Into Big Bend National Park

15 03 2013
Rio Grande Village Campground

Rio Grande Village Campground

We’re on the road again, leaving Lajitas for the short trip to the west entrance gate of Big Bend National Park. Once inside the park, we’re bound for Rio Grande Village which is slightly north and east of the river’s “U-turn”. From the Terlingua/Study Butte entrance it’s about 50 miles down to Rio Grande Village. This is the most accessible campground and provides the best options for an site without a reservation. The NPS campground at Rio Grande Village has 100 no-hookup sites, only 46 are reservable online. We’re hoping for an available walk-up site of “un-reservable” 54, even though spring break is in full swing in Texas. Our “back-up” plan is at a full-hookup campground run by a private concessionaire. But these spots, even though they have full hookups, are less than ideal – they are all back-in sites set along a long narrow paved parking lot. There are green areas with trees behind the RV rows, but certainly not what we come to the National Park for.

Rio Grande Village Campground

Rio Grande Village Campground

After arriving around noon, we’re pleased to find plenty of walk-up sites available. The camp host is most helpful pointing out easy-access sites and the “no-generator” zone. We opt for site #70 a small pull-through outside of the “no-generator” zone and fairly near the entrance. For the most part, these sites are smaller and many have overhanging tree limbs that could get in the way of bigger rigs. The roads throughout the campground are paved, some sites have a partial paved pad but most are gravel. Each site has a picnic table an above-ground grill and a “beast box”. These metal boxes are fairly large (big enough for several coolers), secured by “bear proof” latches and used to keep all food products away from the roaming bear and javalinas. There are water hydrants scattered around the campground, but the only threaded connection for filling RV fresh water tanks is just outside the park near the RV dump station. There are also restrooms with dish washing sinks scattered through the park. Once you’ve paid your NPS entrance fee of $20 (for 7 days), the camping fee is $14/night payable with either cash or credit card. You’re basically “off-the-grid” here, the last cellular service was a weak signal around Panther Junction. There is an open WiFi hotspot provided just down the road at Rio Grande Village store for those that can’t avoid a quick tweet or email.

Rio Grande Village Group Camping

Rio Grande Village Group Camping

River from Rio Grande Village Campground

River from Rio Grande Village Campground

Roadrunner Campsite Visitor

Roadrunner Campsite Visitor

River from Rio Grande Village Campground

River from Rio Grande Village Campground

There are two other campgrounds in the park, Cottonwood near the SW corner and Chisos Basin in the center of the park. The road to “the Basin” as it’s called by park staff, could be a bit of a challenge for any but the shortest coaches or trailers. But, once you arrive at the campground the challenge will be even greater finding a place to park. Some of the sites are large enough, but the road within the campground has some sharp, tight turns. If you are headed to Chisos with a larger RV, you’d be well advised to drive the road without the rig first and find a campsite that will accommodate. One advantage of Chisos is the elevation – located at 5410 feet, it was nearly 20 degrees cooler than at Rio Grande Village at 1850’ elevation. We didn’t visit Cottonwood campground, but there are no specific warning issued about large rigs by the park service.

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