Flooding in Big Bend

Oct 8th, 2008, 05:15 AM
  #1  
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Flooding in Big Bend

Has anyone been out to the Big Bend area since the recent flooding began? I know many of the areas we wanted to see(like the River Road) are closed, but am wondering whether it's still worth the trip.

Thanks!
jayne1973 is offline  
Oct 8th, 2008, 08:41 AM
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I would love to go there now to see the flooding. But I've been there before, so my goal is to see the park in all it's phases.

Sounds like you haven't been there before - from reports I've heard, all of the rain this summer has made the desert and mountains greener than anyone can remember. That would be really cool to see. But for someone who's never been, it may not be as dramatic.

Most of the park is open, just the things down by the Rio Grande are closed. River Road East is currently open but 4WD recommended. The River Road is generally 4WD recommended, or as a minimum high clearance required, so if your vehicle is a car you wouldn't be able to drive it anyway.

I guess I wouldn't classify the River Road as a big must-see. Probably the one thing along that road that should be seen is the Mariscal Mine, otherwise it's just a dirt road through the desert with the chance to stop and go down to the river at times. A bigger loss is not being able to go to Santa Elena Canyon right now.

Based on your other post where you mention a weeklong trip with stops in other places, I'm guessing Big Bend is only going to be a 2, maybe 3 day stopover for you. There's still plenty to see and do in 2-3 days, beautiful hikes in the mountains and desert and some of the best sunsets and night skies anywhere.

If you want to check out the current conditions on a daily basis, look at the park's Daily Report:
http://www.nps.gov/bibe/daily_report.htm

It's in PDF format, first link down in the center of the screen.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Oct 8th, 2008, 12:07 PM
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Thanks so much for your comments, WhereAreWe. Yes, it will be our first trip and we had planned to spend about three nights in Big Bend. I have been watching the daily report, but because I've never been it's hard to know how much these closings would limit the sightseeing. I am not a fan of long expanses of desert nothingness and was hoping to see the beautiful areas closer the river.

Don't laugh, but we are traveling in a Miata. How impossible is that going to be? We could rent a Jeep for one day, if we had to, but it would be pretty expensive.

Any suggestions for good drives and hikes?
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Oct 8th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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A Miata would never make it down the River Road so you'd have to rent a Jeep for that.

I don't know how the clearance on a Miata is compared to an economy or compact rental car. I've driven on several of the dirt roads with those kinds of cars and had no problems.

Give me a couple hours (I'm busy at work) and I'll give you a more complete answer for your questions.
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Oct 8th, 2008, 05:16 PM
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Thanks-- take your time. I'm leaving October 24. We can't get a room at the Chisos Lodge in the park, so we'll be staying in Lajitas. We're interested in some pretty hikes and drives.

I think when I said River Road, I actually meant Highway 170 from Presido to Lajitas, which I had read was perhaps the most beautiful drive in Texas. I think much of it is closed right now, but I'm not sure. Who knows what will be going on in two weeks?

I would appreciate any suggestions or tips!
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Oct 8th, 2008, 05:39 PM
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Are you staying in the Basin while you're in Big Bend, or driving back and forth from one of the towns outside? I'd strongly recommend staying inside the park to cut down on travel time if you're not already planning on doing so.

The main roads in the park are paved and the Miata will be fine, just watch the speed limit and be cautious at night as there are plenty of animals about.

The drive on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is nice - Sotol Vista is probably my favorite easily accessible sunset spot on this road. You'll see a lot of different stuff on this drive, from desert to great views of the Chisos Mountains to volcanic deposits near Castolon. I wouldn't say it's at all a long expanse of desert nothingness.

There are a number of hikes and points of interest Ross Maxwell. From Castolon headed north: Tuff Canyon is an easy hike into a small canyon. Mule Ears is an OK hike - probably skip the hike and just drive into the lot for the overlook. There's a short trail down to the old Homer Wilson ranch, and it continues on into Blue Creek Canyon which has some nice red rock formations. The short trail to the base of Burro Mesa pour-off goes through a small canyon and is decent. Sam Nail ranch is a good spot for birdwatching and just to walk around a bit and imagine what it would like to live in Big Bend.

The main park road from Panther Junction Visitor Center down to the Rio Grand Village is OK, but not much hiking on the way. Boquillas Canyon is all the way down by the Rio Grande, not sure how good the road is or the hike with all the flooding. Other than that, about the only stop is at Dugout Wells picnic area, another decent stop for birdwatching. The drive has a great view of the Sierra del Carmens across the border as you're heading south, and nice views of the Chisos as you're headed north, but you certainly wouldn't need to drive the whole way and back.

There's an auto trail (Dagger Flats Auto Trail) between the entrance at Persimmon Gap and Panther Junction. I imagine it's pretty now with all of the rain - dirt road but should be fine with your car. The drive from Persimmon Gap to PJ is probably the least scenic in the whole park.

If you're comfortable driving another dirt road you could hike the Grapevine Hills trail. A bit of desert hiking, but kind of in a little valley leading to some cool rock formations. Both Dagger Flats and Grapevine Hill are passable with a passenger car under normal conditions - check with the rangers for current road conditions, especially if there's been recent rain.

In the Chisos Mountains, the best hike is the Lost Mine trail. There's a great view of Juniper Canyon about a mile up, and then the trail continues for another 1.5 miles or so. The Window trail is also decent, mainly for the view at the end. That trail starts out downhill and has little shade at the upper end, so get an early start. You don't want to be hiking uphill in full sun, trust me. The Window trail has been closed off and on all summer as a black bear with 4 cubs has been hanging around in the area as a precautionary measure. It's open now but the rangers are pretty proactive about closing it if she's spending a lot of time near the trail.

You can always dayhike some of the longer trails up into the mountains and turn around whenever you feel like it. The South Rim is spectacular but 12 miles or so roundtrip. And of course, most people watch at least one sunset through the Window in the Basin.
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Oct 8th, 2008, 05:52 PM
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I was typing that up while you replied so I didn't see the part about Lajitas. I'd keep checking to see if you can get at least a night in the Basin - it would be worth it to stay in the mountains, for the atmosphere and to cut down on your driving.

Lajitas to Presidio is a great drive. The part that goes through Big Bend Ranch State Park is nice - there's an easy hike at Closed Canyon (slot canyon).

I've never spent much time in Study Butte or Terlingua, but there's lots of local flavor to be found.
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Oct 9th, 2008, 10:19 AM
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This is fantastic information -- thank you so much.

Did you hear that there's another hurricane coming and more flooding is expected in Big Bend? Geesh.

Right now we are just continuing with our plans because we have to be in Terlingua on that Friday to meet some people for the Chili Cookoff. I hope we will be able to get to some of these places you suggested. We'll just keep checking and calling. If we are going to spend three nights, I sure want to be able to enjoy it!

The lodging both in the basin and at Study Butte are booked solid, but they suggested I keep calling every day because cancellations are staring to come in, presumably because of this second hurricane.
Terlingua is also pretty booked up. Lajitas looks nice, although expensive, and I really, really, want to stay at the lodge to be close to everything.

Thanks again and wish us luck!
jayne1973 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 03:26 PM
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I hope something opens up in the Basin - even if just for a night, it would be worth it to be right in the middle of the park. I don't know your plans before you get to Big Bend, but it might even be worth staying in Marathon the night beforehand (most people stay at the Gage Hotel). Then you could get up in the morning, drive into the park and do some driving/hiking before heading to Lajitas. At least it would eliminate one day of driving back and forth from Lajitas, but it really only makes sense if you'd be getting to Marathon in the late afternoon or evening. If you'd be arriving earlier than that, just keep going and get into the park.

Normally I'd recommend hiking into Santa Elena Canyon but I don't see how it will be open by the end of the month. The trails and drives I mentioned are currently open and are completely unaffected by river levels (except for maybe Boquillas Canyon in the park, and FM 170 outside the park). Even if this latest hurricane causes the Rio Grande to flood again, that wouldn't affect most of the park at all. There might be some localized rain and washouts on some dirt roads, but by the time of your trip the roads (except down by the river) should be back to their usual condition.

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Oct 10th, 2008, 08:22 AM
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Well, I got one night in the basin so far and am going to call every day and keep trying for more.

I also want to try to see the Marfa lights, and assumed we'd be coming from that direction -- would that be much further than Marathon?

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Nov 3rd, 2008, 09:50 AM
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Hey WhereAreWe -- if you are out there, I wanted to thank you for your help with this trip. Big Bend was beautiful and we ended up with two nights in the lodge, which was perfect, giving us one full day of driving/hiking, plus time for some hikes on the first day.

We took your advice and checked out everything we could on the paved roads. Santa Elena Canyon and Hot Springs trails were inaccessible, and we chickened out on the Boquillas trail after we saw the sign in the parking lot that warned about frequent thefts from unattended vehicles. Since we were in a soft top it seemed a little risky. Weather was fabulous for top-down crusing in the Miata. It actually got downright hot in mid afternoon.

Loved the Ross Maxwell road and enjoyed several nice hikes you suggested along the way. My favorite was Burro Mesa pouroff and the box canyon there.

We were able to get down 170 from Lajitas 45 miles toward Presidio before the road was closed, so got to see most of that pretty drive as well.

Thanks again for your help-- now I understand the attraction of the Big Bend area!
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