Long before Texas’ Big Bend country was made into a national park it was populated by a handful of small ranches. In 1900 Martin Solis discovered cinnabar near his farm and quickly tried to capitalize on it. Mining continued here sporadically until the creation of Big Bend National Park in 1944. The mine was fairly unprofitable in it’s day but has become a benefit to all future generation as a protected historical site. It is now an eerie reminder of the past in the heart of Big Bend’s backcountry.
We visited the derelict mining town after a long day of exploring backroads and canyons on the park’s east side. From the Rio Grande Village area we took the River Road East towards the center of the park. We set up camp at the Fresno backcountry site (the only place you can camp near Mariscal Mine) around 5:30pm and as the sun was setting we rushed to explore the mine.
At this point I will say that purchasing the Guide to Big Bend’s Dirt Roads book from any of the camp stores of visitors centers in the park. This book is a well of information for all the parks roads and it has a nice map of the Mariscal Mine complex telling you what each building is and what it was used for.
The hike begins in a small dirt parking area with rock houses scattered around where the former miners once lived. There is a sign at the trailhead with a warning not to touch anything because of the mercury that has soaked into the bricks. Up on the hill we could see the mine blending in with its surroundings as it is made of rock from the hill it sits on. The trail up to the mine is loose and rocky dirt so we had to be careful not to slip while trying to take pictures and hike at the same time. The largest structure in front is one of the many furnaces used to melt down the mercury containing cinnabar ore.
The trail curves past the large furnace and gains some elevation to get a view of the complex from above and to see the mines themselves. Large deep and dark pits with metal grates blocking entrance. some went like a doorway into the mountainside and some were just a hole in the ground dropping vertically to the center of the earth (or close to it at least). The only other people out there, some kids and two adults with them were dropping rocks and sticks into the largest mine shaft and counting before it hit the bottom.
We reached the end of the trail at a high point overlooking the mine with great views of Boquillas Canyon and the east side of the park as well as the setting sun and west side of the park. After enjoying the view for a bit we started to head back down, peeking in the mines along the way.
We spent about an hour hiking and exploring the Mariscal Mine area with the trail being about 2 miles out and back. The mine is in the middle of nowhere and takes an hour to drive to but it is well worth the trip!
Thanks! – Josh
The Grand Canyon is a magical place to be at sunset. As the sun sets over the horizon the light is sucked out of the canyon but not before it puts on one last show of reds and oranges lighting up the massive canyon. Every second the light changes and will put your focus on another one of the infinite rock formations before you. The Grand Canyon isn’t just a place to see but to experience and every day there is an unforgettable experience. If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon then get out and go right now.
Thanks! – Josh
Jackson Square is my favorite part of. New Orleans. It is surrounded by beautiful architecture and backs up to the mighty Mississippi River. Not to mention the beignets! I was able to take these pictures recently as the sun set on another travel day. rk
Similar to yesterday’s top 5 National Parks feature, by their very nature all National Parks have amazing sunrises and sunsets. Having said that, some are a little better than others. Without further ado, here is today’s list.
5) Shenandoah National Park: Fighting off strong challenges from Canyonlands National Park and Haleakala National Park is Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive runs north/south atop the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains giving a gorgeous sunrise on one side of the road and an amazing sunset on the other side. Fog is common in the mornings creating a fabulous sunrise.
Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park.
4) Acadia National Park: Next on this list is Acadia National Park. From the summit of Cadillac Mountain you can be the first in the USA to see the sunrise. Really the views from any of the mountains in this park are amazing.
View from Champlain Mountain.
3) Grand Canyon National Park: 3rd on our list is also one of the most visited. Sunrise and sunset bring out amazing colors in the rocks that washed out by the bright sun during the day.
2) Saguaro National Park: The final two entries on our list are very close. Both are amazing and beautiful. At #2 is Saguaro National Park. A sunset here with a giant saguaro cactus in the foreground is almost as good as it can get.
Saguaros can grow over 40 feet tall!
1) Joshua Tree National Park: California’s Joshua Tree National Park has the best sunsets in the National Park system. Look at this sunset and try to disagree. Congratulations Joshua Tree National Park!
Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park.
I took these pictures from Petroglyph National Monument on back to back nights in late March. I like these pictures not only because they show the beauty of my favorite state, New Mexico but also because it shows how every day has new and different things to experience. The first night my focus was on the mountains and the city but the next night the moon crept above the Sandia Crest four times the size of the previous night and my focus was changed just to try to capture the New Mexico moon. With all that being said I hope this encourages you to get out and explore the nature around you because even if you visit the same place every day there are new experiences to have in nature!
Thanks! – Josh
The sun looked like a giant orange beach ball as it slid beneath the horizon. The picture honestly doesn’t do it justice. The sun was just huge and it seemed to melt away as it touched the water. rk
The Chisos Basin Campground is one of three frontcountry campgrounds in Big Bend National Park. There are 60 campsites (26 are reservable online), restrooms, and water. The campground is a well maintained typical National Park campground. All sites are $14 and don’t have RV hooks ups. It is a short but steep walk up to the park lodge, visitor center, and camp store where you can find all the snacks, equipment, souvenirs, and information you can handle. What really makes the campground great are the views! Most sites have a great view through “The Window” looking down to the desert below and on the other side you have the steep cliffs of the Chisos Mountains rising 2,000 feet above you. Overall this is the perfect frontcountry campground to me being small, having restrooms, immediate access to trails, great views, and fairly inexpensive!
My tent with the Window behind
Making coffee with a Butte
Sunset behind the Window
P.S. Thanks to Big Bend being a Dark Sky Park you can see the stars extremely well from anywhere in the park including the Chisos Basin despite its close proximity to the lodge. So if you catch a clear night you will be enjoying the stars from your Chisos Basin campground!
This picture was taken in Big Bend National Park on New Year’s Day! It’s such a great memory to have spent a holiday at a National Park. I definitely recommend! That night we did a small hike and enjoyed some sunset and star views! It was exciting to start off the new year in nature, opposed to a city style celebration! – Anya
This picture is from the sun setting on Chattanooga from Lookout Mountain. The sky turned the river pink and it looked unreal!
Thanks! – Josh