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.

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April Visit 2017 First Timers

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Offline upontheridge

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April Visit 2017 First Timers
« on: February 28, 2017, 04:22:30 PM »
Would appreciate any suggestions and recommendations for our April 12 to April 25 first visit to Big Bend.  Three 55+ couples all from the East Coast will be visiting Big Bend for the first time.  We plan to do some hiking, biking and bird watching.  We will be in 30 foot RV travel trailers.  Have reservations for the first 4 nights at Rio Grande Village area, 2 nights at the full hookup location and 2 nights at the no hookups location.  We will be driving in from San Antonio.  We hope to find a couple boondocking locations for three nights then head over to an RV park in the Terlingua area for a night to fill up on water etc.  Our plan after that was to then proceed to Cottonwood Campground for 3 nights and then return to one of the Terlingua or Lajitas area RV parks for our last couple of nights and possibly explore the Big Bend Ranch State Park area. 

We haven't mapped out any specific hikes yet so would appreciate recommendations.  Several in our group are avid birdwatchers looking to add lots of birds to life lists so much of our time hiking and sightseeing time will focus around finding birds.  It sounds like the Chisos Mtn area will have the best weather temperature wise during our visit but unfortunately our travel trailers are to long for the road in from what I have read.  It also looks like it is pretty much half way in between Terlingua and RGV.  Wondering if any boondocking locations that would accommodate our Truck and Travel Trailers would put us closer to Chisos.   I was hoping to do some dual sport riding while visiting the park but I don't think that will happen but would like to at least get out off the paved road.  Would appreciate any recommendations for back country roads that I could reasonably traverse in my Ford F150 4WD.   Thanks.  Pete.

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Offline Jalco

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2017, 07:35:14 PM »
Your F150 4WD is more than adequate for any of the backroads.  High clearance is more important that 4WD.

If you're already parked on the east side of the park, I would recommend Glen Springs Road and/or River Road as good backroads.  You could drive out the River road to Mariscal Mines, then return via Glenn Springs Rd.  Several hikes and sights along that route.

Sam Nail Ranch, from all accounts, is a good birding location.

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Offline dprather

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2017, 09:21:22 PM »
The Park has three elements (mountain, river, desert - and maybe border).  Take in all the elements.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline The Scorpion

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 10:36:12 PM »
Good birding locations will be in the camp ground in the basin.
Sam Nail ranch, cottonwood camp ground and the day use area near Daniels Ranch in Rio Grand Village. There is a Black hawk nesting area just past the RV spots in RGV.
Sometimes Dougout Wells is good for birding, but it's not been good for me the last few times I was there.

I can not stress enough how important drinking plenty of water will be. The temps can easily reach the upper 90's in April and even in the 100's, especially in the lower altitude areas. Stay hydrated.


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Offline Hang10er

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2017, 06:41:48 AM »
If you have an afternoon and passports, cross and have lunch in Boquillas, Mexico.

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Offline Imre

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2017, 07:04:50 AM »
The nearest colima warbler will be 3.5 miles and 1500 feet vertical elevation gain from the basin on the pinnacles trail.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Offline badknees

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2017, 07:27:38 AM »
Gray Hawk can be found near Cottonwood Campground.
The best birding spots will be along the river, near wet creeks or springs, and in the Chisos. --- Follow the water
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline upontheridge

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2017, 06:43:05 AM »
Thanks for all of the helpful info.  We are  looking forward to our visit. 

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 10:33:27 AM »
One book you might consider acquiring is A Field Guide to the Birds of the Big Bend, by Ro Wauer. Ro was the Chief Park Naturalist at Big Bend for many years. The book, like me, is a little old and out-dated, but still useful. It provides a comprehensive description of every bird found in Big Bend at the time of its writing, along with likely habitat and timing of appearance. The latest edition I have was published in 1996. Another good book by Ro is A Naturalist's Big Bend. Both these books can be purchased from the park's bookstores, or online.  A lot of what I know about Big Bend, I learned from Ro. He's a great teacher.

One birding location not yet mentioned by anyone, but a favorite of mine, is lower Blue Creek Canyon. Yes, it's HOT and exposed, and the footing can be tricky with all the sand and fine gravels, but I've found some great stuff there over the years. Lucifer Hummingbird feeding on Anisacanthus, Chollas, and Ocotillos, Gray Vireo singing from the drier slopes with Canyon and Rock Wrens on nearby cliffs, Painted Buntings singing from the tops of trees and bushes, Varied Buntings in lower weedy areas, Black-capped Vireo flitting in low scrub, Crissal Thrasher singing from a perch or running among dense scrub, and lastly, high over head, Zone-tailed Hawk. You may not see any of those species - it took me a few years to rack up all those sightings - but you never know what you might find along the Blue Creek drainage. A Great Horned Owl once mock-attacked me there: I guess I'd inadvertently gotten too close to hidden fledglings. If you do go there, probably best to make it an early morning trip to avoid the worst of the heat. Another great location is the Window Trail that drains the Basin: it falls under badknee's recommendation of "follow the water". An outstanding number of good finds occur along that drainage. I haven't seriously birded Big Bend in over a decade, but I suspect these locations will still be productive today.  Best of luck!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline The Scorpion

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 01:37:44 PM »
You might be surprised to see a few great blue herons in the park as well. Typically they hang out at the "beaver pond" along the Rio Grand nature trail, as well as the other ponds north of Daniels ranch. Park at the day use area by Daniels ranch and follow the service road north where there are 3 man made ponds. Have seen turtles, great blue herons and other birds.
Also keep an eye out for the resident Bob cat and possibly the coyotes towards the day use area by Daniels ranch, typically later in the afternoon is when they could be spotted, maybe an hour or so before sunset

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Offline Jimbow

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Re: April Visit 2017 First Timers
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2017, 05:03:51 AM »
Adding a birding checklist to my Bibe file box. Three lifetimes to do everything.

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Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

 


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