One of the things we were really surprised about is how little you actually get to see the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park. Most of the time, the river is hidden from view, down below steep cliffs, and when you can see the Rio Grande, it is not very pretty or grande looking! In fact, the Rio Grande is a pretty narrow river and it’s a dirty greenish-brown color… which was a little disappointing when compared with the stunningly gorgeous rivers of northern California.
When making the 21 mile drive from the Panther Junction Visitor Center to the Rio Grande Visitor Center, we stopped just after a beautiful stone tunnel to check out the Rio Grande Overlook.
Finally a chance to see the Rio Grande snaking through the desert, right? Wrong!
At the Rio Grande Overlook, you can’t see the Rio Grande! You can see across the channel where the Rio Grande flows however to Mexico.
While the sweeping views from the overlook were beautiful, we were once again left disappointed at not being able to see the Rio Grande. Signs at the overlook identify desert cactus species though, so we did learn a bit about the cacti in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Overall, the cool stone tunnel just before the overlook was the coolest part of this stop!
Know Before You Go
About Rio Grande Overlook:
- The Rio Grande Overlook is near the Rio Grande Village and Visitor Center.
- Contrary to it’s name, you can’t actually see the waters of the Rio Grande from this overlook and scenic viewpoint.
- There are no restrooms available at the overlook.
- The Daniels’ Ranch picnic area, located on the west side of Rio Grande Village has shaded picnic tables and pit toilets, and is the trailhead for the Hot Springs Canyon trail.
About Big Bend National Park:
- Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County, 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. Entrance fee stations 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 outside the park 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.