Big Bend – Rio Grande and More

Big Bend - Marufa Vega 2

Rio Grande Village is more crowded than the Chisos Basin campground because it provides showers and laundry. 

This area is also where I started to understand the “border issues”.

Big Bend - Trinkets The Rio Grande River forms the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. Before 2002, the border was open in several places in the park; a dated video still shown at the Panther Junction Visitor Center encourages visitors to visit Boquillas, a border town and meet the locals.

Now the border is closed and the closest border crossing into Mexico is over 100 miles away at Presidio, TX. At a trailhead close to the Rio Grande Campground, I found trinkets and walking sticks (see above) with a note explaining the price of the items and how to pay for them; of course, buying these items is illegal.

Big Bend - Marufa Vega 1The signature hike in this area was the 14-mile Marufo Vega.

The hike started in a typical wash – a dry streambed – with ruins of an old tramway that brought ore from Mexico in the early 20th Century – see the picture above, with Phil, our fearless leader. Then up the limestone cliffs of Dead Horse Mountains where the village of Boquillas with its flat-roofed house is visible. The hike was hot and dry – I carried three quarts of water and probably should have taken more.

We moved to Cottonwood Campground, the most primitive campground of the three. There was only water in one place, a faucet on the other side of the campground. This precious water was to be used only to drink. My daily toilette consisted of running a wet bandanna over my face and brushing my teeth.

Unlike most Western parks that were carved out of Federal land, the land that became Big Bend was owned by ranchers. The state of Texas bought out the private land and turned it over to the Federal Government and it became a National Park in 1944.

Big Bend - Homer Wilson RanchHomer Wilson Ranch is still standing. A 0.5 mile walk (round trip) off the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road leads to the house, storeroom, and corral.


This Sierra Club trip was well-organized and planned. We did some solid
hiking. We also spent one day rafting the Rio Grande with a commercial outfitter.
Our guide, Adam, came from Sylva, North Carolina, close to Asheville. When Adam and I spent too much time talking about the Smokies and the Blue Ridge, I knew that it was time to go home.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed back to Midland and civilization. I was very careful where I walked.


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