Visiting Big Bend National Park (Part 4: Outside the Park)

Continued from Visiting Big Bend National Park (Part 3: Flora)

 

In this part of my Big Bend National Park trip report, we drove west along River Road to Terlingua to have dinner at Starlight Theatre, crossed the Rio Grande River into Boquillas, Mexico for lunch, and stopped in Marathon north of the park for a look at the Gage Hotel.

 

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As I mentioned before, Big Bend National Park is a far drive from our home in Houston.  To make that long trek worth the drive, we visited sites all over the park, but we also visited some well loved attractions just outside the park.

 

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Terlingua, just west of the park, is an old mining settlement dating back to the 1880’s.  While population is less than 100, there are a few neat places worth visiting in Terlingua.  The old cemetary near Starlight Theatre is rustic and beautiful with its limestone rock and concrete tombs.

 

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Further west is Lajitas, home of Mayor Clay Henry (IV?), a beer guzzling goat.  If you’ve never bought a beer for an animal, this should be the one.  Consider it your civic duty.

 

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And even further west of Terlingua and Lajitas is the scenic River Road that follows the Rio Grande River.  Along this road is one of the most intriguing rest stops I’ve ever seen in Texas.  The picnic tables at the rest stop overlook the river, and are shaded from the sun by large concrete teepees (or tipis).  We visited in April, so there were still bluebonnets along the road and at this rest stop.

 

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Back at Terlingua is Starlight Theatre, where we enjoyed dinner and margaritas.  This place is always packed but worth the wait (maybe 30 minutes for us).  On the night we were there, Garner Sloan, an Austin band, rocked the stage.  I highly recommend this restaurant and saloon.  If you go, say hello to Henry Clay next to the stage.

 

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A popular lunch spot outside the park is Boquillas del Carmen across the Rio Grande River in Mexico.  Visiting Boquillas requires an official border crossing (in a paddleboat), and either a mile walk into town or a taxi ride (a mule, actually).  If you go, bring plenty of cash for the taxis and lunch.  The residents of Boquillas depend heavily on the small handful of tourists visiting from Big Bend.

 

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Jose Falcone’s is my favorite restaurant in Boquillas.  Their tequila selection is great, as is their authentic Mexican food.  We enjoyed pork and chicken tamales during our visit, and we enjoyed the peace of the sleepy town.  One particular resident, a desert sand colored mutt, was my spirit animal that day and had himself a nice little siesta under a cabinet near our table.

 

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Getting back to Big Bend again requires a taxi ride or walk, a river crossing, and re-entry through the US Customs office.  Be prepared for a possible long line either from one of the machines being out of service or people in front of you crossing without passports, which slows the process painfully.

 

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Just north of Big Bend on Highway 385 is the town of Marathon.  Founded in the 1880’s by way of the railroads, it’s charming boom occurred in the 1920’s.  We stopped in Marathon to visit the gorgeous and historic Gage Hotel, built in 1927 and recently restored/updated.  On our next trip to Big Bend, we plan on staying here before or after we camp in the park.  I could certainly lose myself in that courtyard.  Have you been?