BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

Big Bend National Park is a national park located in the U.S. state of Texas. Big Bend has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, which includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals.

The park covers 801,163 acres (1,252 sq mi; 3,242 km2). Few areas exceed the park’s value for the protection and study of geologic and paleontologic resources. Cretaceous and Tertiary fossil organisms exist in variety and abundance. Archaeologists have discovered artifacts estimated to be 9,000 years old, and historic buildings and landscapes offer graphic illustration of life along the international border in the 19th century.

For more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km), the Rio Grande/Río Bravo forms the international boundary between Mexico and the United States, and Big Bend National Park administers approximately 244 miles (393 km) along that boundary

Most of the animals are not visible in the day, particularly in the desert. The park comes alive at night, with many of the animals foraging for food. About 150 Cougar (Puma conocolor) sightings are reported per year, despite the fact that there are only a total of two dozen Cougars. Other species that inhabit the park include Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.), Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu), and Coyote (Canis latrans). Mexican Black Bears (Ursus americanus eremicus) are also present in the mountain areas.

The variety of cactus and other plant life add color to the Big Bend region. Cactus species in the park include prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), Claret Cup (Echinocereus coccineus) and Pitaya (E. enneacanthus). In the spring, the wildflowers are in full bloom and the yucca flowers display bright colors. Bluebonnets (Lupinus spp.) are prevalent in Big Bend, and white and pink bluebonnets are sometimes visible by the road. Other flowering plants such as the Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis), Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Rock Nettle (Eucnide urens) and Lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla) abound in Big Bend.

Big Bend’s primary attraction is its hiking and backpacking trails. Particularly notable among these are the Chimneys Trail, which visits a rock formation in the desert, the Marufo Vega trail, a loop trail that passes through scenic canyons on the way to and from the Rio Grande, and the Outer Mountain Loop trail in the Chisos, which begins in the Chisos Basin, climbs into the high mountains, descends into the desert along the Dodson Trail, and then returns to the Chisos Basin, completing a thirty mile loop. Other notable locations include Santa Elena Canyon, Grapevine Hills, and the Mule Ears, two imposing rock towers in the middle of the desert. There are professional backpacking guide services that provide trips in the park.

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~ by ferry1984 on August 22, 2011.

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