The Boquillas Hot Springs, a collection of 105-degree springs located along both sides of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park and Boquillas, Mexico, was a popular bathing spot long before settler J. O. Langford arrived in the 1900s and turned the U.S. side into a health resort. Reports from the mid-1800s indicate that the hot springs served as a stopover on the historic Comanche Trail. Records also document Apaches growing crops and living in settlements around the springs as early as the 1700s. In fact, pictographs above the springs provide evidence that ancient peoples constructed bedrock mortars and bathing pools for capturing the warm water. Today, the foundation of the more recent Langford bathhouse still holds enough hot water to create a shallow pool for visitors to enjoy. Located along the Hot Springs Trail just a short hike from the Hot Springs Trailhead, the small pool offers a relaxing respite after a day of winter trekking across the national park.
My family has made a number of trips to Big Bend National Park over the past 30 years, driving the scenic routes, hiking its many trails, camping, and enjoying stargazing and hot springs. We love this 800,000-acre park for its incredible and diverse landscape: swaths of thorny Chihuahuan Desert, verdant springs, sand dunes, rocky ridges, and entire mountain ranges hiding waterfalls and spruce-filled canyons. Even more, we cherish its opportunities to get away from the madding crowds.
With pleasant late-September temperatures and a picture-perfect blue sky overhead, I shrugged on a backpack loaded with overnight gear and made last-minute hiking plans with friends in the Basin parking lot of Big Bend National Park. Above us towered the craggy heights of the Chisos Mountains, daring us to hike up into the rocky peaks.
As a longtime Texan and adventuresome traveler, I’ve enjoyed a long fascination with the Chihuahuan Desert region of far West Texas, with its rugged terrain and spiked branches of red-tipped ocotillo reaching to sprawling blue skies. I have always wanted to experience the Big Bend by floating the Rio Grande through the weathered, limestone walls of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, but the stars have never aligned—until recently.
For the enlightened and adventurous traveler, serendipity transforms every trip: Hiking a new trail and rounding a bend to encounter an unexpected vista, journeying to a destination you’ve heard about—or visiting a familiar place with someone who’s never been—without an agenda. Or, in the case of pursuing Texas wildflowers, finding yourself surprised with the splashes and brushstrokes of red, blue, orange, and purple that appear in the landscape.
By Melissa Gaskill
A blue-black dome arcs overhead, filled with a million sparkling pinpoints from one jagged horizon to the next. No other light of any kind intrudes. Wind rattles through yucca and grasses, overcoming an otherwise total silence. This is Pine Canyon Number 4 primitive campsite in
As the reach of cell phones and wireless networks extends farther and farther, and adventure-seekers roam ever greater distances (even spas are opening up in what used to be the country), it gets harder to find places like this without days of trekking or spending a fortune. Places miles from nowhere—without high-rises and big-box stores, traffic, or even other people—with stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, dark skies, and lots of solitude. Luckily for us, those places still exist here in
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Big Bend National Park
- Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
- Hill Country State Natural Area Wilderness Primitive Camp
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- Lost Maples State Natural Area
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area
- Matagorda Bay Nature Park
- Devils River State Natural Area