Castolon Historic District

2-room adobe structure with a metal ramada over the front doors
Garlick House


Quick Facts

Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board, Parking - Auto, Parking - Bus/RV, Restroom - Accessible, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet - Flush, Trash/Litter Receptacles

The collection of buildings at Castolon is a remnant of Big Bend’s pioneer and military history. Castolon housed a rich cross-cultural mingling, as the Hispanic culture there was a melding of Spanish and various native cultures of the region. In time, Anglo-American settlers entered the area learning methods of survival from the previous settlers and forming a bicultural community with the earlier Mexican settlers in an otherwise hostile environment. These rural families in Big Bend had to survive in a harsh landscape, which was compounded by the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. During this time, bandits from Mexico taking advantage of the chaos raided small border communities, causing some families on both sides of the Rio Grande to abandon their homes.

In 1916, a raid on nearby Glenn Springs convinced the War Department that federal intervention was necessary for safety of communities on the border, and thousands of American soldiers were dispatched throughout the Big Bend Area. As a result, Camp Santa Helena was established in 1916 by U.S. Army troops of the 5th, 6th and 8th Cavalry Regiments. Initially a series of tents, work began on a more permanent post in 1919, with the first structures completed in 1920. With the Mexican Revolution over, the units were reassigned with many of the building seeing minimal use. By 1925, the nearby La Harmonia Company purchased the buildings and Castolon residents made the former army camp their home until long after the establishment of Big Bend National Park in 1944. The Castolon area was eventually incorporated into the National Park in 1961.

On May 22, 2019 a fire that jumped the river from Mexico damaged the historic La Harmonia Store building holding the Visitor Center and concession store, as well as the historic latrine building used as the restroom. Restoration plans for the damaged buildings are in the works. Along with the historic structures and exhibits, the Castolon Historic District includes a Visitor Center and Ranger Station currently housed in one of the historic Officer Quarters, with a temporary concession store for refreshments and general goods, and a restroom having been placed at the site.

Last updated: February 24, 2021