Off roading in Big Bend National Park
isn’t the type of off roading that I typically think of. There aren’t tons of rocks to crawl over, canyons or drive through, or high peaks that reveal views. No, in fact off roading in Big Bend is quite different. Big Bend is part of the Chihuahuan desert, the very Northern part to be exact. The Chihuahuan desert stretches from North Central Mexico, all the way into the United States. While this desert is home to a few mountain ranges, the southern area of Big Bend is what I picture as the classic desert.
Mile after mile of desert sand, small shrubs, and the occasional sloping mounds. The one respite this part of Big Bend National Park offers is the beautiful Rio Grande River. River Road, the name of the primary road that stretches from West to East in the park, varies in distance from the river. The river is easy to spot most of the time thanks to the amount of green fauna growing around the banks. In the distance, you’ll likely spot the cliffs on the Southern Border of the river which lie in Mexico.
River Road in Big Bend
runs all the way across the Southern end of the park. In total, this drive will take you more than 60 miles off road through beautiful desert scenery. With views of the Chisos Mountains to the North and the Rio Grande and Mexico to the South, there is plenty to keep your eyes searching. The 3rd Gen Toyota 4Runner we took off roading performed flawlessly. Our gear rode safely in the trunk thanks to the awesome storage system I had built only a few weeks prior. At times we traveled at a crawl, slowly rolling over large bumps and rocks, and at other times we flew along at 50 miles per hour over soft sand in the flats.
Along the way we were lucky to find amazing views of the South Rim, wild horses, other desert creatures that were too fast for us to be able to photograph.
Campsite Talley #4
was our final destination. We launched into the off roading experience just after 2pm on Saturday. We would spend the next 4 hours traversing the greater part of the park. The desert was decently well traveled that day. We crossed no less than 6 other vehicles headed from East to West. Areas to pull to the side were not that hard to come by, given that you’re in a desert. No one else had their windows down like we did though. Who knows why! (kidding…SO dusty).
The most difficult run in we had with another vehicle was heading south on Talley road. A single lane, double rut road with 4 foot sloped walls on either side for at least 1 mile, we met a 70’s yellow land cruiser smack in the middle. Thankfully, the 4 wheel drive of the 4runner was up to the task of climbing the side wall!
The campsite itself sat right on top of the Rio Grande. In fact, less than 5 years ago both Talley #3 and #4 were wiped out during floods. It appears that as the river claims back the bank on the North side, these campsites continually move further North.
We had arrived just in time for the last hour of sunlight. We spent it enjoying some time in the frigid water, and exploring the very most Southern point in the entirety of Big Bend. Muddy ground, unique plants, a plethora of wildlife tracks, and some conspicuously placed water jugs were all found during our short exploration.