NPS Historic Photograph Collection
The First Superintendent
Born near Sparks, Oklahoma on June 9, 1904, Ross Maxwell attended the University of Oklahoma and earned two degrees there. He received a Ph.D. in geology from Northwestern University in 1936, and later that year moved to the Big Bend to participate in a geological survey of the region for the National Park Service. Following the closure of the CCC camp in Big Bend in 1937, Maxwell worked at National Monument sites in Arizona.
Well versed with the area, Maxwell was seen as a logical choice to serve as the first superintendent of Big Bend. When he arrived on the job in July 1945, he supervised four employees and had an annual operating budget of $15,000. In the words of his sucessor, Maxwell presided over "the real rough-and-tumble beginnings of park establishment." At the time, the park had no paved roads, no electricity, and the nearest telephone was 100 miles away. While superintendent, Maxwell laid out the route of the road today named in his honor to highlight the more spectacular geologic features on the west side of the park.
After leaving the National Park Service in 1952, Maxwell taught at the University of Texas until his retirement. Until the end of his life Maxwell maintained a relationship with the Big Bend, and is remembered for his vocal support for the region.
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Did You Know?
Traveling through the Big Bend during the 1860 camel experiment, Lt. William Echols reported that camels did well in the desert, but that they suffered from sore feet. “I would recommend to any one using the camels over rough country, in case of tender feet, to shoe them with a piece of raw hide…” More...