Big Bend truly is wild country. In fact, many people visit Big Bend precisely because it is remote and rugged. But remember, as you enjoy the splendor of this great wilderness area, make safety a priority. By giving forethought to your actions you can have a safe, exciting, and rewarding vacation in Big Bend National Park. Spend a moment reviewing these common safety concerns:
Most visitor injuries and accidental deaths in Big Bend result from car accidents. While driving is a popular way to see the park, it can also be dangerous, particularly if you are tired or are going too fast. Drive within the speed limit, 45 mph maximum in the park, and watch for javelina, deer, and rabbits grazing along road shoulders, especially at night. Remember, too, that you share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some park roads, such as the road into the Chisos Mountains Basin, are steep and winding and require extra caution. The Basin Road is not recommended for RVs over 24 feet or trailers over 20 feet. Always select a designated driver before drinking alcoholic beverages.
Fire danger is always an important safety consideration in Big Bend. Wood or ground fires are not permitted in the park, and you must exercise caution in the use of gas stoves, charcoal grills, and cigarettes. Restrictions may apply to the use of these heat sources during drought conditions. Check with a ranger for the latest information about fire safety in the park.
Desert heat can be very dangerous. Carry plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day) and wear a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sun screen when hiking. Springs are unreliable and often dry up for a portion of the year, despite what maps indicate. Avoid hiking during mid-day in summer; travel as wild animals do, in the early morning or late evening hours rather than during the heat of the day.
Hot weather makes the muddy Rio Grande look very inviting, but swimming is not recommended. Water-borne micro-organisms and other waste materials can occur in the river and cause serious illness. The river can be hazardous, even in calm-looking water. Strong undercurrents, deep holes, and shallow areas with sharp rocks and large tree limbs are common and make the Rio Grande unsafe for swimming. If you do choose to swim, wear a life jacket and avoid alcohol.
Big Bend is mountain lion country, especially the Chisos Mountains. While lion attacks are rare, several have occurred in the last decade. Should you encounter an aggressive mountain lion, hold your ground, wave your arms, throw stones, and shout. Never run. Keep groups together and consider hiking elsewhere with young children if you come across a special mountain lion warning sign posted at a trailhead.Venomous snakes, scorpions, spiders, and centipedes are all active during the warmer months. Inspect your shoes and sleeping bags or bedding before use and always carry a flashlight at night. While snake bites are rare, they usually occur below the knee or elbow. Pay attention to where you walk and place your hands. Consider wearing high boots or protective leggings while hiking.
Did You Know?
At 7,832 feet (2,387 meters) in elevation, Emory peak is the highest point in the Chisos Mountains, and Big Bend National Park.