Big Bend National Park


Big Bend National Park sweeps so far south that, since there is no road through it to Mexico, the park isn't on the way to anywhere. That makes an automobile the best transportation bet. Trains and transcontinental buses approach only as close as Alpine and Marathon. There is no public transportation to or through the park. You can fly into the Midland-Odessa airport to the north. Cars may be rented in Alpine and in the Midland and Odessa areas. The distances encountered are vast, so plan departures and arrivals conveniently for available facilities.

From San Antonio, Texas, it is 660 kilometers (410 miles) to the park headquarters at Panther Junction via U.S. 90 to Marathon and south on U.S. 385. Driving from the Persimmon Gap park entrance to park headquarters will consume 46 of these kilometers (29 miles). The gap is a low mountain pass once traversed by the Comanche War Trail, a thoroughfare northward for thousands of horses stolen in Mexico. Had you crossed this pass in 1859 you might have witnessed the U.S. military experimenting with camels as beasts of burden for this dry country. The cantankerous camels bettered the standard military mule on several points. However, the Civil War ended the camel tryouts.

From El Paso it is 520 kilometers (323 miles) to Panther Junction via Interstate 10 to Van Horn, U.S. 90 to Alpine, and south via Texas 118. You enter the park at the Maverick entrance. Just west of the park here on Texas Ranch Road 170 is the ghost town of Terlingua, a worthwhile side trip. In the park's western section you find the Painted Desert, eroded badlands formations showing distinct bands of colorful deposits from up to 70 million years ago.

From El Paso and points west you can take U.S. 67 south from Marfa to Presidio, approaching the park on Texas Ranch Road 170, the Camino del Rio, at the Maverick entrance. From this entrance to the headquarters at Panther Junction is about 43 kilometers (27 miles).

Water and gasoline are available in and around the park only at a few, and often widely separated, points. Check your water supply and gas gauge before you leave U.S. 90. 


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