Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Route advice from West Contrabando to Sauceda Ranger Station and water info

  • 17 Replies
  • 1534 Views
*

Offline JRad

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 6
Hello,
First time poster and visitor to BBRSP!  I'm planning a trip to the park Feb 5-9.  My sister will be driving out with me.  She and I are planning a overnight together.  She is inexperienced so I thought I would take her 5-6 miles up West Rancherias for a 10-12 mile round trip out and back.  We plan on taking enough water for the 2 days.  Are there any other places that would be good for that distance?

After that, I was planning to have her drop me off at West Contrabando and I was going to take 3 days/2 nights to make my way to Sauceda Ranger Station where my sister will pick me up.  She's going to do yoga and spa stuff in Marfa.  It looks like hiking up Fresno Canyon to Pila Montoya or La Posta would be the easiest route. Then I could explore Los Portales,  Arroyo Mexicano, and/or Righthand Shutup. 
Do you think this route would work? 
What about cutting over and up via Arroyo Primero to Puerta Chilicote? 
Any other ideas?
I hear Crawford-Smith usually has water.  Any other good sources in this area?
Any good places to backcountry camp?  I read that below Madrid Falls is pretty good.

Just for reference I consider myself to be in really good shape with a low base weight. I'm pretty experienced in the backcountry and know how to use a compass/map.  I'd rather not bushwack very much though given my inexperience in the area.

Thanks in advance!

*

Online House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Nothing to offer except to say that you and your sister have an amazing relationship. Siblings are the best, especially when they understand and support each other. Best of luck, man. I look forward to your trip report.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline Losthiker68

  • Roadrunner
  • *
  • 78
Hello,
First time poster and visitor to BBRSP!  I'm planning a trip to the park Feb 5-9.  My sister will be driving out with me.  She and I are planning a overnight together.  She is inexperienced so I thought I would take her 5-6 miles up West Rancherias for a 10-12 mile round trip out and back.  We plan on taking enough water for the 2 days.  Are there any other places that would be good for that distance?

After that, I was planning to have her drop me off at West Contrabando and I was going to take 3 days/2 nights to make my way to Sauceda Ranger Station where my sister will pick me up.  She's going to do yoga and spa stuff in Marfa.  It looks like hiking up Fresno Canyon to Pila Montoya or La Posta would be the easiest route. Then I could explore Los Portales,  Arroyo Mexicano, and/or Righthand Shutup. 
Do you think this route would work? 
What about cutting over and up via Arroyo Primero to Puerta Chilicote? 
Any other ideas?
I hear Crawford-Smith usually has water.  Any other good sources in this area?
Any good places to backcountry camp?  I read that below Madrid Falls is pretty good.

Just for reference I consider myself to be in really good shape with a low base weight. I'm pretty experienced in the backcountry and know how to use a compass/map.  I'd rather not bushwack very much though given my inexperience in the area.

Thanks in advance!

I've hiked Contrabando to Crawford-Smith but not further. Yes, C-S has water but it'll take patience to get it.  When I was there 2 weeks ago, the biggest flowing pool I found was 3-4" deep and as wide as a basketball. I camped at the base of Fresno Cascades but pushing the 2 miles further to C-S would have been better because of the water.

If you don't mind a short (~1/2 mile) bushwhack across relatively flat ground, I highly recommend dropping into Fresno Creek rather than follow Contrabando/Dome trail. The trail is flat and relatively boring most of the time. Fresno Creek is gorgeous and has water.

If you go just a off trail at the old machinery you'll see just a few hundred yards into your hike from the trailhead and head northwest toward roughly 29.300, -103.846 you can drop into Fresno Creek and have a much prettier hike with gorgeous 40-100' canyon walls on either side and lots of water.  The drop in should be pretty easy but that spot is the only way in (I made it climbing up and I'm old, out of shape, and with a pack that was too heavy - down should be cake). The far end meets up with the trail to Fresno Cascades/Crawford-Smith. The only cool thing you'd miss is the old cinnabar processing complex (which I enjoyed - I had lunch there), but if you make a right at the east-west trail it'll take you there and you can double back less than half a mile to pick up where you left off.  You'll also miss the dayhikers, cyclists, and trail runners on the Contrabando that way.

On my trip, I followed Contrabando/Dome west outbound and followed Fresno Creek on the way back.

I dayhiked from Puerta Chillicothe to Mexicano Falls a few days later.  If you try and follow the route the state park maps show between Crawford-Smith and Puerta Chillicothe, be aware that several of the "trails" that climb up out of the canyon are *almost* bushwhacking because people rarely use them (this is based on what I saw and what Sauceda folks told me) and check that topo closely, they're steep!

Now that I think about it, your hike might actually work better reversed if you can manage the logistics of having your sister drop you at Sauceda first. Going from Puerta Chillicothe to Contrabando trailhead would make dropping into the canyon way better and you'd have a guaranteed source of water in the last stretch if you follow Fresno Creek rather than the trails (but you CANNOT miss that exit, the next one is past 170). It should be pretty obvious on the topo.
Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. - John Muir

*

Offline JRad

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 6
Nothing to offer except to say that you and your sister have an amazing relationship. Siblings are the best, especially when they understand and support each other. Best of luck, man. I look forward to your trip report.

Hey thanks! She is a good sister and it is great that we can be friends AND family.  I'll definitely post a trip report afterwards.

*

Offline JRad

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 6

I've hiked Contrabando to Crawford-Smith but not further. Yes, C-S has water but it'll take patience to get it.  When I was there 2 weeks ago, the biggest flowing pool I found was 3-4" deep and as wide as a basketball. I camped at the base of Fresno Cascades but pushing the 2 miles further to C-S would have been better because of the water.

If you don't mind a short (~1/2 mile) bushwhack across relatively flat ground, I highly recommend dropping into Fresno Creek rather than follow Contrabando/Dome trail. The trail is flat and relatively boring most of the time. Fresno Creek is gorgeous and has water.

If you go just a off trail at the old machinery you'll see just a few hundred yards into your hike from the trailhead and head northwest toward roughly 29.300, -103.846 you can drop into Fresno Creek and have a much prettier hike with gorgeous 40-100' canyon walls on either side and lots of water.  The drop in should be pretty easy but that spot is the only way in (I made it climbing up and I'm old, out of shape, and with a pack that was too heavy - down should be cake). The far end meets up with the trail to Fresno Cascades/Crawford-Smith. The only cool thing you'd miss is the old cinnabar processing complex (which I enjoyed - I had lunch there), but if you make a right at the east-west trail it'll take you there and you can double back less than half a mile to pick up where you left off.  You'll also miss the dayhikers, cyclists, and trail runners on the Contrabando that way.

On my trip, I followed Contrabando/Dome west outbound and followed Fresno Creek on the way back.

I dayhiked from Puerta Chillicothe to Mexicano Falls a few days later.  If you try and follow the route the state park maps show between Crawford-Smith and Puerta Chillicothe, be aware that several of the "trails" that climb up out of the canyon are *almost* bushwhacking because people rarely use them (this is based on what I saw and what Sauceda folks told me) and check that topo closely, they're steep!

Now that I think about it, your hike might actually work better reversed if you can manage the logistics of having your sister drop you at Sauceda first. Going from Puerta Chillicothe to Contrabando trailhead would make dropping into the canyon way better and you'd have a guaranteed source of water in the last stretch if you follow Fresno Creek rather than the trails (but you CANNOT miss that exit, the next one is past 170). It should be pretty obvious on the topo.

Thanks for the Fresno Creek tip!  I think your idea of reversing the trip is a good one. I like hiking towards water sources. There also appear to be some good options along the main park road to Sauceda for a short overnighter so we don't have to drive all the way around the park to drop me off.

*

Offline alan in shreveport

  • Golden Eagle
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 825
  • Guinness is Good for You
Hello,
First time poster and visitor to BBRSP!  I'm planning a trip to the park Feb 5-9.  My sister will be driving out with me.  She and I are planning a overnight together.  She is inexperienced so I thought I would take her 5-6 miles up West Rancherias for a 10-12 mile round trip out and back.  We plan on taking enough water for the 2 days.  Are there any other places that would be good for that distance?

After that, I was planning to have her drop me off at West Contrabando and I was going to take 3 days/2 nights to make my way to Sauceda Ranger Station where my sister will pick me up.  She's going to do yoga and spa stuff in Marfa.  It looks like hiking up Fresno Canyon to Pila Montoya or La Posta would be the easiest route. Then I could explore Los Portales,  Arroyo Mexicano, and/or Righthand Shutup. 
Do you think this route would work? 
What about cutting over and up via Arroyo Primero to Puerta Chilicote? 
Any other ideas?
I hear Crawford-Smith usually has water.  Any other good sources in this area?
Any good places to backcountry camp?  I read that below Madrid Falls is pretty good.

Just for reference I consider myself to be in really good shape with a low base weight. I'm pretty experienced in the backcountry and know how to use a compass/map.  I'd rather not bushwack very much though given my inexperience in the area.

Thanks in advance!

I was at the narrows this past tuesday (1-22). Less water than I've seen in the past. There was plenty of water in the pools but it was not flowing between the pools like it always was on previous visits. The entire walk from the west contribando trailhead to the narrows was bone dry - also a first.   Also, fwiw,  the "beaver pond" at the Rio Grande village was very low and the little pool at the foot of Sam Nail 's windmill was dry.  I was surprised at all of this in light of the wet fall and early winter that I thought they've had.

*

Online House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.


I was at the narrows this past tuesday (1-22). Less water than I've seen in the past. There was plenty of water in the pools but it was not flowing between the pools like it always was on previous visits. The entire walk from the west contribando trailhead to the narrows was bone dry - also a first.   Also, fwiw,  the "beaver pond" at the Rio Grande village was very low and the little pool at the foot of Sam Nail 's windmill was dry.  I was surprised at all of this in light of the wet fall and early winter that I thought they've had.


Dang. Thatís good info, Alan. And, I agree, a little shocking. You might want to post that in the Springs and Water Sources thread. Itís a good couple of data points toward future understanding of water availability in Big Bend. I wonder if the abundance of water that I and Mule Ears each found in our respective hiking areas in mid-December is now gone. Hopefully, weíll get some more reports to round out the picture.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Online mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4325
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking


I was at the narrows this past tuesday (1-22). Less water than I've seen in the past. There was plenty of water in the pools but it was not flowing between the pools like it always was on previous visits. The entire walk from the west contribando trailhead to the narrows was bone dry - also a first.   Also, fwiw,  the "beaver pond" at the Rio Grande village was very low and the little pool at the foot of Sam Nail 's windmill was dry.  I was surprised at all of this in light of the wet fall and early winter that I thought they've had.


Dang. Thatís good info, Alan. And, I agree, a little shocking. You might want to post that in the Springs and Water Sources thread. Itís a good couple of data points toward future understanding of water availability in Big Bend. I wonder if the abundance of water that I and Mule Ears each found in our respective hiking areas in mid-December is now gone. Hopefully, weíll get some more reports to round out the picture.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat

+1 to that. 
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline JRad

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 6
Hello,
First time poster and visitor to BBRSP!  I'm planning a trip to the park Feb 5-9.  My sister will be driving out with me.  She and I are planning a overnight together.  She is inexperienced so I thought I would take her 5-6 miles up West Rancherias for a 10-12 mile round trip out and back.  We plan on taking enough water for the 2 days.  Are there any other places that would be good for that distance?

After that, I was planning to have her drop me off at West Contrabando and I was going to take 3 days/2 nights to make my way to Sauceda Ranger Station where my sister will pick me up.  She's going to do yoga and spa stuff in Marfa.  It looks like hiking up Fresno Canyon to Pila Montoya or La Posta would be the easiest route. Then I could explore Los Portales,  Arroyo Mexicano, and/or Righthand Shutup. 
Do you think this route would work? 
What about cutting over and up via Arroyo Primero to Puerta Chilicote? 
Any other ideas?
I hear Crawford-Smith usually has water.  Any other good sources in this area?
Any good places to backcountry camp?  I read that below Madrid Falls is pretty good.

Just for reference I consider myself to be in really good shape with a low base weight. I'm pretty experienced in the backcountry and know how to use a compass/map.  I'd rather not bushwack very much though given my inexperience in the area.

Thanks in advance!

I was at the narrows this past tuesday (1-22). Less water than I've seen in the past. There was plenty of water in the pools but it was not flowing between the pools like it always was on previous visits. The entire walk from the west contribando trailhead to the narrows was bone dry - also a first.   Also, fwiw,  the "beaver pond" at the Rio Grande village was very low and the little pool at the foot of Sam Nail 's windmill was dry.  I was surprised at all of this in light of the wet fall and early winter that I thought they've had.


Dang.  Sounds like I should plan on carrying all the water I need?

*

Offline Ranger Tim

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 371
  • Vulpes vulpes
I think that you will definitely want to carry more water than you want. I like the advice of staying in the canyon from 170 all the way to C-S. I was down there a couple of days ago and there are numerous source despite Crawford Smith being dry. There is also water about a mile south of the cascades near the Sleeper Cabin (not on the map but along the trail), as well as decent water in Arroyo Primero near the Madrid House and in Chorro Canyon but you will have to bushwhack for it. From Chorro to Chilicothe there is basically no water to speak of and the same can be said for Upper Fresno above C-S. If you do attempt the Mexicano to Chilicothe route, just know that it is pretty darned difficult to follow in spots. There has been a tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just upstream from where the trail crosses the creek, but I have not laid eyes on it in many months. If you go to Sauceda via La Posta, there is good water at Papalote Encino.
"The greatest happiness possible to man ... is to become civilized, to know the pageant of the past, to love the beautiful,... and then, retaining animal instincts and appetites, to live in the wilderness"
- J. Frank Dobie

*

Offline JRad

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 6
I think that you will definitely want to carry more water than you want. I like the advice of staying in the canyon from 170 all the way to C-S. I was down there a couple of days ago and there are numerous source despite Crawford Smith being dry. There is also water about a mile south of the cascades near the Sleeper Cabin (not on the map but along the trail), as well as decent water in Arroyo Primero near the Madrid House and in Chorro Canyon but you will have to bushwhack for it. From Chorro to Chilicothe there is basically no water to speak of and the same can be said for Upper Fresno above C-S. If you do attempt the Mexicano to Chilicothe route, just know that it is pretty darned difficult to follow in spots. There has been a tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just upstream from where the trail crosses the creek, but I have not laid eyes on it in many months. If you go to Sauceda via La Posta, there is good water at Papalote Encino.

Thanks Ranger Tim!

*

Offline DesertRatShorty

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 271
    • Who was Desert Rat Shorty?
JRad, I just walked out yesterday from a 6 day hike that included much of the area you're discussing. To add to what Ranger Tim said, there is most definitely a large, full tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just above the Mexicano Falls Trail. Ojo Chilichote also had a lot of water. I will be starting a trip report most likely in a few days, but in the mean time I will PM you with some other thoughts.

Sent from my SM-G930V using Big Bend Chat mobile app

I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

*

Online mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4325
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
JRad, I just walked out yesterday from a 6 day hike that included much of the area you're discussing. To add to what Ranger Tim said, there is most definitely a large, full tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just above the Mexicano Falls Trail. Ojo Chilichote also had a lot of water. I will be starting a trip report most likely in a few days, but in the mean time I will PM you with some other thoughts.

Sent from my SM-G930V using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Awesome DRS, I am really looking forward to your report!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline Ranger Tim

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 371
  • Vulpes vulpes
"To add to what Ranger Tim said, there is most definitely a large, full tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just above the Mexicano Falls Trail. Ojo Chilichote also had a lot of water."

I was going to mention that one, but I haven't personally laid eyes on it in over eight months. Good to know. That is great news. Did you happen to see the rock imagery in the rock alcove above that tinaja?
"The greatest happiness possible to man ... is to become civilized, to know the pageant of the past, to love the beautiful,... and then, retaining animal instincts and appetites, to live in the wilderness"
- J. Frank Dobie

*

Online House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
JRad, I just walked out yesterday from a 6 day hike that included much of the area you're discussing. To add to what Ranger Tim said, there is most definitely a large, full tinaja in Arroyo Mexicano just above the Mexicano Falls Trail. Ojo Chilichote also had a lot of water. I will be starting a trip report most likely in a few days, but in the mean time I will PM you with some other thoughts.

Rock and roll, Shorty!  Been thinking about you.  So happy you made it out there this year. Really looking forward to your report.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments