Postcard From Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend is one of my very favorite national parks. Rugged, sparse, unforgiving land, but in it's way, very beautiful. And if you want isolation, this is where you should head. Located in the far southwest corner of Texas, there are relatively few people, no big cities, no interstate highways and no airports, but lots of clean air and solitude. It takes a while to get there on the 2-lane blacktop roads and in the off-season, you can drive for an hour without seeing another car. Its 801,000 acres is the least visited of all the national parks.

A former Texas state park, it became a national park in 1944 and was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1972. It is a place that merges natural environments, from desert to mountains. The Indians said that after making the Earth, the Great Spirit simply dumped all the leftover rocks on the Big Bend. Spanish explorers dubbed this "the uninhabited land."

To really enjoy your visit, I suggest you get off the paved roads and onto the dirt roads that criss-cross the park. Better yet, hike the trails and even venture off a ways from them. If you do though, take plenty of water, food, proper clothing, and, perhaps most important, a portable GPS so you can find your way back. Don't count on your cell phone as there most likely will be no service. Don't forget your camera; you will find beauty and a bounty of unexpected photo opportunities.

118 miles of The Rio Grand River form the
southern boundary.
On the western side of the park are the former ghost towns of Terlingua and Study Butte. The towns began to be repopulated by loners and hard rock miners, then hippies, and finally artists, poets, musicians, and then folks who just plain wanted to get away from the big cities started to arrive and rebuild the abandoned adobe and rock structures. There are now several motels, a few eateries, several gas stations, internet service and a lot of real-life characters.

To be honest, I selfishly hesitated to say anything about this park. I didn't want to help spread the word and increase the flow of tourist. But it's not as if I have hundreds of thousands of people reading this so I think there is little chance of my words having any kind of impact. If you do make it to "my" special park, do me and yourself a favor - slow way down, take your time, get off the roads followed by the tourist who only stop along the way long enough to take a snapshot or two so they can say they've been there. They haven't. To do that with this park is the same as looking at a picture of a beautiful girl and claiming you know her.

Just a short distance from the road, it's a
different world.