Escaping Winter's Chill

Paddling at Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande is designated a national Wild and Scenic River for almost 200 miles as it flows through Big Bend National Park, defining the, well, big bend, that is the border between Texas and Mexico. The river flows through a series of high desert canyons. Fascinating riparian plantlife lines its banks. And as the northern zone of much of the wildlife, you'll see animals and birds here that live nowhere else in the U.S. The "scenic" goes without saying. And when you hit the rapids or a cross-channel current carries you away, the "wild" part will ring loud and clear.

The recommended craft is the inflatable raft. It is not as prone to damage from submerged rocks as are kayaks and canoes, which may disintegrate when slammed into the canyon's rock walls by cross-channel currents. No craft or accessory gear is available for rental within the park. You must bring your own, or make arrangements with an outfitter.

The best months for river running are November through February, when water levels are relatively stable and the heat is moderate. By late April or early May and after, the heat can be a problem.

Other activities: Lots—Big Bend has primo hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, fishing, rock climbing. You'll also want to experience the high and cool Chisos Mountains, and the low and hot Chihuahuan desert.

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Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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