Water Sources in the Backcountry

Precious and Unpredictable

Big Bend is a desert park. Desert water is precious, ephemeral, and unpredictable. The amount of available water in the backcountry has everything to do with rainfall—no rain means no water. Never stake your life on a water source that might not be present.

The dry desert air quickly uses up the body’s water reserves. We recommend that you carry a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day in the summer, slightly less in the winter. For half-day hikes, carry at least 2 quarts (2 liters) per person.

Water in the Chisos Mountains

Regardless of what you may have heard, Boot Spring is unreliable and usually dry. Depending on the time of year, and the amount of rainfall received, water may be available in small pools and depressions along the Boot Canyon Trail. Look for these pools between Boot Spring and the Northeast Rim trail junction. This water is vital to wildlife—please keep it clean. We recommend that this water also be filtered before use.

But the map shows a spring here...

Boot Spring Dry Boot Spring Dry

Left image
Dry conditions at Boot Spring.

Right image
Boot Spring after a heavy summer rain.

Water in the Chisos may be abundant following summer rains, however, during much of the year the same locations may be dry or contain stagnant water not suitable for filtering. Carry all the water you will need, and never depend on backcountry water sources.


Cache and Carry

Responsible backcountry users pack in all of the water they plan on using (recommended one gallon per person per day). Plan on using available water sources in the backcountry to augment the water supply you carry (filter all water taken from the backcountry); never stake your life on intermittent water sources.
Pool in Boot Canyon
Water may be filtered from pools in Boot Canyon, when available. Do not consume water without filtering.

Desert Water

Springs and tinajas (depressions in rock where water collects) are unreliable and may be unsafe to drink. Springs are rare in the desert and wildlife depend on them. Please carry enough water to supply your own needs.

Last updated: September 15, 2021

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129



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