Texas State Travel Guide/Big Bend Country
When most first-time visitors think of the Lone Star State, their heads are filled with visions straight out of old spaghetti-western movies, complete with rolling tumbleweeds, cacti, scrub brush and hot, sandy plains that stretch for miles. If that’s the kind of Texas you’re looking for, then the Big Bend Country region is the perfect place.
Most of this area’s landscape is covered by the Chihuahuan Desert, filled with the aforementioned landscape. But, this remarkable area can also blossom with startling beauty after just a little rain. The desert is populated with mountains, valleys and plains, so it has a variety of terrain and climates, and its rugged beauty must be seen to be truly admired.
The region is bordered by Mexico to the south, and New Mexico to the west, and stretches as far as Midland-Odessa to the northeast and Del Rio to the southeast. And just like its rich scenery, the Big Bend region is filled with history, culture and, perhaps, even a bit of infamy. It’s been home to two presidents, at least one famous musician, one of the world’s largest telescopes, a comic character, Texas’ highest peak, Texas’ oldest mission, the world’s largest jackrabbit statue and so much more.
This is the place to get away from it all. Embrace the great outdoors and get lost in the wide open spaces and mountains. With almost 1,170,000 acres of wilderness terrain, Big Bend Country beckons nature lovers who are looking for an epic experience. Opportunities abound to hike, bike, ride, bird, swim, raft, camp, photograph, paint and just relax in the desert wilderness.
Plan to spend time exploring Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home of the state’s highest point and one of the state’s most beautiful spots - McKittrick Canyon. Expect to make an extended visit or several trips to Texas’ first national park - Big Bend National Park - because it is about the size of Rhode Island and there is too much to see in a single day or on a short trip. See rolling sand dunes and one of the nation’s largest oak forests, which is not readily apparent because the mature trees seldom show more than three feet above ground, at Monahans Sandhills State Park. Visit Balmorhea State Park to take a dip in one of the largest man-made pools in the United States.
Big Bend Country is also a place to learn more about how life was lived on the open frontier and in the Old West. More than 100 years ago pioneers, cowboys and gold seekers traversed this area. The sometimes hostile conditions led to the need for such sites as Fort Bliss, Fort Davis and Fort Stockton to protect pioneers and travelers. Visit the forts and seek out other monuments to the past that helped shape the frontier. Numerous museums throughout the region are dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of life on the frontier.
This region hosted its share of gunfights, bank robberies, saloons and boom towns. It became the final resting place for many a gunfighter. Langtry is home to the rustic saloon, courtroom, billiard hall and opera house of Judge Roy Bean, the “Law West of the Pecos.” However, if you want to see Bean’s final resting place, you have to travel to the grounds of the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio.
El Paso, the largest United States city on the Mexican border, combines the past with the future and some of the best of both sides of the border. Tour historic sites, visit the Tigua Indian Reservation at Ysleta, hear a concert or watch a performance at the Chamizal National Memorial, take a trip across the border to Ciudad Juarez, or enjoy any of the multitude of activities available here.
This region is also home to unique experiences like seeing the unexplained Marfa Lights, enjoying the Terlingua chili cook-offs, seeing Shakespeare productions at the Globe of the Great Southwest theater in Odessa, eating a Pecos cantaloupe, hunting precious minerals at Woodward Agate Ranch in Alpine, and celebrating the music of Roy Orbison in his hometown of Wink.
One thing to remember before heading into this region: People can drive for miles with only the desert landscape for company. To help plan your adventure, use the information on the cities/towns, and their respective attractions. And, once you choose your destination and schedule your trip, you’re sure to be awed and inspired with the overwhelming appeal of the Big Bend Country!