Big Bend Country
Peace and quiet abound in Comstock along the Lower Pecos River
By Scott DuBois
If not for the lone blinking yellow traffic light on US 90 just northwest of Del Rio, it’d be easy to miss the dusty little town of Comstock. The area is home to the oldest rock art in North America, making archeologists a majority of the population. The many limestone canyons that branch off from the Pecos River and Rio Grande conceal rock shelters with pictographs more than 6,000 years old. Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site is Comstock’s best-known rock art destination, but there are over 325 documented sites nearby. History enthusiasts will enjoy touring them, but anyone can appreciate the area’s natural beauty and rugged charm.
Gas up before heading farther west to other towns like Langtry—the home of legendary lawman Judge Roy Bean—as there aren’t any fuel stops along the way. There certainly isn’t anything in Pandale, which makes Terlingua look like Dallas. The hamlet is an hour north of Langtry up a caliche road past a small river crossing. There was once a post office and a school, but little remains except for a few cabins. It’s a blissfully remote place to sit by the river, ponder our state’s history, and enjoy the solitude.
Pandale Crossing River Resort
There isn’t a pool or trash service, but what this resort lacks in amenities, it rewards vistors with the greatest of luxuries: space. This collection of cabins, which start at $115/night, has a private Pecos riverfront location and an incredible view of the Milky Way. The resort also rents kayaks and arranges hikes on a nearby ranch.
Texas State Parks: Hidden Gems
SEMINOLE CANYON STATE PARK
Offering rugged stone cliffs, deep canyons, and sweeping valleys, this state park near Del Rio helps tell Texas stories that date back thousands of years. Walk more than 10 miles of trails to enjoy stunning views of the Rio Grande. Take a guided tour to view and study some of the oldest rock art in all North America. The park also boasts camping, biking, and birding, as well as a visitor center.
OTHER HIDDEN GEMS
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
MORE BIG BEND COUNTRY TEXAS STATE PARKS
Balmorhea State Park
Barton Warnock Visitor Center
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Davis Mountains State Park
Devils River State Natural Area
Franklin Mountains State Park
Monahans Sandhills State Park
For more information, directions, and amenities, get your free mobile guide to all 80-plus state parks: texasstateparks.org
White Shaman Preserve
San Antonio’s Witte Museum operates the preserve that protects one of the most spectacular rock art sites in the Lower Pecos region. The White Shaman mural, depicting a creation story, measures 26 feet long and is over 3,000 years old. Tours happen every Saturday morning, and reservations can be made online.
Amistad National Recreation Area
Lake Amistad is a massive reservoir near the confluence of the Pecos, Devils, and Rio Grande rivers. While lake levels are currently near historic lows, the rocky shoreline at Governor’s Landing still has cool, clear blue water. There are also campgrounds, fishing guides, and fuel available nearby.
Pecos High Bridge
A few miles north of its confluence with the Rio Grande, the Pecos River is spanned by one of the tallest highway bridges in Texas. The Pecos High Bridge, opened in 1944, stands at 323 feet above the river and is 1,390 feet long. Look for a rest stop and picnic area with a panoramic view of the Pecos just before the east crossing.
The J and P Bar and Grill
This may be the lone restaurant to speak of in the area, but that’s not the only
reason to visit. Though it serves everything from Tex-Mex to chicken-fried steak, J and P is most famous for its burgers, which are ground in-house and served on deliciously soft challah buns. It makes for the perfect post-hike meal.
Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center
After the Civil War, Judge Roy Bean was a justice of the peace in Langtry. His offbeat brand of justice and revelry is the stuff of legend: He once staged a world championship boxing match on the Rio Grande, and as coroner, he pronounced the deaths of workers who perished building the original Pecos High Bridge. The center preserves his original saloon building and has a Travel Information Center and a xeriscape garden.
Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center
This nonprofit protects and preserves the Native American rock art of the Lower Pecos region. More than 300 rock art sites can be found in the area, including paintings that cover the 40-foot walls of a limestone cave. Call in advance to see the work, but the best way to experience it is in the field through Shumla Treks. These are regular hikes guided by archeologists to rock shelters in state parks and on private land.
The museum exhibits permanent collections on topics such as archeology and natural history. It also offers private, guided tours of area sites throughout the fall. Find state park shelters and preserves, along with hard-to-access places like Meyers Spring and Bonfire Shelter, The museum’s website lists various tour dates for registration. Each year the museum opens the White Shaman Preserve for a weekend of camping, music, barbecue, and tours of some of the state’s best rock art sites.
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