Island in the Sky - Chisos Mtns - Big Bend National Park

9/27/2016; Big Bend National Park, Texas

Bigger than the state of Rhode Island

BB NP covers over 1200 square miles tucked into a bend of the Rio Grande River.  Three major ecosystems to explore are the river area, the Chihuahuan desert and the Chisos Mountains.  There are 2 campgrounds on either end of the park along the river, and a 3rd up in a basin of the Chisos at about 5500’ – since this is the cooler campground, it’s where I’m staying.

This whole area was an inland sea before it dried up and was further formed by volcanic action.  The Chisos Mountains are the remains of a huge volcanic uplifting – giving the mountains the appearance of being an ‘island in the sky’.  The campground is located in a basin created by a collapsed caldera.  The environment in the Chisos is markedly different than the desert floor, with Douglas Fir, Arizona Pine and Aspen.   The mountains are home to an estimated 25 mountain lions and has, over the last 20 years, been re-populated by Mexican black bears.

A view of the Chisos

The Badlands

Hard lava cap over layers of Tuff

Tuff Canyon

An official ‘Dark Sky’ location

A fourth aspect of the park is the night sky.  Being over a 100 miles from the nearest city means that the night sky is not affected by light pollution and, on clear nights, the stars are spectacular.  So far, the nights have been mostly cloudy so I haven’t seen much of the stars – only one night has been clear enough to see the milky way.  I’ll have to come back in the winter when the weather is more predictably dry.

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