Monday, October 22, 2012

Croton Spring Backcountry Site, Big Bend National Park, TX


Coton Spring Octobe 2012

We arrived in Big Bend National Park yesterday afternoon, and even though it’s mighty hot, we are glad we came back. When we were here in December 2008, that was our first real exposure to the vastness of the desert and we fell in love with it. We stayed at the Rio Grande Village campground on the east side, which was only partially open due to flooding from a recent hurricane. Big Bend is so expansive we spent a week hiking and exploring the Rio Grande Village area and Chisos Basin. We never made it to Santa Elena Canyon and the west side of the park, and have been wanting to return ever since.

Wanting to be more centrally located, and with Chisos Basin being restricted to smaller RVs, we decided to try one of the backcountry campsites that can accommodate RVs. Our Lazy Daze friends Chuck and Carla stayed at Croton Spring, so we went to the Panther Junction Visitor Center to inquire about it and get our pass. You can only reserve the backcountry sites 24 hours in advance (in person), so we had no idea if it was occupied, but based on the miniscule number of cars driving through the park and the heat, we figured it would be open. We bought a backcountry pass for $10 and signed up for a week, although we will probably leave sooner just because it is so hot. There are 2 sites about a half mile off the main road (118), 10 miles west of Panther Junction. We feel like we are in the middle of nowhere and the scenery and silence are wonderful. The road is a bit rough coming in, though, and if it rains we will probably have to stay until it dries!

It’s even prettier as the sun goes down.


As it cooled off last night we took a little hike down the trail behind our site to try to find Croton Spring but it appears to be dry at this time. The dried mud made for an interesting photo, and it felt like walking on potato chips, the way it crunched under our feet.


We sat outside last evening stargazing and discovering our own Marfa light toward the east. It was a bright white light that moved from side to side and up and down, and blinked off and on a few times. We’re sure it must have been a UFO, but then the imagination can run wild in the dark, especially after a night of the paranormal.

We got up early this morning to take the 30 mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and a few short hikes before it got too hot.

From an overlook.


Lower Burrow Mesa Pour-off trail.


Looking up at the Pour-off.


Tuff Canyon Trail.


Our last stop was Santa Elena Canyon, along the Rio Grande. There was very little water in the Rio but the 2 mile round trip trail is quite scenic.

Canyon entrance.


Lots of vegetation and big rocks.




The low Rio Grande.


Amazingly we are able to get a slow internet connection at our primitive site using the Wilson amplifier. Now if the temperature would just drop a little bit. Upper 80’s/low 90’s is a bit hot for camping without A/C, and it is forbidden to run a generator in the "backcountry”.


  1. Can't believe you have an internet signal! Not sure I could endure those temps without using the generator any more. :(

  2. Beautiful photos! Why can't people run their generators in that area - there's no one around to worry about the noise. Strange.

  3. Wow... that is too hot for a Colorado Boy.
    Funny, I had a conversation (read argument) with the ranger when we camped in a Backcountry site in Bend. This was years ago in the early days when solar was not common and expensive. We relied on our super quiet Honda 2000 to charge batteries once a day. after reserving the site for a week he told us, "Oh, and no generators allowed." Well, we can't camp for a week without using a generator... no RV can.

    So I sought exceptions... "What if we are the only one's there?" No. "But you can run generators in you campground." Still no. "Why?" Because it is a wilderness site and generators do not fit in in wilderness. "But I'm driving a big noisy diesel truck in there." Still no.

    So then I decided to play "hardball," because, as you know, I don't like stupid rules.

    I set the Ranger up by saying... "So it's ok to run my big, smoking, loud diesel truck... and pollute the wilderness atmosphere and trash the quietness, but I can't run my Honda generator that you can't even hear 4o feet away?"
    I guess that's true.
    "Ok, I'll charge my trailer batteries every day by starting up the truck then... since you have no rules against that."

    He saw my point and went and got his Boss. Of course, he wouldn't make an exception that made sense... he worked in a government position.... Rules are Rules, whether they make sense or not.

    Long story short, we ran out generator anyway, and kept one eye on the road for Mr Ranger.
    Box Canyon Mark.

  4. There is plenty of $2 a night spots here at Lake Ammistad.

  5. You must of taken the rig photo from the same spot along the spring. The spring is pretty neat to walk down, yeah! Can not believe how low the Rio Grande is! Darkest night sky I have ever experienced.