by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Visitor Guide 2023
Visitor Guide to Big Bend National Park (NP) in Texas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
Big Bend National Park National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Texas The Paisano Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River Visitor Guide Volume 40 Number 1 2023 The free-flowing Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River winds its way through Boquillas Canyon. Big Bend in Your Pocket More Inside... Superintendent’s Welcome Welcome to Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River! Your visit comes at an opportune time, as increasing visitation and pressures on park infrastructure put us at a crossroads. Today’s decisions have huge implications for the future, in both the developed and wild areas of these parks. • In 2024, we expect to begin demolition of the old Chisos Mountains Lodge and construction of its replacement. The design and quality of the new, highly-sustainable facility is what this crown-jewel national park deserves. Thank you for your patience during the transition. We recognize that this will impact your experience greatly. Safety ���������������������������������������������������� 2 Visiting Mexico��������������������������������������� 3 Things to Do��������������������������������������� 3–4 Day Hikes ����������������������������������������������� 7 Big Bend News������������������������������������5&8 Park Partners ������������������������������������������ 9 Camping and River Use������������������������� 10 Wildlife������������������������������������������������� 11 Information and Services����������������������� 12 • Efforts to see permanent protection for more than 535,000 undeveloped acres of Big Bend are gaining momentum. This protection will not impact existing developments or uses in any way but will assure that our grandchildren experience Big Bend as we do today. You can help—see www.keepbigbendwild.org. Superintendent Bob Krumenaker What Can I See if I Only Have... One Day: Three Days: A Week: Big Bend is too big to see in a single day, but for a taste of the park and what it has to offer, visit the mountains, desert, and river with the following itinerary: With three days to spend in the park, explore the major roads, do some hiking, and join a park ranger for a guided walk, talk, or evening program to learn more about Big Bend National Park. With a week or more to spend in Big Bend, endless possibilities are open to you. You have plenty of time to explore the roads andhike or drive some of the “unimproved” dirt roads. For these, you’ll need a high-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle; don’t forget to check at a visitor center for current road conditions. 1) The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive offers fantastic views of the Chihuahuan Desert landscape as you wind your way to the Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon. Scenic overlooks and exhibits along the way are well worth a stop. Short walks through Sam Nail Ranch, Homer Wilson Ranch, and the Castolon Historic District allow a glimpse into Big Bend’s past. EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA™ Big Bend National Park PO Box 129 Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 At the end of the scenic drive, take the short walk to the river and into Santa Elena Canyon—one of Big Bend’s most scenic spots and an easy 1.4 mile roundtrip hike. 2) Visit the forested Chisos Mountains and walk the 0.3-mile Window View Trail to get a feel for the mountain scenery. If time allows, hike the Window Trail or Lost Mine Trail for a look at Big Bend's mountain landscapes. 3) The Fossil Discovery Exhibit, located 8 miles north of Panther Junction, is another highlight that could easily fit into a oneday visit. Consider spending a day in each of the three major areas of the park: 1) Visit the Chisos Basin and hike the Window Trail (5.6 miles round trip) or the Lost Mine Trail (4.8 miles round trip). Consult page 7 for trail descriptions of these and other popular trails in the park. Try to experience Big Bend's wilderness as much as possible. 2) Explore the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and hike into Santa Elena Canyon (see “one-day” suggestions). 3) Drive to Rio Grande Village, stopping at Dugout Wells to walk the half-mile Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail. The Rio Grande Village Visitor Center offers park information and interpretive exhibits. Walk the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. The bluff overlooking the Rio Grande at the end of the nature trail is a particularly beautiful spot at sunset. The Boquillas Canyon Trail, takes you into this spectacular canyon. The River Road, Glenn Springs Road, Old Ore Road, and Old Maverick Road are some of the more popular backcountry routes. A visit to the pool of water at Ernst Tinaja near the south end of the Old Ore Road is a Big Bend highlight. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, improved dirt roads such as Dagger Flat and Grapevine Hills will get you “off the beaten path.” Hike the Chimneys, Mule Ears, or Grapevine Hills trails for a closer look at the desert environment. If you’d like to explore the Chisos Mountains, trails to Boot Canyon, Emory Peak, and the South Rim offer good views of the park and take you into a world that seems far removed from the desert. There are plenty of opportunities for overnight backpacking along these trails. A backcountry-use permit is required to backpack and camp overnight. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River The National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916, "... to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life... and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Authorized by Congress in 1935 and established in June 1944, Big Bend National Park preserves the most representative example of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem in the United States. Park Mailing Address Big Bend National Park PO Box 129 Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 Phone 432-477-2251 Park Websites www.nps.gov/bibe www.nps.gov/rigr On matters relating to the Paisano: National Park Service Editor, The Big Bend Paisano PO Box 129 Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 firstname.lastname@example.org This issue was printed with support from the Big Bend Natural History Association. The National Park Service cares for the special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA™ Protecting Yourself and the Park Big Bend may be wild and unfamiliar country, but it need not be dangerous. Please review these guidelines for safety and resource protection. No Collecting Heat Water Conservation The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve all natural and cultural resources unimpaired for future generations. Taking rocks, arrowpoints, plants, or animals robs everyone of this heritage—once something is stolen, it cannot be replaced. The dry desert heat quickly uses up the body's water reserves. Carry and drink water—at least 1 gallon per person per day. As you exercise, you lose salt and water (over a quart and a half per hour during arduous exercise). You need both to survive in this extreme environment. Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake—the diuretic effects accelerate loss of body water. • Visitors are limited to 5 gallons of water per day when refilling containers; please conserve water while in the park. • Don’t let faucets run unnecessarily. • Wash only what clothing items you need. • Fill water jugs and bottles at Rio Grande Village whenever possible. • Consider topping off RV water tanks outside the park. • Take brief showers. • Please report water leaks in park facilities to a ranger. • Use backcountry water sources sparingly; leave backcountry springs for wildlife. It is unlawful (and rude) to destroy, deface, injure, collect, or otherwise disturb park resources, including plants or animals (dead or alive), fossils, rocks, and artifacts. It is a violation to possess park resources. Please, take only pictures and leave only footprints. Driving Drive within the speed limit (45 mph in most areas) and watch for wildlife along the roadsides, especially at night. Park roads have narrow shoulders and some roads are steep and winding. Share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians. Pull off the road to take pictures—do not stop or pause in roadways. Please, slow down...and enjoy! Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft is prohibited in Big Bend National Park. Protect your body—sensitive skin burns easily. Find shade, wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a brimmed hat. Wear longsleeves, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Hiking Wildlife Trails vary from easy and well-maintained to strenuous, primitive routes. Plan hikes within your ability. Avoid ridges during thunderstorms and canyons or creek beds when flash flooding is possible. Carry a flashlight and first aid kit, and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you get hurt or lost, stay in one place to conserve water and energy. Rest in shade if you can. Observe Big Bend’s wildlife from a distance. Wildlife is protected in the park; it is illegal to harass or harm wildlife. Never feed wild animals. Feeding wild animals damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Protect wildlife and your food by storing food and trash securely. Please keep your children close; don't let them run ahead on trails. Venomous snakes, scorpions, spiders, and centipedes are active during warm months. Pay attention: check shoes and bedding before use and use a flashlight at night. Your Fee Dollars at Work There are 423 National Park sites across the country, and 108 of those—including Big Bend National Park—collect fees under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. This act allows parks to collect fees for entrance and recreational activities. Visitation in Big Bend has climbed in recent years and so has our revenue! Big Bend now collects a little over $2 million in recreation fees annually and the law dictates that 100% of that money stays in the National Park Service. Not only that, 80% of recreational fees collected in the park are reinvested right here in Big Bend! Where does the other 20% go? The funds that we do not retain in Big Bend go to sites that don’t collect fees and need additional funding for projects with direct benefit to visitors. Approximately $1.7 million per year is spent directly on projects benefiting the visitor experience at Big Bend. These projects may include deferred maintenance projects or projects that improve park roads, campgrounds, trails, and visitor centers. Below are a few of the recent projects made possible by money collected from park fees. Lone Mountain Trail This new 2.7-mile trail was completed in 2022 using recreation fee dollars. It is the first new trail in many years in Big Bend and 2 The Paisano one of the only trails around the Panther Junction Visitor Center area. The trailhead is located one mile north of Panther Junction. The trail circumnavigates Lone Mountain, a remnant of a volcanic intrusion, providing unique views of the Chisos, Rosillos, and Dead Horse mountains. Cottonwood Campground In 2008, a major flood event washed away five campsites at Cottonwood Campground. In 2022, those five sites were rehabilitated using your fee money, increasing the total sites at Cottonwood from 24 to 29 and adding to the available inventory for visitors seeking to experience solitude and grand vistas from the comfort of their tent. Providing Shade for Campers Anyone who has camped at Big Bend knows shade is vital to an enjoyable trip. Shade is even more valued at Rio Grande Village campground where daily temperatures exceed 100°F for more than 3 months out of the year. The lack of shade has also become strikingly obvious in recent dry years, as many of the shady cottonwood trees that once stood tall over the campsites have died. Using recreation fee dollars, the park added more than twenty shade structures at Rio Grande Village Campground in 2022. This addition should make the campground more enjoyable for generations to come! Your fee dollars paid for the construction of the new Lone Mountain Trail. The nearly three-mile loop trail starts within a mile of Panther Junction and circles the mountain, offering stunning views of the Chisos Mountains. Things to Do Birding Hot Spots Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village • Dugout Wells—shady cottonwood trees and a windmill at this desert oasis. • Rio Grande Village Nature Trail—a boardwalk over the pond is an excellent area for waterfowl. • Daniels Ranch Picnic Area—the cottonwood trees provide excellent shade to both resident and migrant species. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive • Sam Nail Ranch—a windmill and large trees attract birds to this historic ruin. • Blue Creek Trail—a half mile from the Homer Wilson Ranch are the Red Rocks, an area known for Lucifer Hummingbirds. • Cottonwood Campground—large trees here provide a haven for birds. Chisos Mountains • Basin area—many mountain birds can be found around the campground and developed areas. • Boot Canyon—the nesting area of the Colima Warbler and other species. • South Rim—this 2000' cliff is known for falcons and swifts. Birding in Big Bend The Colima Warbler The park is recognized as a Globally Significant Bird Area. Big Bend National Park is famous for its birding, with more documented species of birds visiting the park throughout the year than any other unit in the National Park System (approximately 450). The diverse array of habitats, ranging from the riparian corridor of the Rio Grande to the forested canyons of the Chisos Mountains, present an attractive stopping point for birds traveling along major migratory paths that intersect the park. A good guideline for birding in Big Bend is to seek out areas where water and vegetation are most abundant, such as the Rio Grande, the Chisos Mountains, or desert springs, some of which are accessible by car. Generally the most active time for birding is in the spring when many species are migrating through the park. However, with patience, birding in Big Bend can be rewarding throughout the year. The riparian corridor at Rio Grande Village offers some of the best year-round birding in the park. Consider walking the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail or visiting the Daniels Ranch picnic area west of the campground. A similar habitat is accessible between Cottonwood Campground and Santa Elena Canyon on the park's west side. The piñon-oak-juniper woodlands of the Chisos Mountains and their foothills also offer accessible, year-round birding and attract many species of birds that would not otherwise be found here. It is well worth the effort to hike into the higher elevations. During early summer you may spot the sought-after Colima Warbler, which is only found outside of Mexico in the Chisos Mountains. Patience, a good field guide, and knowledge of where to look are the keys to locating birds in Big Bend. A checklist of birds is available for purchase at any visitor center and is a great aid in determining which species are likely to be present and the habitats where they are found. One of the most sought-after bird species in Big Bend is the Colima Warbler, a type of New World warbler found primarily in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. A small population nests in the higher elevations of the Chisos Mountains beginning in early summer. Finding one is the tricky part! Visitors hoping to spot a Colima Warbler usually have to make the strenuous, 9-mile round-trip hike to the bird's main habitat in Boot Canyon. Occasionally they are spotted closer to the trailhead on the upper portions of the Pinnacles Trail. Good luck! Visiting Mexico A unique part of the Big Bend experience is crossing into rural Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico. Operating Hours Winter Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9am–4pm Summer Hours: Friday to Monday, 9am–4pm Days and hours of operation are subject to change. A visit to Mexico is permitted through the Port of Entry during business hours only. There is no other legal access to Mexico within Big Bend National Park. General Information The Boquillas Port of Entry is operated cooperatively by the National Park Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The facility is staffed by park rangers who can assist travelers with information about visiting the area. only at Boquillas Crossing, but is not recommended if the river level is high. Once across the river, walk to the village (1/2 mile) or pay an additional fee to ride on a burro, horse, or in a vehicle. Local guides are available. Visitors are required to check in with Mexican immigration officials upon arrival in Boquillas. What is in town? Boquillas features two restaurants with food that is simple, fresh, and good. A bar features pool and other games. Residents often display wire sculptures, embroidered textiles, walking sticks, and other handicrafts for sale. U.S. currency is accepted in Boquillas. Visitors are advised to bring smaller bills. Required Documents At the time of publication, U.S. and Canadian citizens (of any age) must present a valid passport to enter Mexico and re-enter the United States. Visitors from countries other than the U.S. or Canada must call Customs and Border Protection at Presidio, TX (432-229-3349) for current required travel documents. How do I get there? Park at the Boquillas Crossing parking lot. Pass through the Port of Entry and take a small rowboat across the Rio Grande for a modest fee ($10 round-trip as of 5/22). Wading across the Rio Grande is permitted Border Merchants Near the border, you may encounter small “souvenir stands” and Mexican nationals wanting to sell you their crafts. It is illegal to purchase these items in the park. Items purchased illegally are considered contraband and may be seized by law enforcement officers. Port of Entry staff can answer questions about items that can be legally purchased in Mexico and imported through the Port. By purchasing souvenirs in Boquillas, you support the citizens of Boquillas, make the river corridor safer for all visitors, and help protect the resources of this ecosystem. The village of Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico. Safety On the Border Big Bend has a low incidence of crime reported. However, in any remote or seldomtraveled location, it is important to consider personal safety and to secure valuables while away from your vehicle. • Know where you are at all times and use common sense. Cell phone service is limited or non-existent in many areas of the park. • Keep valuables, including spare change, out of sight and locked in your vehicle. • Avoid travel on well-used but unofficial “social trails.” • Do not pick up hitchhikers. • People in distress may ask for food, water, or other assistance. Report the location of the individuals to park or Border Patrol staff as soon as possible. Lack of water is a lifethreatening emergency in the desert. • Report suspicious behavior to park staff or Border Patrol. Do not contact suspicious persons. • Ask at the visitor center about areas where you may have concerns about traveling. The Paisano 3 Things to Do The Lesser-Known Canyons of Big Bend Santa Elena Canyon with its postcard-perfect views and its towering dark walls is certainly Big Bend’s jewel. However, if you’re looking to explore off the beaten path, Big Bend offers multiple canyons for exploration that appeal to all skill levels. The following trails and routes are all exposed desert hikes. Big Bend experiences extreme heat throughout much of the year, so hike during cooler days and be sure to drink plenty of water by carrying one gallon per person per day. Trail guides are available for Dog Canyon/Devil’s Den and Mariscal Canyon Rim. Be sure to ask rangers at a visitor center for more information. Tuff Canyon Easy. 0.75 miles roundtrip. Tuff Canyon, located along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, offers two viewing areas and a trail that leads you into the canyon. “Tuff” refers to the white rock made of compressed ash particles. Along the trail, you’ll see evidence of Big Bend’s volcanic history. Look for hardened lava flow with holes from gas bubbles and ballistic blocks embedded into the canyon walls. Red Rocks Canyon Easy to Moderate. 2.5 miles roundtrip. Red Rocks Canyon is a series of red rock pinnacle formations accessible from Homer Wilson Ranch. Follow the Blue Creek Trail along the wash. You’ll soon see geologic formations unique to this area of the park. The surface of these volcanic rocks has oxidized to a reddish tinge. Homer Wilson used this trail to move his sheep and goats to graze at higher elevations. Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den Moderate to Strenuous. 4 miles roundtrip. Dog Canyon is a lesser-traveled yet wellmarked trail. The trail is flat, marked by frequent cairns, and bordered by creosote bush. After reaching a wash, the trail leading left will take you to the eastern park boundary through Dog Canyon. If you’re up for 3 miles of more strenuous adventure, go right at the wash to continue to Devil’s Den. This narrow canyon is a challenge; it’s better suited for experienced boulderers. The easier trail along the rim offers beautiful vistas and views of Devil’s Den from above. Mariscal Canyon Rim Strenuous. 6.5 miles roundtrip to the rim. You might wonder where the “big bend” of Big Bend is. Mariscal Canyon Rim trail will lead you to the “point” of the Rio Grande’s “big bend.” From the paved road, it takes two hours in a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle to access the trailhead. The first two miles of the trail traverses relatively gentle hills. The final mile of the trail becomes significantly steeper and rockier. Keep a close eye on cairns along the route. At the rim is a spectacular view of the Rio Grande framed by 1,400-foot vertical canyon walls. Park Ranger J. Vanegas Pour-offs and large boulders make hiking through Devil’s Den difficult. An easier, yet spectacular route is to follow the Canyon Rim Trail. The Five Best... We asked park rangers and social media followers about their favorite bike rides, wheelchair-accessible trails, and places their children enjoyed. Here are their suggestions. Pets in the Park Accessible Trails Bike Rides Kid’s Play Fossil Discovery Exhibit. The covered, open-air exhibit is fully accessible by wheelchair. Open during daylight hours. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive Loop. Start at the west entrance, ride Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon, and return on the Old Maverick Road. 56 miles (43 paved road, 13 dirt road). Stargaze. Stay up late and look for the Milky Way. Safe places to stargaze include the Fossil Discovery Exhibit and Sotol Vista Overlook. Window View Trail. This 0.3 mile paved loop trail offers excellent views of the mountains surrounding the Chisos Basin. Two benches are perfect for sunset viewing. Panther Path. This paved path near the Panther Junction Visitor Center provides an introduction to native plants of the Chihuahuan Desert. RGV Nature Trail. The first 100 yards of this trail are wheelchair accessible as it follows a boardwalk through a spring-fed wetland. Birds, fish, turtles, and other animals are often seen in the pond and surrounding vegetation. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive highlights the geologic splendor of Big Bend and offers many scenic overlooks and exhibits with paved parking. Cottonwood Campground has shaded picnic tables and is a premier location in the park to look for birds. 4 The Paisano Laura:“Perfect 50ish mile loop. Especially perfect during Big Bend bluebonnet bloom season.” Chisos Basin to Santa Elena Canyon. One way, 46 miles on paved road. Eric:“From the Basin to Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most epic rides I’ve ever done! Descending from the Basin is WILD!” Rio Grande Village to Panther Junction. 20 miles one-way on paved road. Whiskey:“I rode from Rio Grande Village to Panther Junction & returned. Love that smooth descent on the trip back! Gorgeous views everywhere!” Old Ore Road. 26 miles one way on rough dirt road. karjbar:“30 miles of incredibly beautiful landscape. Terrain is challenging, but doable. This is for mountain bikes. Start at the top and ride south. Helps to have two cars. When finished...go jump in the Hot Springs!” Panther Junction to Fossil Exhibit. 8 miles one-way on paved road. Jenny:“Fabulously scenic and really gets your heart pumping on the way back to Panther Junction.” Go to Mexico. Cross the river and explore the Mexican village of Boquillas. Laura:”My kids love buying tacos in Boquillas.” Splash Around. Play in the Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon, Boquillas Canyon, or the Hot Springs. (Warning: it’s best to keep river water out of ears, eyes, and mouths.) Boulder Scramble. Mini-mountaineers love to boulder scramble the Upper Burro Mesa, Ernst Tinaja, and Grapevine Hills trails. Russell: “The scramble up to Balanced Rock was a highlight when our kids were in elementary school.” Time Travel. Explore the world of dinosaurs at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit. Sally:“My son loved the fossil exhibit—definitely a must see!” Having a pet with you may limit some of your explorations in the park. Following these pet regulations will ensure a safer, more enjoyable visit for yourselves, other park visitors, your pet, and the park's wildlife. • Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Your pet can only go where your car can go. • Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet in length (or in a crate) at all times. • You may not leave your pet unattended in vehicles if it creates a danger to the animal or if the animal becomes a public nuisance. • If you plan to hike, someone must stay behind with the pet, or you will need to kennel your pet. The Alpine Veterninary Clinic (432-837-3888) and the Alpine Small Animal Clinic (432-837-5416) offer these services. • Park regulations require that you always clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles. Big Bend News Infrastructure Improvements COMING SOON! The Great American Outdoors Act Signed into law in 2020, the landmark Great American Outdoors Act commits energy revenues to address the multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog in national parks and other public lands. In Big Bend, two muchneeded infrastructure projects received funding as part of this effort. By spring 2024, park visitors will see work beginning on the following major endeavors: A New Lodge Building Constructed in 1964, the main Chisos Mountains Lodge is an important part of the park’s history. Generations of visitors have enjoyed the building’s modern aesthetic, large open interior, and expansive windows that frame the surrounding mountains and the classic view of “The Window.” Unfortunately, the Lodge was built on unmitigated clay soils and soon suffered as the foundation moved and settled. Over the years, the settling has caused significant damage to the foundation, roof, walls, windows, and building systems. Maintaining the building is no longer sustainable. In addition, burgeoning Big Bend visitation has far surpassed the kitchen and dining service capabilities of the facility. In 2018, park staff began to evaluate solutions for a facility to serve the next generation of Big Bend visitors. Engineering studies established that repairing the failing foundation would require the complete removal of all walls and major features of the Lodge. The best option was to build a new building within the same footprint—a wellengineered facility that fits the landscape and meets high standards for energy, water, and operational efficiency to better serve the visitors of today and tomorrow. In 2021, the NPS and Architectural Resources Group developed conceptual designs for a new Lodge. The preferred design recognizes the Mission 66 aesthetic but includes improvements. The proposed building is clad in natural stucco, stone, and fire-resistant siding to blend with the environment. An elegant, angled roof oriented to the south, allows for solar panels to capture energy throughout the day. Future visitors will enjoy the mountain views from the expansive outdoor terrace and reception area. For efficiency, the new retail store consolidates both the gift shop and camper store on the ground floor along with a “graband-go” food service. Behind the scenes, the mechanical equipment, food storage, and commercial kitchen are carefully designed to ensure the utmost in energy and water efficiency. Replace Aged Waterlines Water is the lifeblood of any desert, and in Big Bend, park managers are committed to using it as efficiently and responsibly as possible. To that end, a concurrent project will address the aging water distribution lines in the park’s developed areas, including the 3-mile pipeline from Oak Spring up to the Chisos Basin. Many of those lines date to the 1950s and have far exceeded their useful lives. By repairing or replacing damaged lines, upgrading storage tanks, and eliminating leaks, this project will ensure that the desert’s most critical resource remains available for thirsty plants, wildlife…and people. Pardon our Dust! Work on these much-needed projects will begin in 2024. Significant disruptions to visitor services are expected. Stay tuned as construction timelines are established or ask a ranger for the latest updates as we work to improve facilities and services at your park. Park Ranger T. VandenBerg The banner image and the interior view above are conceptual designs for the new lodge. The restaurant will offer both indoor and outdoor dining with views of Casa Grande Peak and the best view yet of “The Window.” Just Being Wild Wildlife Cameras Provide A Peak Into the Private Lives of Animals A coyote glances at you before melting into the bushes. A bear huffs at you as her cubs shinny up a tree. Seeing wildlife in Big Bend is always a thrill, but what we witness is often a reaction to our presence. What do animals do when people aren’t around? Thomas Athens, Big Bend National Park wildlife biologist, and Dr. Eric Anderson, park volunteer and Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, had an idea: establish a network of wildlife cameras across the Chisos Mountains. “We want to monitor the wildlife from the foothills at about 3500 ft. to the mountain peaks at over 7000 ft.,” Anderson says. Over the long term, the cameras will help Thomas Athens answer questions about the movement of animal populations in response to climate change or the spread of invasive exotics such as wild hogs or elk. post in each grid cell. But not randomly. This is where the art comes in. But the immediate value is the ability to gather basic information about activity patterns of wildlife in the park. Who lives where? How do they behave seasonally? Daily? How do animals react to temperature or water availability changes? “There are two aspects to an animal being in a location,” says Anderson. “One: is the habitat suitable? But then there’s the detectability. Maybe the animal is there, but we didn’t detect it because we have the camera in the wrong spot.” “The wildlife biologist bought himself 12 sentinels to stand in one place in the park and watch 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” says Anderson. The right spot has food, cover, and water. The ideal spot is a funnel where animals move from low to high elevation or from a resting place to a foraging area or watering hole. Establishing a Camera Network Placing a camera is an art of its own. First, a 12-square grid—each cell within the grid representing 16 sq. km—was draped over a map of the Chisos Mountains. Science and Resource Management staff and volunteers then attached a single camera to a tree or Of course, the cameras must also be accessible to park staff and volunteers who check camera batteries and swap out image cards once a month. Then comes the fun part. Big Bend Wildlife Over the last year,