Photograph by Nick Zantop

Like all of Texas, Big Bend National Park is larger than life. Its 801,163 acres stretch along Mexico’s border for 118 lonely miles and it’s craggy mountain peaks rise to 7,832 feet. The desert doesn’t spring to mind when most of us think of species diversity, but Big Bend is home to more species of birds, cacti, and bats than any other national park in America. There are certain parts of the year that Big Bend can be busy, but the annual visitors generally number under 400,000, compared to Yellowstone’s traffic-jam inducing 4 million and the Grand Canyon’s 5 million. On the day I arrived, the rangers in the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center told me that I was visitor #6 for the day – that was about 1:30PM. In other words, Big Bend is the perfect place to get away from the crowds and maybe even see some wildlife without worrying that the nineteen tour buses behind you loaded with screaming tourists will scare them off. 

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