History & Culture
NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou
"Histories never conclude; they just pause their prose. Their stories are, if they are truthful, untidy affairs, resistant to windings-up and sortings-out. They beat raggedly on into the future...." Simon Schama
While Big Bend is famous for its natural resources and recreational opportunities, the park is also rich in cultural history. Native peoples lived in and/or passed through this area for thousands of years. Their presence is evidenced by pictographs and archeological sites. In more recent history (the last 500 years) Texas has been claimed by six different nations!
The Big Bend has been a home to people for many centuries, but knowledge of the Rio Grande among non-Indians dates back less than 150 years. Spanish people crossed the Rio Grande in the 16th and 17th centuries searching for gold, silver, and fertile land. Comanche Indians crossed the river in the 19th century, traveling to and from Mexico with their raiding parties.Mexican settlers began farming on both banks of the river’s floodplain around 1900. Anglo-Americans joined in the farming after 1920, when boundary unrest ended. Cotton and food crops were grown around Castolon and what is now Rio Grande Village, even after the park was established.
Today, you can drive along portions of the Comanche Trail, the same route Comanche warriors once traveled on raids into Mexico, or you can visit the La Harmonia Store at Castolon where locals (and visitors) have shopped for eighty years.From archeological sites dating back nearly 10,000 years, to ranches and mining operations from the Twentieth Century, Big Bend can be a great place to "discover" history.