by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved

Big Bend

Visitor Guide 2024

brochure Big Bend - Visitor Guide 2024

Visitor Guide to Big Bend National Park (NP) in Texas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River Texas The Paisano Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River Visitor Guide Volume 41 Number 1 2024 With over 150 miles of trails, Big Bend is a hiker’s delight! Big Bend in Your Pocket More Inside... Deputy Superintendent’s Welcome ¡Bienvenidos a su parque nacional! Welcome to Big Bend! Whether this is your first trip, or your 20th, our team put this guide together to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible. Safety ���������������������������������������������������� 2 Visiting Mexico��������������������������������������� 3 Things to Do��������������������������������������� 3–4 Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River��������������� 5 Day Hikes ����������������������������������������������� 7 Big Bend News���������������������������������������� 8 Nonprofit Park Partners �������������������������� 9 Camping and River Use������������������������� 10 Wildlife������������������������������������������������� 11 Information and Services����������������������� 12 This is a big year for the park. We’ll begin planning construction of a new lodge and replacement of many of the aging waterlines in the Chisos Basin. The amount of precious water we will conserve makes these improvements truly critical. These projects will impact visitor services for approximately 2 years (see page 2 for more information). As you travel through the park, you will see recycling bins everywhere you go, with information about the park’s landfill. Before throwing out your garbage, take a few minutes to read about the park’s landfill. It’s filling fast! Recycle and please take your trash outside the park. I know you drove 75 MPH to get here. To protect the park wildlife, the maximum speed limit in the park is 45 MPH. Please slow down, take in the breathtaking vastness of Big Bend, and I hope that you have a wonderful time here! Deputy Superintendent, Rick Gupman 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 back country 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 On matters relating to the Paisano: National Park Service Editor, The Big Bend Paisano PO Box 129 Big Bend National Park, TX 79834 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, artifacts, 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. 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 Fall 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 clay soils and soon suffered as the foundation moved and settled. Over the years, the settling 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 well- 2 The Paisano engineered facility that fits the landscape and meets high standards for energy, water, and operational efficiency to better serve the visitors of today and tomorrow. 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. 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 stucco, natural 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. Pardon our Dust! Work on these much-needed projects will begin in late 2024. Significant disruptions to visitor services and access are expected. Stay tuned as construction timelines are finalized or ask a ranger for the latest updates as we work to improve facilities and services at your park. Park Ranger T. VandenBerg 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, The exterior and 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.” 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 habitat to both resident and migrant bird 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 species). 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. There is no other legal access to Mexico within Big Bend National Park. The Port of Entry is a pedestrian crossing only. 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. 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 ($5 round-trip as of 12/23). Wading across the Rio Grande is permitted 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. 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 Hiking 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 some hikes. Be sure to ask rangers at a visitor center for more information. Lower Burro Mesa Pour-off Easy. 1.0 miles roundtrip. Lower Burro Mesa is a geology-lovers delight. The colorful igneous rock exposed in the canyon is the same rock found on the top of Emory Peak. Burro Mesa is a massive block that slipped 3,000 vertical feet down a fault line millions of years ago. The short trail follows the wash to a steep, narrow pour-off that drains the plateau above. Watch for large conglomerate boulders in the wash. Red Rocks Canyon Easy to Moderate. 2.5 miles roundtrip. Red Rocks Canyon is a series of 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. 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. For an easier, yet spectacular route, 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 River Trips Kid’s Play Fossil Discovery Exhibit. The covered, open-air exhibit is fully accessible by wheelchair. Open during daylight hours. Santa Elena Boomerang. Paddle upstream, then float back down to your point of entry. Ideal at flow rates from 200 cfs to 100 cfs. 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. Santa Elena. The most popular overnight or 3-day float trip. Includes a Class IV rapid at certain water levels. 300 to 600 cfs is great for open boats such as kayaks or canoes. Over 600 cfs is appropriate for rafts. Stargaze. Stay up late and look for the Milky Way. Safe places to stargaze include the Fossil Discovery Exhibit and Sotol Vista Overlook. 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 Go to Mexico. Cross the river and explore the Mexican village of Boquillas. Laura:”My kids love buying tacos in Boquillas.” Mariscal Canyon. A challenge to get to, but well worth the effort! At only 10-miles long, Mariscal is the shortest canyon in the park. If water is flowing above 300 cfs, the canyon can be floated in a day. 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.) Boquillas Canyon. For the less experienced paddler wanting a taste of adventure, Boquillas Canyon is a 33-mile, 3-day float. The rapids only rate up to Class II. Boulder Scramble. Mini-mountaineers love to boulder scramble the Upper Burro Mesa, Ernst Tinaja, and Grapevine Hills trails. Lower Canyons. The Lower Canyons make up the heart of the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. Experienced boaters can indulge in a true wilderness experience while paddling 83 miles over the course of this 7 to 10 day trip. 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 Veterinary 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. Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River Two Parks In One Did you know a trip to Big Bend also gives you access to the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River? In 1968, Congress passed the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect free-flowing rivers with “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife historic, cultural, or other similar values.” The Rio Grande, as it flows around the “big bend” on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, ticks all of those boxes. The river provides vital habitat for plants and animals and offers dramatic scenery, spectacular geology, and thrilling recreational opportunities for those that crave adventure. On November 10, 1978, Congress officially recognized the value of a free-flowing Rio Grande by designating a 200 mile stretch of the river the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. This National Park System unit is managed with Big Bend National Park. Visiting the Wild & Scenic River Have you stood on the riverbank at Rio Grande Village? Dipped your toe in the river at the Hot Springs or hiked along the Boquillas Canyon Trail? If so, you have enjoyed a portion of the wild Rio Grande. The Wild and Scenic designation starts just above the big bend of the Rio Grande and flows north-east beyond the park boundaries to the Terrell-Val Verde county line in Texas. While dipping your toe in counts as a visit to the Wild & Scenic River, the best way to truly experience the Rio Grande is to float it. Floating the Rio A 1 to 2 day float trip through remote Mariscal Canyon, or a 2 to 3 day trip through Boquillas Canyon offers opportunities to run rapids, or drift at the whim of the river current. You can explore a small portion of the Wild & Scenic River in less than a day by floating through Hot Springs Canyon. All river trips require planning, equipment, some experience, and a permit. Consult a river guide book and check with a park ranger for current conditions before embarking on a river trip. Permits are required for all float trips and may be obtained at visitor centers in Big Bend National Park up to seven days in advance. The Lower Canyons between Heath Canyon and Dryden, downstream from Big Bend National Park, make up the heart of the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. Wild and isolated, the canyons provide solitude and an outstanding wilderness experience. There are no facilities and access is limited due to rough terrain and the constraints of floating through private land. The arduous 83-mile trip takes 6 to 7 days. Extensive experience and preparation are essential when planning a float through the Lower Canyons. The Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River extends 200 miles from the Chihuahua-Coahuila (Mexico) state line to the Terrell-Val Verde county (Texas) line. River Safety Our River Rangers share 9 tips on how to make your trip safe and memorable (in a good way). Tie Down Your Boat In summer, flash floods can come at any time even if it is not actively raining here in Big Bend, and winds in the canyons can reach very high speeds. Either of these can result in lost equipment and vessels. Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the surrounding area—not just the park—and keep everything secured on higher ground to avoid it being lost. Know Your Limits If you do get caught in those strong winds, paddling against them can lead to your trip hitting a stand still or with you being blown up stream. Know when to float and when to stay put and hunker down. Stick To Your Plan Once you have your permit, please keep to that itinerary. Don’t change your trip’s duration, put ins, or take outs. If something were to occur and you need assistance, rangers will use itinerary information from the permit to locate you. Any variations from that plan can cause delays. Be Prepared To Portage When you reach a section of river that looks rough or difficult to pass through, pull off to the side and look at it. Sometimes carrying your vessel a little way along the shore may be the best way to proceed safely. Have Extra Supplies In Good Condition Bring layers, waterproof clothing, a set of camp clothes to change into after a day of paddling, basic first aid supplies, and an extra day’s rations of food and water. Make sure everything is functional and in good condition—a life vest can only take so much damage before it stops being a life vest. Don’t Rely on Digital Cell service on the river is spotty at best. Don’t rely on digital maps or downloaded material. The Big Bend Natural History Association sells laminated river guides filled with detailed maps just in case something happens to your phone and you can’t access your digital material. It’s also good to bring other methods of communication such as a satellite phone or inReach device. Avoid Littering Leave No Trace is essential for all outdoor expeditions. Our river volunteers remove gallons of trash on every float trip they take. This waste causes environmental and ecological damage and also poses a risk to other boaters. Objects such as errant fishhooks can get caught up in river cane and cause damage to guests and vessels alike. Safety and common sense come first. A loaded canoe

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