Big Bend National Park

After camping the previous night at the Rio Grande Village campground, Zosia Zgolak and I spent most of 2 January 2023 exploring parts of Texas's Big Bend National Park.  In the morning, we walked from our campsite to the nearby Nature Trail which included stroll by the banks of the Rio Grande as well as a short climb up a small hill with a superlative viewpoint.  At a few places beside the trail, we noticed collections of Mexican souvenirs arranged on the ground along with a money jar.  Presumably, local Mexicans cross the Rio Grande in hopes of selling these souvenirs to tourists visiting the park.  We actually spotted a Mexican man on horseback crossing the river nearby, but it was unclear if he was doing rounds to check on all the money jars.  Officially, the US National Parks Service considers it illegal to purchase these souvenirs within the park; such purchases are considered contraband and subject to seizure by law enforcement officers.  However, we would see many more of these "souvenir stands" elsewhere, and it appears that park rangers do little to enforce the regulation.
'Cause it's no fun being an illegal alien! Some local Mexicans illegally cross the Rio Grande in hopes of doing business with tourists visiting Big Bend National Park.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We tried throwing some rocks into Mexico!

Zosia stands on the American side of the Rio Grande.


Too bad this isn't a named summit!

This diminutive hill grants a comprehensive view of Rio Grande Village beside its namesake river.  Also visible on the left horizon are the Chisos Mountains.


These ones were only slightly larger than minnows.

Blue tilapia swim in a marsh beside the Rio Grande.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

When Zosia and I finished our walk on the Nature Trail, we departed the campground and headed for Boquillas Canyon.  Once again, we encountered more souvenirs along the trail into the canyon, and this time, we were met by another Mexican man on horseback.  He tried to sell us six tamales for $10 USD, but I politely declined mostly because I was not that hungry but also because I was not sure how long the tamales may have been sitting in his saddle bags (he claimed that they had been freshly made by his wife that morning).
Official park policy is to prohibit such activities, but it seems the rangers do very little to actually enforce this. At Boquillas Canyon Overlook are numerous souvenir items presumably left by Mexicans for the purpose of enticing tourists to purchase them.
We saw a heron down at the river here.

On the way to Boquillas Canyon, Zosia stops at a scenic viewpoint above the Rio Grande.  Visible at distant right is the village of Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico.

That's a great look, Zosia! More "souvenir stands" are scattered along the trail to Boquillas Canyon.
A Mexican on horseback here tried to sell us 6 tomales for $10 USD.

Zosia approaches the entrance to Boquillas Canyon.

Very nice! Here is a look at an impressive cliff face on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near the entrance to Boquillas Canyon.
From Boquillas Canyon, Zosia and I drove to virtually the other (west) side of Big Bend National Park.  We made a few brief stops along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive before arriving at Santa Elena Canyon which is one of the most popular attractions in the park.  What is normally a straightforward hike into the canyon was made trickier on this day because of high water.  This necessitated a detour onto some rather sketchy trails along a deteriorating bluff, but surprisingly, even the most timid or novice hikers were not deterred by this significant challenge.  The most noteworthy thing about our hike into Santa Elena Canyon was seeing a large herd of sheep grazing on the far (Mexican) side of the Rio Grande.  Wind funneling through the canyon also created dusty conditions which had me spitting grit out of my mouth a few times.  After returning to the trailhead, we wrapped up our visit and drove out of the park for good.

Zosia tries to blend in with the landscape at Mule Ears Viewpoint along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Had I done more research, I might have considered scrambling up Cerro Castellan. Zosia enjoys the views from Desert Mountain Overlook along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.  The striking peak behind Zosia is Cerro Castellan.  Visible on the left horizon is Emory Peak.
This is an immensely popular hike.

Zosia approaches the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon.

It's amazing how many non-scramblers will risk their necks on this sketchy detour! High water on this day forces hikers to take a rather sketchy detour along the low bluffs at centre to access Santa Elena Canyon (out of view to left).

Kinda similar to the view from the Desert Mountain Overlook.

Here is a view to the east from the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon.


Look for goats on the left (Mexican) bank!

Zosia ventures deeper into Santa Elena Canyon.

End of trail. This is as far as Zosia can go upstream along the Rio Grande without getting her feet wet.
Very windy here! Sonny and Zosia pose for a selfie near the end of trail in Santa Elena Canyon.
I wonder if anything got crushed underneath the rock... On the way out, Sonny walks beneath a massive chunk of rock that broke off the canyon wall some time in the past.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Baaaa! A herd of sheep graze on the Mexican side of the canyon.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak