spots were fully irrigated and beautifully lush and green. We saw Vermilion Fly-catchers, Summer Tanagers, Northern Mockingbirds, Golden Fronted Woodpeckers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, A pair of Road-runners and also a beautiful pair of Red Racer snakes right by our camp! There was even a sleeping pair of Great-horned Owls in the tree above us.
We even got a bonus thunder storm on our final afternoon in the park, This photo was taken at the top of the mountains looking back over the Rio Grande river where our camp site is.
This was the first rain the park had had all year, so was a very surprise and welcome relief to everyone!
By far the star of the trip for me though was this Greater Roadrunner with a very unlucky lizard!
Overall I highly recommend Big Bend National Park if you find yourself in this part of the world! With its amazing camping spots,vast landscapes and unique wildlife it really is a must see. You might even meet some friendly fellow travellers and get some amazing photos like we did!