Posted by: sunnyharvy | December 2, 2013

More Big Bend Adventures

After four nights at the Rio Grande Village Campground in the southeastern corner of Big Bend National Park, we headed over to Cottonwoods in the more remote southwestern corner. This lovely little (only 25 sites) campground has virtually no facilities, but it is nestled under a beautiful grove of Cottonwood trees next to the Rio Grande. Because of its location, and the fact that it does not allow generators, most of the campers are laid-back friendly folks who truly appreciate the natural setting.


Our site with one of the many fascinating geologic features in the background.


The view from my pillow through the skylight just after sunrise.

One of the primary reasons for moving our base camp was so we could explore the magnificent Santa Elena Canyon, which we did on foot and in our kayaks. Both proved a bit more challenging than we anticipated.


This trail triggered Al’s acrophobia, so I continued on alone…


and captured this photo of the canyon through which we would paddle the next day.

You will have to wait for Al to edit and process the video footage to get the full story, but suffice it to say that the Park Rangers who issued us permits to paddle UP the Rio Grande against a fairly stiff current, overestimated our ability to do so. Much of the two+ hours it took to get to the canyon from the put-in was spent carrying or dragging our boats across rocky terrain. In the end, the extraordinary experience of paddling between sheer walls rising over fifteen hundred feet was worth the effort.


Getting ready to paddle again after carrying past several hundred feet of rapids.

View Al’s video here.


Entering Santa Elena Canyon.


We were so exhausted by the time we actually got into the canyon, that we were unable to get past the turn you see ahead in this photo.

The segment we did do, however, is reportedly the narrowest and most spectacular.

View Al’s video here.


Coasting back out of the canyon.



Floating downstream to take-out. Riding the current back took less than a half an hour.

View Al’s video here.

One of our simpler outings in this area of the park was a short hike around the site of what used to be a family ranch. Before the 800,000+ acres became a national park, many ranches dotted the landscape.




After a week full of adventures and pleasures, we reluctantly departed Big Bend National Park. However, there was still much to see on our way out.


Multiple layers of geology.  That is the opening to Santa Elena Canyon in the distance.


Scenic drive along the Rio Grande after we left the park heading west toward Presidio, TX.


Just couldn’t resist this roadside rest stop with three tee-pees built by the Texas DOT.



  1. Do you find you are you traveling at your ideal pace? Have you wanted to linger someplace longer but had to get moving to reach CA in time for Christmas?

    • We definitely feel a little pressure to achieve our goal, but we also have taken extra time in the places that really moved our souls, like Big Bend. Once the holidays are over we will have no deadlines. That will certainly feel different.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: