17 Jul A Visitor’s Guide to Big Bend: Part 2
As I am winding down my time here out in the Big Bend, I have been exposed to more sights and locations that I would recommend to visitors to fully understand the grandeur of the park. Some of these places I haven’t yet visited but are on my list for where to visit later on hopefully within the next couple weeks of my internship, however I wanted to write it up for friends and family who are planning to visit.
Mule Ears: Mule Ears are an extension of the Chisos Mountains, which are named after how similar they look to the ears of a mule. The peaks’ elevation is around 3,881 feet above sea level. Geologically, they are the result of large rhyolitic dikes that were at some point surrounded by tuff, a rock made of solidified volcanic ash which, in comparison to the rhyolite that Mule Ears is composed of, is a lot softer and easier to erode away, leaving Mule Ears to be exposed. It’s a great scenic view that really encapsulates the previous violent history of volcanic eruptions.
Tuff Canyon: Not far from Mule Ears is the Tuff Canyon site, a canyon composed of mainly tuff and another type of rock called trachyte, another igneous rock that is darker than the tuff that is mostly found in the canyon. On a good day, after some rainfall, you may be able to see a large pond where water collects towards the edge of the canyon (although I would not recommend swimming or wading in it). It is a fun place to explore and walk down into if you have some time and good hiking shoes!
Hot Springs: It seems odd that in a place that is so hot and arid we can find enjoyment soaking in water that matches the same temperature as the surrounding desert, however that is not the case when it comes to the Hot Springs at the Big Bend. Here lies the remains of an old resort lodge/primitive bathhouse which are still present here, along with some cool Native American pictographs on the hike along the way to the springs. The hot springs themselves, heated by the leftover remnants of the Big Bend’s volcanic past, offers a nice cleanse of the soul overlooking the Rio Grande and the fantastic scenery that Big Bend has to give.
Elephant Tusk: Elephant tusk is located east of Mule Ears, and is another part of the complex Chisos mountain range. The peak reaches up to 5,249 feet in height and is composed of the same kind of rhyolite as Mule Ears and the rest of the Chisos, which was part of Big Bend’s volcanic phase almost 30 million years ago. It is about five miles from the nearest road or campsite, but still can be seen from several accessible vantage points in the park. Hiking up the peak is not an easy task and is advised for only experienced hikers to achieve during the cooler months of the year, mainly due to the risk of heat exhaustion and stroke.
Rio Grande Village/Rio Grande: The Rio Grande’s bend is the namesake for the park, and should be part of everyone’s visit who passes through these gates. The Rio Grande Village (RGV) is the easiest access to the river for boats and RVs, and also for campers who want to stay close to the river. Complete with a store, RV hook ups and more, RGV is the largest campsite in the park. The river itself can be accessed here as well, along with spots along the Boquillas Canyon trail. The river rushes through the canyon and throughout the park at a steady pace, and is the force that carved out these massive canyons (Santa Elena and Boquillas Canyon); it is a force of nature that should be appreciated by everyone.I hope that these posts help plan out your trip to Big Bend, and that you have enjoyed this series. I still have a couple more weeks and I will be updating more things to appreciate about this park.