Photo by Karen Hoffman Blizzard

Texas’ wild child is growing up. Big Bend Ranch State Park will celebrate its 10th birthday this November, and though still untamed, the 300,000-acre expanse of Chihuahuan Desert is a little more settled than it once was.

To see for yourself, head west on Nov. 3 for Fiesta!, a celebration put on by the park and its support group, Friends of Big Bend Ranch State Park. The event, which will be based at Sauceda Ranger Station headquarters, includes a barbecue lunch and activities ranging from guided hikes to bike rides, horseback rides, and geology and archeology tours—all free of charge. Camping fees will be waived.

Texas’ largest state park, Big Bend Ranch opened on a limited basis in 1991 before opening fully to the public in 2009. Park staffers have worked since then to build the park’s offerings for visitors, including campsites, recreational opportunities, and information about the park’s history and resources.

As a former Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff member involved with the state park planning and leading rides at Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, I’ve had plenty of rugged adventures at the park, from clearing trails in the hot summers to mountain-biking through newly acquired Fresno Canyon, and exploring thorny terrain that left bloody scratches on my legs. I watched as Texas-size amounts of dedication, teamwork, physical labor, and community engagement made this remote park ready for public use and sustainable for the future.

Big Bend Ranch State Park attracts urbanites craving adventure and solitude. Its landscape, shaped by volcanic activity and weathering over millions of years, has been home to Native Americans, cinnabar miners, wax smugglers, and ranchers. Mountain bikers love its vast network of trails, including the Solitario loop trails and Fresno-Sauceda EPIC ride. The park’s untainted skies earned it recognition as a Dark Sky Park in 2018. Hikers, equestrians, and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts can explore near Sauceda or take longer treks in remote areas. And speaking of camping, former State Parks Deputy Director Dan Sholly, who oversaw the park’s public use plan, hand-picked each campsite in the park to showcase a beautiful view or other unique features.

“Celebrating 10 years is a big deal, and we’re throwing this Fiesta as a thank-you to visitors and those who love this place,” said Nate Gold, complex superintendent. “People come here to reconnect with nature on the ‘other side of nowhere.’”

If you go, but don’t camp, consider spending the night of Saturday, Nov. 2, in Terlingua for the annual Dia de los Muertos tradition. At sunset, meet at the Historic Cemetery in Terlingua Ghost Town to make offerings to loved ones. The drive from Terlingua to the Sauceda Ranger Station is 2.5 hours along scenic River Road.


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