Big Bend National Park lies on the Texas-Mexico border where Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon, steep mountains rising up from the river on each side. The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Big Bend as an official Dark Sky Park. This is the Association’s description of a Dark Sky Park: “a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.”

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The Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon. On the left is Mexico and on the right, Texas.

Background: I’d traveled I-10 from Houston en route to and from Mesa, Arizona, at least once a year beginning in 1999 and noticed the signs for Big Bend National Park, but I never had the combination of time and money to make the trek to the southwest tip of Texas. In early December, 2012, I completed a house/pet-sitting job in Las Cruses, New Mexico and planned the trip to Big Bend before my next house/pet-sitting assignment in Houston.

Getting to Big Bend is, indeed, a long trek. Chisos Basin Lodge, the only lodging other than camping in the park, is located far from any major city. From the lodge to San Antonio, 448 miles (7 hrs); from the lodge to El Paso, 340 miles (almost 6 hrs). The park has 1,252 sq. miles, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, according to Wikipedia.

The awe-inspiring view and the peace and serenity evoked by the surroundings made my stay at the Chisos Basin Lodge memorable; it is the most beautiful setting I’ve ever stayed in. The Window, one of the most photographed views in the park, unfolds before you on the downhill approach into the basin

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The Window can be viewed from the Chisos Basin.

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The Mule Ears is another of the often-photographed rock formations.