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[photo] [photo] Big Bend National Park: Castolon Historic District above and Rio Grande River below
National Park Service photos

Big Bend National Park encompasses more than 700,000 acres in the southwest corner of Texas on a bend in the Rio Grande. With three distinct natural divisions: desert, mountain and river, the park contains a wealth of cultural and natural resources. First inhabited 10,000 years ago by prehistoric American Indians, little evidence of human occupation remains prior to 6000 B.C. (Archaic period). These early American Indians were initially hunters and gatherers before agriculture was introduced to the region around 1200 A.D. The Spanish began colonizing large portions of the region in the 17th and 18th centuries, building missions and presidios (forts) to protect various trade routes. As a result of the Mexican War, the U.S. won possession of the lower Rio Grande in 1848, however the land was sparsely settled due to ongoing hostilities with the Apaches and Comanches. The Comanches were defeated from 1874 to 1875 and the Apaches in 1880, and the area was opened to ranchers, miners and farmers. The Mexican Revolution in 1910 led to unrest along the U.S.-Mexico border. Consequently, the U.S. Army established camps to protect farms and ranches from bandits. Because of the region's unique cultural and natural resources it was established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1944. Today the park contains many remains from the region's early history. Among the most notable are Luna's Jacal, a rare example of a Mexican building from the region's early settlement period; Homer Wilson Ranch, a large establishment from Big Bend's ranching era; Castolon Historic District, consisting of the Old Castolon store and café and the Castolon Army Compound, a U.S. Army border camp; Hot Springs, a tourist spa and cross-border community with natural springs; and Daniels Farm House, once the center for farming communities in the lower Rio Grande.

Big Bend National Park is located in the lower southwest section of Texas on the Rio Grande. The park is open daily, 24 hours, and the main Visitor Center and Park Headquarters in Panther Junction at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 385 and State Hwy. 118 is open 8:00am to 6:00pm daily, closed Christmas Day. Other visitor centers have variable seasons and hours. There is a fee for admission. For more information call 432-477-2251 or visit the park's website. Castolon and other historic sites in the park have also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Castolon Historic District, within Big Bend National Park, is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page. Other travel itineraries in the National Park Service's ongoing series include many historic destinations that you can visit online or in person. Each Discover Our Shared Heritage itinerary spotlights a different geographic region, community, or theme.


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