There is some debate among park aficionados as to which is the most beautiful, Big Bend National Park or Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Today is the day we put the debate to rest.
Big Bend Ranch State Park lies west of and is one-third the size of Big Bend National Park. It has 70 miles of unmaintained dirt roads and 238 miles of multi use trails.
Yesterday we did a lot of bouncing around on dirt roads so today we’re opting for the state park’s scenic drive along the Rio Grande River. There are two visitors centers with exhibits but we’re in a driving mood and pass them by.
Let’s go for a drive!
Leaving Terlingua, heading toward Big Bend Ranch State Park on Highway 170.
Near Lajitas interesting rocks come into view.
The road was designed to follow the Rio Grande as closely as possible and because of this it conforms to the land, up and down and around, never straight.
The river is on the left and Mexico is on the opposite bank.
Off into the distance.
Cliffs and shapes.
A picnic area.
We stopped for a moment to stretch our legs and a group of Javelinas crossed the road in front of us.
As we stood there, group after group came across, so we inched closer.
Mom and baby started to cross but a car was coming so baby turned and ran.
Waiting for traffic.
Here comes dad.
All together, about fifteen Javelinas crossed the road.
Why did the Javelinas cross the road? To get to the river.
The road continues into this canyon.
It climbs up a narrow shelf, steeper than it looks.
The top looks out over the valley in a breathtaking view!
The hill on this side is ridiculously steep and has a view point with no guardrail or fence of any kind.
More curvy, bumpy road.
At this point I would like to offer some helpful, travel advice. Make sure everyone uses the restroom before you start this drive. It is 62 miles from Terlingua to Presdio and there are no rest stops of any kind. Midway we finally came to one Porta Potty on the side of the road near a boat ramp.
Make sure not to cross the river.
This is the river at this point.
Caves and swallow nests on the Mexico side.
The road is carved through the landscape.
Near Presidio, the ground finally levels out. The state park boundaries zig zag along this area and small settlements pop up along the way.
Many are ghost towns or close to becoming ghost towns.
Presidio was founded in 1683.
It’s a border crossing town and not much else.
We were getting hungry and our only option was a Subway in a big metal building.
Inside it looked just like a normal Subway but they were out of bread except wheat and flatbread and also out of some of the meat selections. Jeff had a meatball sandwich on flatbread, an interesting experience.
Fort Leaton sits on the outskirts of Presidio, it serves as a Big Bend Ranch State Park Visitor Center and also has exhibits.
This ruin sits by the fort.
Time to head back the way we came and stop at all the places we missed.
On the drive out to Presdio I noticed an interesting area full of rock caves. There was a dirt road leading to them.
Surprise! A house hidden among the rocks.
It was much cooler inside, the adobe really worked.
What a great view!
Other buildings around.
It was like the Flintstone’s village.
Unfortunately we didn’t stop at the visitor center so I have no information on the structures. If I did it over again, I would have stopped.
The dirt road continued around the back of the rocks through a wash.
It brought us closer to some of the colorful mountains and made a loop back to the main road.
Ruins are visible all along the way.
The Toadstool Overlook is a particularly beautiful spot.
Looking back the way we came.
Let’s keep going…
Contrabando is a deserted movie set not far from Lajitas. Many movies were filmed there including Streets of Laredo. Recently the state decided to tear most of it down and refurbish the site to create a picnic spot.
Only one building still remains as it was.
Terlingua, Texas is about 10 miles from the gate for Big Bend National Park. Lajitas, Texas is 11 miles west of Terlingua. When I was researching places to stay, I considered Lajitas Rv Resort but I felt it would have added too many miles to our already long drive. Lajitas is a lovely little town and it has a great hotel with it’s own wild west themed shopping center and a lot of tourist activities.
Back to Terlingua.
Terlingua was a thriving mercury mining town from the 1880’s until 1940.
A sign next to the road explains the history and you can look out toward the mining remains from there.
The miners abandoned Terlingua in the 40’s. Today, modern houses sit intermingled between the ruins of the old mining town.
The Starlight Theatre is the place both tourists and locals hang out. At any given time a local musician or two jam on the front porch of the trading post.
It was absolutely packed.
The local cemetery which is still in use sits at the entrance to town and is also surrounded by ruins.
Terlingua is populated by a collection of loners, artists, eccentrics and outcasts. They live in cars, caves, teepees, tents and shacks made out of car tires. A unique sight or structure is around every corner.
We’ve driven many, many scenic roads in our travels and I can honestly say this one ranks in the top 10. Pictures do not do it justice. The driving experience itself was a good part of the charm, very much like a roller coaster.
I highly recommend it!