Traveler's Checklist - Big Bend National Park

Big Bend scene.
If you're looking for dramatic desert scenery, a chance to get away from crowds, and lots of variety in elevation, climate and things to do, you'll find all that and more in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Here are some tips to help you plan a visit.

Fall and Winter Are Prime Seasons for Camping in These Parks

Campsite at Organ Pipe Cactus Nat. Mon.
It's just too hot to enjoy camping in some parks during the summer, but fall and winter are prime times for outdoor activity in those areas. Here's a sampling of NPS sites where the "off season" in the rest of the country can be the best season for camping.

Bikes in the Parks: A Look At What's Up at Grand Teton and Big Bend National Parks

What's ho-hum in one park, when it comes to bikes, is decidedly more controversial in another. Which should make the coming few weeks interesting.

No Oscar, But DoctorLoopy Wins the National Park Foundation's Video Contest

Well, DoctorLoopy didn't win an Oscar for his short video on visiting Big Bend National Park, but his production has made him the grand prize winner in the National Park Foundation's "Your Parks" video contest.

Grant From Friends Group Helps Preserve Night Skies Over Big Bend National Park

It's no secret the National Park Service lacks the budget it needs to properly take care of the 391 units of the National Park System. Thankfully, there are groups such as Friends of Big Bend to help meet some of the needs, such as improved lighting to help minimize light pollution at Big Bend National Park.

Doctorloopy's Video Trip Through Big Bend National Park Won't Win An Oscar, And Yet....

Oscar-quality Doctorloop's video trip through Big Bend National Park is not. And yet, it's corny enough to make it interesting.

Is an International U.S.-Mexico Park At Big Bend Moving Closer to Reality?

Case Grande in Big Bend NP.
The idea of an international park along the U.S.-Mexican border around Big Bend National Park has been kicking around for decades. A statement released after the recent North American Leaders Summit has revived hopes of supporters of the concept, but what did that statement really say?

Floating Through Life on the Rio Grande And Big Bend National Park

We don’t expect adventure on a flatwater river, but sometimes it just happens.

Big Bend National Park Helps Protect Night Skies. You Can, Too—Here's How!

Photos comparing old and new lighting at Panther Junctions.
NPS areas are becoming increasingly valuable as places where we can enjoy the night sky with minimal light pollution from civilization, and protecting the "dark" can also save money. A project in Big Bend National Park demonstrates what can be done, and shows what all of us can do, wherever we live.

National Park Quiz 62: Paired Parks

This week’s quiz deals with National Park System units that are linked to each other in some way. Answers are at the end. If we catch you peeking, we’ll make you write on the whiteboard 100 times: “The efficient enzymatic resolution of conduritol B and C derivatives is an important step in synthesizing all possible enantiomeric pairs of conduritol stereoisomers.”

Predictions for the 2009 Wildfire Season

Firefighter and brush fire.
What might 2009 hold for wildfires, in parks and other areas? Experts at the National Interagency Fire Center have issued a fire season outlook for the next several months that provides an educated guess.

A U.S. – Mexico International Park. Will This Long-Standing Idea Be Revived?

Boquillas Canyon
Will President Obama's recent visit to Mexico revive interest in a formal U.S. – Mexico International Park in the Big Bend area of Texas? Supporters of the idea hope so, but the plan, which dates back over seventy years, faces some challenges.

Best Solitude in the National Park System? Here Are Traveler's Choices

Solitude. Who doesn’t treasure some from time to time? And some of the greatest draws of national parks is their peacefulness and the ability for you to pass through an entrance gate and escape the pressures of day-to-day life. Where can you find some of the best solitude in the National Park System? Read on for some of the Traveler’s top picks for solitude.

Bears with a Foot Fetish? Big Bend National Park Offers New Bear Safety Advice

Black bear.
Officials in Big Bend National Park have issued some slightly unusual guidelines for backcountry campers in parts of the Texas park: "Leave shoes outside tents or in bear boxes if camping in High Chisos backcountry sites." Recent experience suggests this is good advice.

Friends of Big Bend Land Grant to Help Fund New Orientation Film

Every little bit helps, particularly in these challenging times. Just ask the folks at Friends of Big Bend, who just received an $8,000 grant to help pay for a new orientation film for Big Bend National Park.

Nevada Barr’s Latest Anna Pigeon Book is Set for April Release

There’s good news for Nevada Barr fans. The best selling author has sent another manuscript off to the printer. “Borderline,” the 15th novel starring super ranger Anna Pigeon, is due out in April. This one’s set in Big Bend National Park, and Nevada’s sister Molly says it’s a dandy.

Don't Overlook Park Advocates and Friends Groups When You Make Your Charitable Donations

Programs to lure youngsters into the parks. "Healthy Kids/Healthy Parks." Research to gauge the impact of visitation on park natural resources. Restoration work. These are just some of the projects that your taxable donations allowed to occur across the National Park System in 2008.

Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks

Three years after the International Mountain Bicycling Association said it simply wanted mountain bike access to dirt roads in national parks, Interior Department officials are said to be working to make it easier for the bikers to gain access to backcountry trails.

Floods Washing Across Big Bend National Park

Images of volunteers filling sandbags in a race against rising waters have unfortunately become commonplace this year, in locations from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. You don't normally expect to see such scenes in the desert Southwest, but they were repeated last week in Big Bend National Park.

Greening the National Parks: Environmental Achievement Awards Highlight Sustainable Design, Energy-Efficiency, and Recycling

To encourage eco-friendly operations, the National Park Service presents Environmental Achievement Awards each year to parks and concession companies that have excelled in incorporating high environmental standards into their operations. The 2007 awards were presented to Blue Ridge Parkway, Yosemite National Park, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, and Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Big Bend National Park: Is It Ready For A Mountain Bike Trail?

Officials at Big Bend National Park in Texas want to know what you think of a plan to develop a multi-use trail backcountry trail, one whose primary mission would be to accommodate mountain bikers.

Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Big Bend National Parks Benefit From Donations

In the last week, more than $3 million in donations and grants have been announced to help Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Big Bend national parks with a wide range of projects, from habitat restoration to trails work.

Bodies of Three Mexican Nationals Found in Big Bend National Park

Rangers at Big Bend National Park have recovered the bodies of three Mexican nationals who illegally entered the United States and tried to make their way across the park’s desert terrain in searing summer heat. Officials suspect there may have been other fatalities.

National Park History: Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park celebrated its 64th birthday June 12. More than just a marvel of biodiversity, this remote and scenic park offers a wide range of recreational choices. To get the most from your visit you’ll need to do some homework, time your visit wisely, make some prior arrangements, and be prepared for changing conditions.

Creature Feature: Texas Banded Gecko

Big Bend National Park is remote and dry – not exactly a place that most people think of right away when they plan a vacation. But the desert is full of interesting things, some of them so small that they might escape notice. Take, for example, the ghostly Texas banded gecko.

The Insanity Behind the Christmas Mountains Sale

The debate over whether the National Park Service should be allowed to buy the Christmas Mountains for an addition to Big Bend National Park should not be dominated by the personality and rigid mindset of pro-gun Texas land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. So says the Dallas Morning News.

Mountain Bike Association Considering Bid To Alter Park Service's Rulemaking Policies

The International Mountain Bicycling Association quietly is exploring a bid to change National Park Service rule-making policies with hopes of cutting through the bureaucracy to open up more park terrain to cyclists.

Park Service Now Interested in Adding Christmas Mountains to Big Bend National Park

Austin American-Statesman graphic.
Better late than never? Well, it might be too late for the National Park Service, which has reversed itself on showing interest in adding more than 9,000 acres of land owned by the state of Texas to Big Bend National Park.

Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend's Lone Mountain; photo by Jeff Blaylock, used with permission.
Among the 201 projects "certified" to meet the criteria for celebrating the National Park Service's centennial in 2016 is one to establish a dual-use, hiking and mountain biking trail in Big Bend National Park in Texas. What seems odd, though, is that this project made the list at a time when the Park Service is in the middle of a five-year study examining mountain bike use in the park system.