Big Bend National Park

Fact Box

Big Bend National Park
File:Santa Elena Canyon.jpg
Established 1944
801,163 acres
Visitation (2010) 372,330

Big Bend National Park in Texas features broad expanses of Chihuahuan Desert shrubland and grassland interspersed with smaller areas of high-elevation woodland in the Chisos Mountains, near the center of the park. Riparian and wetland areas hugging the Rio Grande and associated with springs throughout the park represent geographically small but ecologically valuable contributions to the park, while deep canyons along the river are among the park's most striking features.

The black bear, mountain lion, and javelina, along with bats, turtles, frogs, toads, and 450 species of birds, either reside in the park or use park resources. The area's rich and varied human history is clearly evident through widespread archaeological and historical sites.

In February 2012, Big Bend National Park was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, becoming only the second U.S. national park and one of ten parks in the world to earn the distinction. (The first U.S. national park, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah, was designated as the world’s first Dark-Sky Park in 2007.)  Big Bend is thought to have one of the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states and is located within 150 miles of the McDonald Observatory, a leading center for astronomical research.