Challenges Thanks To Our Not So Competent Government
Our visit to Big Bend National Park was challenged by the government shutdown to say the least. We had planned to stay at the Rio Grande Village Campground, however, the campgrounds were closed due to the shutdown.
Santa Elena Canyon Access Closed
We were still able to access the park, however, most services were not available. The access to Santa Elena Canyon was blocked off. Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most popular features of Big Bend National Park, so that was a bummer for sure. See what we missed via the photos below.
Boquillas Mexico Port Of Entry Closed
We wanted to go into Boquillas, Mexico. Nope, that official port of entry was closed because of the government shutdown as well. We were able to get to Boquillas Canyon, but unable to cross into Mexico there. At least not legally anyway…
Boquillas Canyon – Big Bend National Park
Gorgeous Canyon Separates Mexico & USA
This is a beautiful canyon with the Rio Grande River flowing through the middle. The river separates Mexico from the United States. Sorry, but It is just too pretty to build a wall here. Our photography skills do not give the justice deserved.
Even though the official port of entry was closed, people were crossing illegally at will. The river is tranquil and not very deep.
Even before there was an official port of entry here, people would cross unofficially at will. As I understand it, international relations have always been friendly at the border here.
In fact, some of the people from Mexico had a little display setup to sell handmade goods on the USA side. The display was self-serve with a 2 liter bottle to deposit your money if you wished to make a purchase. Every so often the guys would come over the river by canoe or horse in order to collect their money from the bottle. The honor system seems to be alive and well here.
Visiting Boquillas Mexico
When you cross officially, you have the option to walk through the river when low enough, or pay $5 to be rowed across in a boat. Once on the other side you can either walk a 1/2 mile to the village, or you can pay for a ride by horse, burro, or vehicle. There are a couple of restaurants and some shops in the village. You can visit boquillas.org for more information on food, lodging & activities.
This official crossing is only open for specific hours dependent on season. Note that this port of entry is always closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.
Chisos Mountain Range
The Chisos Mountain range is the southern most range in the USA, and is the only range entirely contained in a national park. Emory Peak is the highest peak at 7,825 feet. These mountains have an abundance of wildlife including black bear, peregrine falcons, javelina, mountain lion, and more.
Chisos Mountains Lodge
Forever Resorts operates the Chisos Mountains Lodge. The lodge was still open despite the shutdown, as was the gas station inside Big Bend National Park. Basically, the few private enterprises within the park remained open.
Castolon Historic District
Castolon is a stop off point on the way to Santa Elena Canyon. It is said to be a step back in time. The buildings here are made of authentic adobe. There are some old wagons, boilers, and other machinery of the early 1900’s on display as well.
A Little History
It is a town with some history. During the Mexican Revolution refugees would flee here. The war prompted the U.S. Army to build an encampment called Campo Santa Helena. However, by the time the camp was built the war ended and so the army ever really used the buildings. The army barracks were converted into what is now The Castolon Store.
Dinner At The Starlight Theater & Drinks At La Kiva Underground Bar In Terlingua Ghost Town
We ended up back in the ghost town of Terlingua for something to eat. The Starlight Theater was packed even on a late Wednesday night. The live music performed by Sarah Burton was excellent. A fun restaurant atmosphere for sure.
We started with a sausage plate that was venison and wild boar with jalapeno & cheese; it was good but very rich. For entrées, we had an antelope burger & brisket plate. The antelope burger was top-notch, while the brisket plate was middle of the road.
La Kiva Bar & Restaurant
After that we had to check out one of the coolest bars you will find. La Kiva Restaurant & Bar is underground and has an amazing atmosphere inside and out. If you are in the area you should check this place out.
A True Ghost Town
Be careful though, this little ghost town was rocked by a murder a few years ago that took place at this bar. That makes it bit more ghostly I think. Maybe that is why their signature drink is the Mind Eraser (vodka, Kahlua, club soda).
Associated YouTube Video
Government Shutdown & Weather Forces Us To Move On
We ended up camping at Stillwell RV Park just outside the national park for the remainder of our stay. The weather in Texas has been cold. Our travel trailer does not have the arctic package, so we have to be careful to avoid freezing tanks and lines. Looks like we will be moving more south and east in search of warmer weather.
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