The last place we visited at Big Bend National Park was ironically the very first place most people stop when visiting the park!
Because we stayed at the Lajitas Golf Resort near Terlingua, we entered the park each day through the western Maverick Entrance Station, but planned to leave the park through the northern entrance on our way to the Marathon Target and Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Persimmon Gap Visitor Center is the first stop at Big Bend National Park for visitors entering the park through the northern entrance station.
At Persimmon Gap, you can:
- Pay your park entrance fees.
- Get park information, maps, and brochures, and speak to a ranger.
- Check out exhibits on the Rio Grande River and rafting the Rio Grande.
- Pick up river use permits.
- Get books and souvenirs at the bookstore.
- Watch a park film in the mini-theater.
- Have a picnic at the picnic area.
The drive from the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center to the Panther Junction Visitor Center and the Big Bend National Park headquarters is 28.0 miles. From Persimmon Gap, the road descends a long, gentle, gravel slope to Tornillo creek and Tornillo Flat. The Rosillos Mountains rise to the west and to the east the Dead Horse Mountains dominate the skyline.
Along the drive, there is the amazing Fossil Discovery Exhibit, the 14.0 mile Dagger Flat Auto Trail to a forest of Giant Dagger Yuccas, the Tornillo Creek hoodoos, and the trailheads for the Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den trails.
Cooper’s Store Building
The Persimmon Gap Visitor Center adobe building was built in the mid-1940s and housed a store belonging to William A. Cooper, Jr. and his wife called Cooper’s Store.
The Cooper family owned Persimmon Gap Ranch and built five stores in the area beginning in 1929. This was the last one and it was by their son Bill Cooper, Jr. out of 10,000 adobe blocks manufactured on site by four men from Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico.
The store sold ice, cold cuts, soft drinks, beer, and gas, and a café served meals. Cooper’s Store was a gathering place for the local ranchers and their families and was a welcome stopping place for park personnel and visitors when Big Bend National Park opened.
The National Park Service purchased several sections of land, including Bill Cooper’s land and the Cooper Store building, and turned the building into a Ranger Contact Station. Over the years, the building has evolved and today it is a Visitor Center.
Know Before You Go
About the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center:
- Persimmon Gap Visitor Center, located at the north entrance to Big Bend National Park, is open seasonally from November through April from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. It is closed for lunch.
- There are clean, flush restrooms available.
- Inside each of Big Bend’s five visitor centers is a fully stocked bookstore operated in partnership with a private, non-profit organization called Big Bend Natural History Association (BBNHA). The bookstore carries educational books, videos, park information, and souvenirs. All profit from sales stays in the park.
- Day hikes in this part of the park include the routes to Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den, as well as a primitive trail up Persimmon Gap Draw towards Persimmon Peak.
- The Fossil Discovery Exhibit is an open-air museum located between the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center and Panther Junction Visitor Center.
About Big Bend National Park:
- Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County, southwest Texas.
- The name Big Bend refers to the great U-turn the Rio Grande makes in Southwest Texas. The Rio Grande defines the park’s southern boundary for 118 miles.
- Park entrances are open 24 hours daily, all year and have variable seasons and hours.
- Admission fees are valid for seven days and are $30/vehicle, $25/motorcycle, $15/individual/bicyclist/pedestrian.
- There are five Visitor Centers in Big Bend National Park: Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, Castolon, Persimmon Gap, and Rio Grande Village.
- Download the Big Bend National Park maps.
- There are three developed campgrounds in the park: the Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood campgrounds. Sites are first come, first-served, although a limited number of campsites in Rio Grande Village and the Chisos Basin campgrounds are reservable.
- Convenience stores are available and open year-round at Rio Grande Village, the Chisos Basin, and in the historic La Harmonia store at Castolon.
- Gas stations are located at Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village, and outside the park in Study Butte and Stillwell’s Ranch. Diesel is available at Panther Junction and in Study Butte.
- Pets are not allowed on trails, off roads, or on the river. Your pet can only go where your car can go and must be on a leash no longer than six feet in length or in a cage at all times. Pet etiquette and park regulations require that you always clean up after your pet and dispose of waste in trash receptacles.