Big Bend Ranch
Park Newspaper 'El Solitario' of Big Bend Ranch State Park (SP) in Texas. Published by Texas Parks & Wildlife.
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TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE Big Bend Ranch SP Map Be Our Friend What’s Up? Stars! Pages 6 — 7 Page 10 Page 11 Black Bears Return el SOLitarIo TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT | Page 12 BIG BEND RANCH STATE PARK To the Fort! TPWD By Cassie Cox Regional Interpretive Specialist Fort Davis, TX Still today, people come and go clean and maintain the fort and from all over the world to Fort learn skills that will help them Leaton, now a State Historic along their future career paths. Site and gateway to Big Bend They work on weekends and Ranch State Park, looking to when out of school for breaks. learn about the fascinating As the only program of its type history of the area and recre- in Texas State Parks, we are so ational opportunities in the Big proud to have the students of Bend. Should you visit the fort, Presidio represent their school some staff you might encounter and community to visitors from include Presidio High School all over the world. Stop by Student Docents. and ask if a student docent is These ambitious teenagers apply available to lead you on a tour. for paid positions that allow If not, there are self-guided tour them to learn about the history brochures along with exhibits of the fort, lead visitors on tours, and knowledgeable staff. Table of contents When available, student docents lead public tours at Fort Leaton State Historic Site. Cassie Cox Since its 1848 founding, people have come and gone from Fort Leaton. Early on it was home to Ben Leaton, wife Juana Pedrasa and their children who also ran the fort as a trading post. Explorers, soldiers, traders, Native Americans, Mexicans and Anglo settlers sought the fort for business as well as a refuge from Native American raids and other borderland outlaws. Beastly Bones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Make the Most of Your Visit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Certified Commercial Guides and Outfitters. . . . 3 BBRSP Camping. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Be Aware. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Fees and Visitor Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Big Bend Ranch Geology: El Solitario. . . . . . . . . . 5 (cont. on page 2) Big Bend Ranch State Park Map. . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Access and Visitor Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Featured Hikes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Be Our Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Volunteer Activities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 What’s Up? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 The Return of Black Bears to BBRSP. . . . . . . . 12 El Solitario is published by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the orientation and education of visitors to Big Bend Ranch State Park. To the Fort! (cont. from page 1) We’d like to highlight two special Student Docents for this issue of El Solitario. Crystal and Omar were both Presidio High School seniors who graduated in May 2019. We interviewed them about what they gained from their time at Fort Leaton State Historic Site. Cassie Cox Crystal has learned a lot about the history of the area. Crystal exclaimed “It’s the best job I’ve ever had!” Omar shared that this position has been a big boost in his confidence. Omar says that thanks to his time at the fort, he’s less shy when meeting Omar is more confident in public speaking. Cassie Cox When asked about their favorite part of the job, they both mentioned enjoying telling the stories of the fort to visitors from all over world, including some visitors they met from Belgium and Iceland. They appreciate the reactions of visitors as they share the amazing history of the fort and Big Bend region. new people, more knowledgeable for job interviews, and he understands what constitutes good customer service. As a part of their jobs, they’ve both learned “pro tips” in cleaning skills, what invasive species have done to habitat in their region and how special it is to live on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. “The river unites us,” Crystal declares. We discussed what the region would have looked like if invasive salt cedar (tamarisk) was not planted for erosion control due to the loss of grasslands. The conversation also led to what they learned about wildlife in the area. Both docents have become very familiar with the Mexican free-tailed bats that call the fort home, as a part of their duties are to clean up after the squeaky little guests. Park staff have greatly enjoyed working with these docents and wish them well as they move to El Paso, TX for college. Beastly Bones By Amber Harrison, Park Interpreter, Barton Warnock Visitor Center When you enter the gift shop at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center, one of the first things you see is a fossil cast of Tylosaurus napaeolicus. It’s one of five recognized species of Mosasaur – a ferocious predatory marine reptile that lived in what was once a shallow sea covering West Texas millions of years ago. Mosasaurs are most closely related to the modern-day monitor lizard. Like the monitor lizard, Mosasaurs were both hunters and scavengers. They survived on a diet of fish, sharks and other deep-sea creatures of the time. While Mosasaurs preferred deep sea environments, they were well-adapted to scavenging and hunting in shallow waters. The fossil cast we have dates to the Late Cretaceous period, roughly 100–66 million years ago. The original fossil that this was cast from was discovered by local paleontologist, Ken Barnes, in 1990 west of Big Bend National Park. The replica was donated to Big Bend Ranch State Park in 2014. Take a walk through the Una Tierra (One Land) exhibit at the Barton Warnock TPWD Visitor Center to learn more 2 | el SOLitarIo | Texas parks and wildlife department about the natural and cultural history of the area. Illustration of what a mosasaur may have looked like. Certified Commercial Guides and Outfitters What is there to do at Big Bend Ranch State Park? The sky’s the limit! Whether you are seeking high adventure or some relaxation and solitude, the park has plenty to offer. Bring your own gear, or contact one of the outfitters listed. Laijtas, Terlingua Big Bend River Tours 432-371-3033 • 800-545-4240 Desert Sports 432-371-2727 • 888-989-6900 Far Flung Outdoor Center 432-371-2489 • 800-839-7238 TPWD For print materials, go to: www.tpwd.texas.gov/ bigbendranch or inquire at one of the park visitor centers. Lajitas Stables 432-371-2212 • 800-887-4331 Presidio, Redford Angell Expeditions 432-229-3713 Make the Most of Your Visit Horseback Riding Many of the park’s trails and campsites are suitable for equestrian use, with corral facilities and water available. All pack and saddle stock users must obtain a backcountry use permit and bring their own weed-free feed. All horses are required to have documentation of a current Coggins test. River Access The Rio Grande provides opportunities for rafting, kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Several river access points are found along FM 170. Colorado Canyon includes Class II and Class III rapids—not considered dangerous under normal flow conditions. Various side roads within the park require high-clearance and/or four-wheel drive vehicles. Park staff can advise you where to travel, depending on your type of vehicle and interests. For a pleasant paved driving experience, follow River Road/FM 170 from Barton Warnock Visitor Center to Ft. Leaton State Historic Site or vice versa. You’ll encounter gorgeous vistas and short day hikes from this road. Hiking There are many, many miles of hiking for all skill levels in this over 300,000-acre park. Trails can be accessed from Sauceda Ranger Station in the interior of the park as well as off of FM 170. Different trails lead to amazing vistas, tinajas (rock basins that sometimes carry water), ancient rock art, cottonwood groves, waterfalls, desert springs, historic ranch homes, deep canyons and more. With Big Bend Ranch’s abundant wildlife and desert vegetation, interesting rock formations and geology and long history of use by humans, we know you will not be disappointed by your adventures on foot. Consult a Park Ranger for latest trail conditions and review the safety notes on page 8. For descriptions of some popular hiking trails, check out the article on page 9. The park offers over 100 miles of trails and road for all skill levels. One popular venue is the Contrabando Multi-Use System (series of trails), which can be accessed from two trailheads in the Southeastern part of the park near the Barton Warnock Visitor Center on FM 170 in Lajitas, TX. Interpreted sites along the route include the remains of a candelilla wax camp, a cinnabar mine, and an historic ranch. Ask for the special map that covers this trail system. Remember that a helmet is a must. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) has designated the Fresno-Sauceda Loop Trail as an “Epic” ride – one of fewer than 50 in the United States and Canada. Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Hill Abel describes the trail as “a huge day in the saddle and super challenging.” A highlight along the way is the historic Crawford-Smith Ranch. Ask a Park Ranger for an interpretive brochure about this site for more information. Amber Harrison Vehicle Touring The main entrance road into the interior of BBRSP takes you through the west entrance, “Botella Junction,” and on to Sauceda Ranger Station. The road to Sauceda is a wellmaintained dirt and gravel thoroughfare that requires slow speeds and is suitable for 2WD vehicles. It is not recommended for large RVs or trailers. From River Road/FM 170 it is about 27 miles to Sauceda Ranger Station through incredible scenery that you won’t forget. Mountain Biking The Horsetrap Bike-and-Hike Trail is easily accessible from Sauceda Ranger Station. The degree of difficulty ranges from moderate to downright challenging. A 200-yard portion of the trail is particularly sandy. Enjoy the solitude and the scenery “off the beaten path.” big bend ranch state park | el SOLitarIo | 3 Your Home for the Night: BBRSP Camping By Amber Harrison, Park Interpreter, Barton Warnock Visitor Center Big Bend Ranch State Park offers many options for camping including backcountry, primitive, and equestrian sites. Primitive and equestrian sites are accessible with a motorized vehicle. Backcountry sites are not accessible with a motorized vehicle. Some roads require four-wheel drive and/or high clearance. Amber Harrison Because BBRSP is so large it is not always easy to know what type of site is best for you. The descriptions below provide a quick reference to help you choose the right site for your adventure. West Contrabando Campsite Backcountry: These sites are intended for self-supported hikers, bikepackers and equestrians. There are no designated campsites in the backcountry. Overnight visitors select their own site along the way. Sites must be at least 3/4 mile from any trailhead or active road. All water, food and supplies must be carried in. Park orientation, Special Use Permits and trip itineraries are required from a park visitor center. Reservations are not required for a backcountry site. Vehicle Accessible Campsites: These are designated campsites along FM 170 and in the park interior. These are referred to as “primitive” because they have limited amenities. Most sites have a fire ring, picnic table and shade structure. These include single occupancy and group campgrounds. Group campgrounds have multiple sites in one large area with a composting toilet, but no running water. Single occupancy sites only have one site and do not have a toilet. All waste must be packed out if a toilet is not available. Up to eight people and two vehicles are allowed at each site. Additional vehicles can be added for a small fee. None of the access to the sites in the interior are paved and some require four-wheel drive. A detailed campsite guide is available at our ranger stations or online at http://tpwd.texas. gov/publications/pwdpubs/ media/pwd_bk_p4501_2059.pdf Equestrian Campsites (vehicle accessible): These sites have corrals, shade structures and fire rings. You must obtain the appropriate permit and bring your own feed. All equestrian sites are accessible via unpaved roads in the park interior. This rugged country is hard on horses – you and your horse must be physically fit. Call the park ahead of time to ask about the availability of water at your site. Rancho Viejo Campsite Upper Madera Campsite BE AWARE: For your safety and welfare Many wonderful animals live here and play a vital role in the balance of nature. You are a guest in their home. By learning about the park’s wildlife and observing the following tips, you can show them the respect they deserve while keeping yourself and your family safe. Rattlesnakes are especially common at Big Bend Ranch. Watch where you put your hands and feet. Never harass or attempt to handle a rattlesnake—this is when most bites occur. Rattlesnakes are protected in the park; do them no harm. Amber Harrison © Gary Nored Never feed wildlife or allow them to get human or pet food. There are no self-pay options for camping at BBRSP. All sites need to be paid for at one of the ranger stations. Site reservations can be made in advance by calling (512) 389-8919 or in person the day of check-in at any of the ranger stations. While the park rarely fills, reservations are recommended. Allow additional time for completing Special Use Permits if needed. 4 | el SOLitarIo | Texas parks and wildlife department Observe wildlife from a safe distance; never approach or try to photograph them at close range. Keep children and pets under your control at all times. Clean up and store food and garbage immediately after meals; never keep food in your tent. Enjoy the outdoors with others, not alone. In the unlikely event that you encounter a black bear or mountain lion, do not run. Instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look as large as possible. Pick up small children. Back away slowly. If attacked, fight back. Report sightings to park staff immediately. Western Diamondback rattlesnake + In the unlikely event that a snake bite occurs: • Remove jewelry and loosen tight-fitting clothing. • Wash the bite area with disinfectant. • Keep the person calm and quiet. • Limit movement if at all possible. • Watch for symptoms of shock. • Seek medical attention immediately. Big Bend Ranch State Park Fees and visitor services Daily entry fee: $5 per person per day for all visitors 13 years and older. follow us! Big Bend Ranch State Park on Facebook and Instagram Standard Vehicle Campsite: $12 per site/day Emergency services Cell phone service in the park is unreliable and limited. In the interior of the park 9-1-1 service may be several hours away, but if you have cell phone signal call 9-1-1 to alert the proper authorities. Be sure to provide details of your location. If in the interior of the park go to or call Sauceda Ranger Station for help: (432) 358-4444 Backcountry Camping: $10 per night/site If camping along FM 170 go to or call Barton Warnock Visitor Center: (432) 424-3327 No gas, diesel or groceries available in park. Dump station located at Barton Warnock Visitor Center. No hook-ups in park. The interior of the park offers Sauceda Lodge Bunkhouse accommodations. For reservations or more information call (512) 389-8919 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday except major holidays. El Solitario: What’s in a name? TPWD Lodging Airstrip Big Bend Ranch paved airstrip 3T9 103-56-11.7030 W 29-28-10.6840 N Elevation: 4250 feet Length: 5500 feet Park Information and Permits Park information and permits for day use and camping (subject to availability) may be obtained from the BBR complex park headquarters during the hours below. Sauceda Ranger Station Aerial view of Solitario looking north-northeast Barton Warnock Visitor Center Lajitas (432) 424-3327 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily Closed Christmas Day Fort Leaton State Historic Site Presidio (432) 229-3613 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Christmas Day TPWD Park interior (432) 358-4444 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Christmas Day Flatirons El Solitario is obviously quite special to the park as the newsletter you hold in your hand bares its name. But what does it mean? Spanish for “hermit” or “loner,” El Solitario is THE signature landscape feature of Big Bend Ranch State Park. Almost 10 miles across and nearly symmetrical, this collapsed and eroded volcanic dome straddles the Brewster and Presidio county line in the eastern portion of the park. About 36 million years ago, magma from deep within the Earth pushed upward and displaced thousands of feet of overlying rock creating a blister or dome-shaped bulge on the Earth’s surface. Over millions of years, erosion collapsed the dome’s older rocks. Subsequent volcanic activity removed overlying rock, collapsed some of the lava chamber and formed a small caldera. The Solitario, as we see it today, emerged about 2 million years ago when the ancient Rio Grande began cutting its now famous canyons. Eons of erosion exposed some of the Earth’s most ancient rocks in Solitario’s core. These rocks are remains of the Ouachita Mountains, which predate the Rockies. They now form the Solitario’s outer rings. The entire southwest quadrant of the Solitario has steeply inclined inverted V–shaped rocks called “flatirons.” There are several places in the park to experience the full visual impact of the Solitario. One overlook is a few miles past Sauceda and is accessible by 2WD vehicles. Fresno Overlook on FM 170 between Lajitas and the Teepee Picnic Area offers a great view in late afternoon. For a closer look using 4WD, chat with a Park Ranger about latest road conditions and obtain a more detailed map. big bend ranch state park | el SOLitarIo | 5 Big Bend Ranch State Park Access and visitor services welcome, Keith Pets Pets are not allowed on hiking trails (except Closed Canyon Trail and Hoodoos Trail on FM 170), in the backcountry, or more than 1/4 mile from campsites or roads. Always keep pets on a leash and pick up after them. Never leave pets unattended or allow them to approach wild animals or livestock. Enjoy the Park (and live to tell about it) The beauty of Big Bend Ranch lies in its rugged remoteness. You are responsible for your own personal safety while at the park. Stay alert, read posted materials and consult a ranger for advice. Stay cool. Desert heat and dryness can kill, plus sunburns hurt. Use sunscreen. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a broad-brimmed hat with sunglasses. Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day. Water is life. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long. Each person should drink 1 gallon of water per day. Make sure to consume salt and electrolytes as well. Drinking water is available at all Ranger Stations. Weather the weather. Storms can pop up quickly despite what weather predictions are. In a lightning storm seek shelter inside a building or vehicle. Do not stand under trees or in shallow caves and avoid high ground. Stay high and dry. Be mindful while traveling through slot canyons and arroyos as flash flooding does occur. Never cross rain-swollen creeks and washes. Temperatures can fluctuate and change quickly. Be prepared for all types of weather. Don’t go it alone. Tell someone your plans and estimated return time. Don’t explore alone. Cell phone service is spotty so don’t rely on it. Always have plenty of water and food in case you get stuck somewhere for a while. Keith Kinnard is the new Superintendent for Sauceda Ranger Station of Big Bend Ranch State Park. After growing up in the diverse landscapes in the desert of Fort Stockton, Texas, Keith Road conditions are affected by rain and runoff and will vary widely. Check with a ranger for conditions on arrival. Know Your Vehicle Some roads are suitable only for high-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicles. If you have any questions about the roads or the suitability of your vehicle, consult a park ranger. obtained his Criminal Justice degree from Midwestern State University. During his 25-year career as a Travis County Senior Sheriff’s Deputy, Keith enjoyed working with the local students through • Two-wheel-drive (2WD): main road and some spurs that any highway- worthy vehicle, driven responsibly, can access. the DARE program, regional • Two-wheel-drive, high-clearance (2WDHC): roads where extra clearance is required due to road conditions (rocks, steep dips, etc.). well as numerous community • Four-wheel-drive (4WD): recommended where extra traction is required on steep, loose or soft ground. Includes all-wheel drive (AWD). He joined the Texas Parks and • Four-wheel-drive, high-clearance (4WDHC): primitive roads harsher than 4WD, where passage requires vehicles with extra traction, rigid suspension and high clearance. Big Bend Ranch State Park, High clearance is considered a minimum of 8 inches. environmental task force, as service events. Wildlife Department in 2016 as State Park Police Officer for and has thoroughly enjoyed the vast lands, keeping our visitors safe, as well protecting the park’s cultural and natural Rules for the Road Less Traveled Park roads are dirt and may be narrow. Speed limit is 25 mph on primary park roads. Drive slowly to keep yourself, your passengers, your vehicle and the park’s animals safe. When should 4WD be engaged? Generally speaking, once you leave the maintained road, shift from 2WD into 4WD and leave it there until returning to the maintained road. Use 4WD low before you need to negotiate any really difficult obstacles. Take care of your tires. On primitive roads, the number one trouble is tire failure, often sidewall punctures. Drive slowly and watch for sharp rocks, sticks and cactus. Carry fix-a-flat, a lug wrench, hydraulic jack and tow strap. A good spare is essential; two spares are recommended. Always carry an extra 5 gallons of water. Beware of brush. The woody bushes of the desert are extremely hard and can produce nasty scratches in your vehicle’s paint. NOTE: Permits are required for travel on all BBRSP roads 2WDHC and beyond. 8 | el SOLitarIo | Texas parks and wildlife department resources. Hoodoos Trail Cinco Tinajas Fresno Divide Closed Canyon featured HIKEs The Trails of Big Bend Ranch Big Bend Ranch State Park contains over 300,000 acres and boasts some of the most rugged and remote public land in the state. Multi-use trails open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers allow access to many remote areas within the park. Our mission is to capture the spirit of the land by offering trails that are scenic and peaceful, yet offer a natural and wild outdoor experience. By Amber Harrison Photos: © Gary Nored There are two options for accessing many of the trails. One option is for trails off of the paved highway River Road/FM 170. The other trails are off the unpaved Main Park Road into the interior of Big Bend Ranch – Sauceda Ranger Station. Some of the park’s trails are suitable for hiking only, while others are more appropriate for mountain biking and horseback riding. There are opportunities for everyone! Chat with a Park Ranger to develop an itinerary and refer to maps for the adventure that best suits your needs and abilities. The following are descriptions of the most popular trails in the park. See the quick reference table of trails at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Trail Name Trailhead Location Approximate Round Trip Distance in Miles Difficulty* Recommended Use Contrabando Multi-use System FM 170 25+** easy-difficult hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding Rancherias Loop FM 170 21 difficult hiking, horseback riding Closed Canyon FM 170 1.4 easy hiking Hoodoos FM 170 1.1 easy hiking Ojito Adentro Main Park Road 0.8 easy hiking Cinco Tinajas Main Park Road 1 easy hiking Leyva Escondido Spring Loop Main Park Road 4 moderate-difficult hiking Horse Trap Main Park Road 4.3 easy-difficult hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding Sauceda Nature Trail Main Park Road 0.9 easy-moderate hiking Encino Loop Main Park Road 7.2 easy-moderate hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding Fresno Rim Overlook Main Park Road (to Llano Loop Rd.) 5 easy-moderate hiking, horseback riding * Difficulty ratings will vary for each user group. Always consult a Park Ranger or local outfitter about routes, trail and weather conditions and obtain appropriate maps and permits before heading into the park. ** This is a system of trails with many routes both short and long. Consult a Park Ranger to plan your trek. Trails Accessible via Paved Highway FM 170 Contrabando Multi-use System: The East and West Contrabando Trailheads are the two main access points to this system. It is made of up of over 25 miles of interconnected trails of varying difficulty that expose you to some spectacular natural and cultural landscapes in the park. Educational waysides interpret ruins you’ll see on the trail. Rancherias Loop Trail: Rancherias is a challenging, 21-mile-long loop. It begins at the East Rancherias Trailhead and ends at the West Rancherias Trailhead. It ascends from lower elevations near the Rio Grande through the rugged canyons of the Bofecillos Mountains. Natural springs with fairly reliable water, riparian habitats and historicalperiod ruins will be encountered along the way. Closed Canyon: This is a short hike into a narrow slot canyon. The high walls of the canyon guide you along the way, progressively becoming narrower as the canyon trends towards the river. Because the canyon walls are so tall and narrow, little sunlight reaches the floor and the temperature in the canyon is substantially cooler than out in the exposed desert for most of the day. A great retreat from the summer heat and a perfect hike for a family. Be weather wise! Flash flooding may occur. Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. Hoodoos: This site is named for its unique geological features called “hoodoos.” The word hoodoo originated in Africa and refers to what they believed were strange animal shapes in the rocks and embodied evil spirits. A short trail leads you to a series of hoodoos, along the bank of the Rio Grande. Another great hike for a family with children. Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. Trails Accessible via Unpaved Interior Main Park Road Ojito Adentro: This short trail leads to lush springs and a seasonal waterfall that features a distinctive community of riparian plants and animals. The springs have been an important resource for people and wildlife throughout history. Ojito Adentro is one of the top birding sites in the park. Cinco Tinajas: Tinaja is a Spanish word for a rock basin that usually holds water. At this site you will see five tinajas just a short hike from the trailhead. These pools contain water most of the year which makes them unusual features in the desert. These tinajas and nearby springs support many species of plants and animals and have been an important resource for people throughout history. Horse Trap Trail: This trail is a Leyva Escondido Spring Loop: This challenging trail takes you beyond Cinco Tinajas to Leyva Escondido Spring via Leyva Creek. This trail will take you past a Native American rock art site and up to a vista with 360-degree views of Leyva Canyon. The trail itself runs through an old Sauceda Nature Trail: This trail passes through country that is typical of the Chihuahuan Desert and Llano area of the interior park. It traverses a ridge composed of lava like that found in the Bofecillos Mountains to the west. Signs along the way identify some of the plants common to the region. From the trail you will enjoy outstanding views of La Mota Mountain and the historic Sauceda complex. combination of decommissioned doubletrack and single-track with gentle grades and outstanding views of the rolling hills and low mesas of the central interior of the park. It is named for its proximity to Horse Trap Springs, once used to supply the Sauceda complex with drinking water. pasture where horses were kept during the early years of the ranch. Encino Loop: This is a combination of double-track, single-track and graded dirt road. Short stretches of park roads connect the Encino and Powerline Trails to form a loop. The terrain consists of the low rolling hills and mesas that are characteristic of the central interior portion of the park. Fresno Rim Overlook: This is a combination of double-track and singletrack trail that leads to a 700-foot cliff overlooking Fresno Canyon with views of the flatirons of the Solitario. big bend ranch state park | el SOLitarIo | 9 VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES Be Our Friend By Amber Harrison, Big Bend Ranch State Park and Mike Slaton, Compadres del Rancho Grande Love what you see? Blown away by Big Bend Ranch? © Gary Nored We’ve all experienced the same. In fact, we never lost that feeling. You can do it too, through the park’s official “Friends Group.” Lots of things out here leave a mark – and we’re not just talking about the sun, the prickly vegetation, or miles of rugged road and trail. Every turn of the scenic River Road and jagged fold of the Solitario flatirons leaves an imprint on your mind. A quiet pool of clear water in a shaded tinaja and the rustling of cottonwood trees can leave you breathless. The biggest state park in Texas will fill your heart and, if you are like us, mark you forever. You may find yourself standing amidst all this magnificent beauty wondering, “how can I hold onto this feeling? How can I help preserve this special place?” Let us help you accomplish that! Since 2009, a hardy group of volunteers have worked to make the park even better. You can see our handiwork everywhere — from trail maintenance to hosting extreme cross-country running and biking events. We also help publish the El Solitario newsletter. Our mission is to help improve park facilities, aide in restoration efforts and inspire stewardship. We are the Compadres del Rancho Grande (CDRG), “Friends of the Big Ranch,” and we’re easy to spot by the great big smiles on our faces. As the official, non-profit group supporting the Big Bend Ranch State Park complex, which includes Barton Warnock Visitor Center, Fort Leaton State Historic Site and the Sauceda Headquarters, we help the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department complete projects and conduct programs by acquiring donations, supplying labor and having a presence. There’s always a way to help. Join us. Connect with us. Friend us. Donate your time or money. Be a part of it all. Here is just a sample of what the compadres have been up to lately… APRIL 2018 International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Week Compadres purchased food for the event and assisted in promoting Big Bend’s dark skies while staff from BBRSP and partners from the Big Bend Conservation Alliance and the McDonald Observatory did programs and dark sky-friendly lighting demos. SUMMER 2018 Summer Arts in the Parks program FALL–SPRING 2018 New Bird Blind Compadres complete their Big Bend Ranch SP bird blind. Amber Harrison Three years in a row, Compadres purchased supplies for a 6-week community art program in collaboration with local artist, Crystal Allbright. The program is a mix of science, nature and art inspired by the natural and cultural resources of BBRSP. Compadres funded and constructed a bird blind and wildlife viewing area at Papalote Escondio near the Sauceda Ranger Sta