There is a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. Here, at the end of the road, hundreds of bird species take refuge in a solitary mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Tenacious cactus bloom in sublime southwestern sun, and diversity of species is the best in the country. This magical place is Big Bend.

Big Bend National Park also marks the northernmost range of many plants and animals, such as the Mexican long-nosed bat. Ranges of typically eastern and typically western species of plants and animals come together or overlap here. Here, many species are at the extreme limits of their ranges. Latin American species, many from the tropics, range this far north, while northern-nesting species often travel this far south in winter. Contrasting elevations create additional, varied micro-climates that further enhance the diversity of plant and animal life and the park’s wealth of natural boundaries.


  • Carry plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day); springs are unreliable despite what maps indicate.
  • Wear a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sun screen when hiking.
  • Avoid hiking during mid-day heat in summer.


Exploring desert and mountain country on foot requires both mental and physical preparation. Trails vary from well maintained in the Chisos Mountains to primitive and barely visible in the desert. Plan hikes within your ability.

  • Take along a map and compass and know how to use them.
  • Carry a flashlight, first aid kit, and signaling device (mirror and whistle).
  • Avoid narrow canyons or dry washes; flash floods may occur during thunderstorms.
  • Stay low and avoid ridges during lightning.
  • If you get hurt or lost, stay in one place to conserve water and energy. Signal for help (using whistle or mirror). In remote areas, mark a large “X” on the ground that could be visible from the air.


Hot weather makes the muddy Rio Grande look very inviting, but swimming is not recommended. If you do choose to swim, wear a life jacket and avoid alcohol.

  • Water-borne micro-organisms and other waste materials can occur in the river and cause serious illness.
  • The river can be hazardous, even in calm-looking water. Strong undercurrents, deep holes, and shallow areas with sharp rocks and large tree limbs are common.


Watch the weather. Winter storms and thunderstorms can move in quickly. Hypothermia and lightning have both taken lives here. Rain can cause flash floods many miles away, so even if the sky overhead is clear, be careful around creek beds and the Rio Grande during the rainy season.

Does this sounds like a new Challenge?

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