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Big Bend Ranch State Park

    Adjacent to the National Park is Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, with over 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness in a remarkably rugged, remote and unpopulated setting. The Park extends along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas in both Brewster and Presidio Counties. Embracing some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest, it encompasses two mountain ranges containing ancient extinct volcanoes, precipitous canyons, and waterfalls. The area has been a crossroads of human activities for over 11,000 years, as diverse people and cultures have been drawn by the abundant resources and fresh water of 118 springs, as well as the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo corridor. The river here is significantly different from the character of that in the National Park, with the steep walls of the Colorado Canyon coursing through a different geologic chapter.
    A particularly unique feature is one called, The Solitario (photo below) or, The Hermit. A ribbed caldera, it is one of the world's largest and most symmetric molten-rock domes at eight miles across, and one of the few that have actually erupted. Sculpted since by erosion, it's an earthly feature reportedly easily recognized from space.
    An amazingly recent park, having been opened to the public only since 1997, it is the result of the force of personality of a concerted number of individuals that long appreciated its character and prevailed on the powers that be to make it happen during the narrowest of moments of opportunity. Comprised in great part of the remnants of a monstrous ranch, the headquarters at the center remain that of the ranch house and support buildings of the long established operation. Occupying an area larger than the rest of all of the other Texas state parks combined, the level of visitation here is nearly non-existent in comparison. Nonetheless, it has been the affectionate focus of enough folks in the state system to have benefited from a surprising degree of "help", even though not thoroughly justified in the eyes of some state legislators. Though extremely wild, there are established facilities, trails and campsites. It's really one of those parks that truly remains a secret.
    We've had the opportunity to taste but a fraction, and can only imagine the untrammeled treasures that await. What we can currently attest to from personal experience are some marvelous day hikes and day river trips though Colorado Canyon (Class II & III). Other options include mountain bike and horse rentals available in the Park's center. One intriguingly unique option is to spend a couple of nights at the old ranch "Big House" at Sauceda, the Park's headquarters (see lower photo). Built in 1904 as part of the ranch complex, and with only three bedrooms that are seldom rented, you'll feel transported to another time with meals taken in the nearby bunkhouse amongst the working ranch "hands" and park staff.  In fact this part of the park feels far more like a ranch than anything else, as a remnant herd of Texas Longhorns free ranges nearby. If so inclined (and physically fit and horse savvy) there is an annual round up and cattle drive here in April that accepts a few paying members of the public. From what we've heard, it's most definitely not a dude ranch, and just like the professionals, you fall in to your bunk at night sore and bruised. Ahh, but what an experience.
    No matter what your itinerary, you'll be getting an exposure to the park's southern stretches, as we'll undoubtedly be traveling the River Road during your visit --labeled one of the "Most Scenic Drives in North America" by National Geographic.

Big Bend Ranch State Park official site

Park Newsletter, El Solitario - PDF format

Map of Big Bend Ranch State Park - printable PDF

Detailed Map of BBRSP - (fully scalable)




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