Big Bend National Park Day #6 – Sam Nail Ranch, Homer Wilson Ranch, Burrow Mesa Pouroff, Tuff Canyon And Mule Ears Viewpoint

by Adam on March 1, 2011

Adam Jewell Getting Ready To Leave The Chisos Basin Campground At Big Bend National ParkAdam Jewell Getting Ready To Leave The Chisos Basin Campground At Big Bend National Park

Adam Jewell Getting Ready To Leave The Chisos Basin Campground At Big Bend National Park

After a good night sleep at the Chisos Basin Campground at Big Bend National Park there was a full day of hiking and exploration ahead.   Today would be a move to the Cottonwood Campground in the Castolon section of Big Bend.  After breakfast and a “bucket bath” the tent and everything in it was packed up.  The first stop of the day was up near the Panther Junction Visitor Center to get gas for the bargain basement price of $3.78 a gallon.  That was $0.40 more per gallon than the last fill up in Alpine, Texas on the way to Big Bend!

The Old Broken Windmill At The Sam Nail Ranch In Big Bend National Park

The Old Broken Windmill At The Sam Nail Ranch In Big Bend National Park

With the gas tank full it was time to go explore the southern part of Big Bend National Park on the way to the Cottonwood Campground.  The first stop along the way was the Sam Nail Ranch.  The trail around the Sam Nail Ranch is a short one.  It follows a loop on flat ground for about a half mile.  It used to be a homestead in Big Bend.  Currently there isn’t much there.  An old windmill still stands but no longer pumps water out of the spring, however, there is still an oasis in the desert there.  A few benches have been setup at the Sam Nail Ranch for those who would like to take a break, enjoy the sights and cool off in the shade.

A Building In The The Homer Wilson Ranch At Big Bend National Park

A Building In The The Homer Wilson Ranch At Big Bend National Park

The next stop was the Homer Wilson Ranch a little further down the Ross Maxwell scenic drive toward the Cottonwood Campground.  Unlike the Sam Nail Ranch, the Homer Wilson Ranch still has buildings standing that are in good enough shape to go inside.  The site of the ranch abandoned in 1945 still has a foreman’s house, the ruins of a bunkhouse, a circular corral and a dipping vat for sheep and goats.

The Homer Wilson Ranch Corral At Big Bend National Park

The Homer Wilson Ranch Corral At Big Bend National Park

It was a nice place to walk around, see the native building materials used for the buildings and get some good old ranch shots!  There was a red rock canyon of sorts a bit farther down the trail but that was not explored.  The backdrop for the corral was a huge butte in the background and made for a nice photograph as well!

Adam Jewell At The Sotol Vista Overlook At Big Bend National Park

Adam Jewell At The Sotol Vista Overlook At Big Bend National Park

The next stop along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive was the Sotol Vista Overlook.  It took a short drive off of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to get to the Sotol Vista Overlook but was well worth it.  There was no hiking here, just a drive to an overlook for some nice views of the western side of Big Bend National Park and a distant view of the Santa Elena Canyon way off in the distance.  It was well worth the stop and only took about a half hour to drive down the spur road and take in the sights from the overlook.

The Burro Mesa Pouroff At Big Bend National Park

The Burro Mesa Pouroff At Big Bend National Park

The next stop, which actually was a hike, was the Burro Mesa Pouroff area.  The Burro Mesa Pouroff is a half-mile hike from the parking area.  It starts along a sandy path and then follows a streambed that is dry most of the year.  Beautiful multicolored mountains were seen off in the distance.  Small plants and lots of cacti dotted the landscape along the path to the pouroff.  After snapping photos along the entire hike to the pouroff, the pouroff itself was quite a site.  It’s rather amazing how water and wind can erode rock surfaces!

Adam Jewell Below The Burro Mesa Pouroff At Big Bend National Park

Adam Jewell Below The Burro Mesa Pouroff At Big Bend National Park

On the hike back, the car and the parking lot were out of sight for most of the way.  After walking for what seemed like more than the half-mile hike back to the car I stopped to see if maybe I was walking the wrong direction.  In fact the hike back to the car had taken an accidental stroll in the wrong direction about a half-mile past the car and the parking lot.  After hiking up to slightly higher ground the car and the parking lot could be seen way off in the distance.  The straightest way back to the car did not involve hiking on anything that looked like a trail but with careful steps around a variety of heavily spiked desert plants the car was reached after about a 20-minute hike!

The Mule Ears Rock Formations At Big Bend National Park

The Mule Ears Rock Formations At Big Bend National Park

After the botched hike back from the Burro Mesa Pouroff the next stop was the Mule Ears Viewpoint.  The Mule Ears are two large rock formations off in the distance from the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend.  There was a trail (3.8 miles round trip) that went out to the Mule Ears Spring.  The Mule Ears Spring was a fair distance from the Mule Ears rock formations so without veering of the beaten path it wasn’t possible to hike out to the actual Mule Ears formations.  The trail looked like a great place to hike tomorrow but there was not enough daylight to make the hike today.

Tuff Canyon At Big Bend National Park

Tuff Canyon At Big Bend National Park

After taking some photos of the Mule Ears rock formations, the journey down toward the Cottonwood Campground continued.  The next stop along the way was the Tuff Canyon.  There were a couple viewpoints not far from the road as well as a trail down into Tuff Canyon.  All three were explored.  Due to the oncoming sunset there wasn’t enough time to hike far into Tuff Canyon.  Tuff Canyon isn’t a huge canyon but is well worth a stop and a hike into the canyon at least a little way.

The Chisos Mountains At Sunset At Big Bend National Park

The Chisos Mountains At Sunset At Big Bend National Park

Once the daylight was exhausted it was time to go check out the Cottonwood Campground in the Castolon section of Big Bend and find a campsite for the night.  The Cottonwood campground turned out to be the most primitive campground in Big Bend.  There were no showers; there was no bathhouse with running water in the sinks or flush toilets.  There were pit toilets and was one water spigot that spit out a trickle of clean water fit for drinking.

The Cottonwood Campground At Big Bend National Park

The Cottonwood Campground At Big Bend National Park

The Cottonwood campground bordered the Rio Grand River on one side and was fenced in most of the way around.  The campground had 31 sites only a handful of which were in use.  A few tents were already pitched along with a few RVs and tent campers.  Like the other two campgrounds at Big Bend there were plenty of good spots to pitch a tent on level, rock free ground and in some cases grassy areas.  There was no evening program in the amphitheater so the only thing to do after the tent was pitched was to gaze up at the starry skies for a while and then drift off to sleep.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Previous post:

Next post: