The imagined versus the real dangers of Big Bend National Park.
7 minutes, 57 seconds
Drive within the speed limit, 45 mph maximum in the park, and watch carefully for javelina, deer, and rabbits grazing along road shoulders, especially at night. Vehicle accidents are a major cause of injury for park visitors.
Park roadways were designed for relaxed and scenic exploration, NOT to provide the fastest route between two places.
Slow down and enjoy your park.
Always pull completely off the road to take pictures and/or enjoy the view — do NOT stop or pause on roadways.
Park roads have limited shoulders and some are steep and winding and require extra caution.
The road to the Chisos Basin is not recommended for RVs over 24 feet or trailers over 20 feet.
Share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians.
Select a designated driver before drinking alcoholic beverages.
Backcountry roads required vehicles with good tires, including a spare at a minimum and a working jack; some roads require a high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle. Take extra water, food, and sleeping bags just in case. If your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck, stay with it. It is much easier for rangers to find a car on a road than a person walking through the desert.
Wood or ground fires are not permitted in the park.
Exercise caution when using gas stoves, charcoal grills, or smoking cigarettes; restrictions may apply to the use of these heat sources during drought conditions.
Carry plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day); springs are unreliable despite what maps indicate.
Wear a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sun screen when hiking.
Avoid hiking during mid-day heat in summer.
Exploring desert and mountain country on foot requires both mental and physical preparation. Trails vary from well maintained in the Chisos Mountains to primitive and barely visible in the desert. Plan hikes within your ability.
Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return.
Take along a map and compass and know how to use them.
Carry a flashlight, first aid kit, and signaling device (mirror and whistle).
Avoid narrow canyons or dry washes; flash floods may occur during thunderstorms.
Stay low and avoid ridges during lightning.
If you get hurt or lost, stay in one place to conserve water and energy. Signal for help (using whistle or mirror). In remote areas, mark a large "X" on the ground that could be visible from the air.
Knowledge and preparation can increase your comfort level and reduce your chances of injury.
Hot weather makes the muddy Rio Grande look very inviting, but swimming is not recommended. If you do choose to swim, wear a life jacket and avoid alcohol.
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.
Water-borne micro-organisms and other waste materials can occur in the river and cause serious illness.
Balmorhea State Park, 3 hours north of Big Bend provides crystal clear water in the world's largest spring fed swimming pool!
Watch the weather. Winter storms and thunderstorms can move in quickly. Hypothermia and lightning have both taken lives here. Rain can cause flash floods many miles away, so even if the sky overhead is clear, be careful around creek beds and the Rio Grande during the rainy season.
Black bears, javelinas, coyotes and skunks frequent campgrounds and may be encountered on trails. Although they sometimes appear tame, all of the animals in the park are wild, and could pose a threat to your health and safety if you attempt to approach or feed them.
Never feed wildlife.
Store all food, coolers, cooking utensils, and toiletries in a hard-sided vehicle, preferably in the trunk of your car. Use available food storage lockers in campsites.
Dispose of garbage properly. Throw garbage in the bear-proof dumpsters and trash cans provided.
Watch children closely; never let them run ahead or lag behind.
If you encounter a bear or mountain lion, do not run, but back away to get out of range. If you feel threatened by a bear or lion, hold your ground, wave your arms, throw stones, and shout; never run. Keep groups together, look large.
Venomous snakes, scorpions, spiders, and centipedes are active during warmer months. Inspect shoes, sleeping bags and bedding before use. Carry a flashlight at night. Pay attention to where you walk and place your hands. Consider wearing high boots or protective leggings while hiking.