Big Bend National Park

21 03 2015
Boquillas - Jose Falcons

Boquillas – Jose Falcons

With continued rain storms passing over southwest Texas, by Friday we’re wondering if it’s worth the 3 hours in and the 4 hours out of Big Bend.  But, the weather forecast is about the same for the Ft. Davis area and all the way east to San Antonio.  So by noon on Friday we’re packed up and headed south toward Alpine, TX for a few groceries and then to the west park entrance near Terlingua, TX.  The campground availability of 30 sites at Rio Grande Village is a welcome relief as we stop at the entrance station.  We were somewhat worried that spring beakers might make sites hard to come by.  But, the ranger explains that with the last few days of rain, many have ended their spring break trips early.

After taking on a tank of water, we select site #57 at Rio Grande Village.  There are about 100 sites here, about half are reservable and the others are first come first serve. About half of the sites are in a no-generator zone.  The sites are just a few hundred feet from the Rio Grande and nearly in the shadow of the shear mountains that form the entrance to the Boquillas Canyon.

Our return visit to Big Bend is all about the Boquillas Crossing, probably one of the most remote “legal” border crossings into Mexico.  Shuttered after the 9/11 tragedy, the crossing was nearly ready to reopen 3 years ago when we were last here.   After what seemed like all night rain, we’re greeted with somewhat drier and clearer skies on Saturday.  By around 11am, we’re on our way over to the crossing station.  There are no exit procedures, just a quick talk about what to expect on the other side by a National Parks ranger.  Then we’re on the short muddy path down to the river.  As we come into view of the Mexicans across the river, the singing starts, instructions are shouted on where to meet the boat, and the oarsman beings the quick trip over to pick us up.  Once on the Mexico river bank, we’re offered a pickup ride into town for $5/each (round trip) or a burro ride for $8. Not wanting to smell like wet donkey all day, we opt for the pickup ride.  Along with our return tickets, the old man that takes our money also introduces his 5 or 6 year old grandson who will ride with us and show us the location of the Mexican Border Control. Spinning the ignition switch with a screwdriver, our driver fires up the old Chevy and off across the river flood plain we go.  It’s about ¾ of a mile to town, and with recent rains, plenty of mud bogs would have made walking a very wet affair.

About 5 minutes later our driver and kindergarten aged guide are pointing the way into the unmistakable, bright white trailer of Border Control.  With a quick immigration form and a scan of our passports, we’re allowed into the country.  Back on the dirt street, there are two or 3 brightly painted shops offering everything from tourist trinkets, cool beers and cheap Mexican food.  But, we want to see what else might be here.  Walking through town, many of the residents are just beginning to open their souvenir stands.  Most offer small wire sculptures, polished rocks and woven bracelets.  A few also offer towels and blankets embroidered with bright letters of “Boquillas, Mexico”.  After wandering a few blocks out of town for some pictures, we return along the souvenir stands, make a quick purchase of a wire sculpture and make a beeline for a shaded patio with signs offering $2.50 cold beers.  Our guide goes off to talk with other kids his age, we make sure they all have a Coke on us as we order a couple of Coronas.  The oarsman had said we were the first across the river that morning, however – there evidently has been a steady influx of river runners because within the next 30 minutes, several of the tables are filled with US and Canadian citizens.

After a few beers and some excellent chip, salsa and guacamole , we return to the Border Control to “check out”, catch our ride out to the boat launch and make our way back to the US border control point.  Here we use self-service kiosks to scan our passport, answer a few questions on the phone with a customs officer in El Paso and are quickly cleared for reentry.  Our quick trip to Mexico was great fun.  The small village of Boquillas was nearly turned into a ghost town during the crossing closure. It’s good to see the tourist interest and dollars flowing into this tiny village again.   Far from the cartel corruption of larger border towns, the villagers seem genuinely happy for our visits and respectful of the partnership that achieved the reopening of this important border crossing.

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