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Big Bend National Park Completes New Wildlife Viewing Platform at Rio Grande Village

Beaver Pond at Rio Grande Village.

A beaver pond is a popular feature along the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. NPS photo.

The lower elevation areas in Big Bend National Park are popular with winter visitors, and the week between Christmas and New Years is one of the busiest times of the year for the park. An added attraction beginning this season will be a new wildlife viewing platform at the beaver pond near Rio Grande Village.

If you aren't familiar with Big Bend, you may not expect to find a beaver pond near the Rio Grande River in the Texas desert, but this is a park with plenty of surprises.

As the name implies, Rio Grande Village is located along the river that defines the border between the U.S. and Mexico. A park publication notes,

Rio Grande Village is the center of visitor activity during the winter months. Here you will find a Park Service Campground and Visitor Center, Concession operated store, laundry, and shower facility. The store also runs the Rio Grande Village RV Hookup campground. Great scenery, warm temperatures, abundant wildlife, and full visitor services make this a must visit location for any Big Bend outing.

Wildlife viewing just got easier in this area, thanks to completion of a project by the park's maintenance crew: a new platform for birding and other wildlife viewing at the Rio Grande Village beaver pond.

The new platform is a fixed 20'x20' floating dock with a gangway access from the shore. It is the first in a two-phase process to restore access to the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail that was interrupted after the September 2008 Rio Grande flood event.

The new viewing platform offers great pond views and opportunities to enjoy birding and wildlife viewing at the Rio Grande Village Beaver Pond. The pond is located at the south side of the Rio Grande Village campground and can be accessed by following the outer campground loop road and parking along the far outside south loop of the Class A campground. A sign along the loop directs visitors to the Nature Trail and viewing platform.

The platform is the first of two phases of repairs of the Rio Grande Village Nature Walk.

The park is still working on and planning for the second phase to restore the permanent connection to the existing nature trail. This trail culminates with great views of the Rio Grande and Boquillas, Mexico, from a hilltop summit.

Currently, visitors are able to access this trail by using an alternate route that is available on the north side of the campground and along the paved road past the campground entrance. Ask at any park visitor center for details and directions.

Additional work has been completed at the nearby Hot Springs Historic Site, which was also impacted by the flood waters of 2008.

A bridge damaged by the flood has been replaced. The crew has removed debris, mud, and vegetation along the trail to the Hot Springs, as well as making significant improvements to the dirt road access.

Also completed is a new trailhead allowing visitors to easily find and access the Langford home site on the bluffs overlooking Hot Springs. The home site trail is now marked and starts at the newly restored walkway just beyond the Hot Springs Trail parking lot. This trail is one mile in length, and leads to the bluffs overlooking the Rio Grande and then back to the Hot Springs on the river. The views of the Sierra del Carmen and Rio Grande from this trail are spectacular.

You can download a map of key points of interest in the Rio Grande Village area at this link.

Park Superintendent William Wellman notes, “The completion of the new Rio Grande Nature Trail Platform is a milestone in the park’s flood cleanup efforts, and provides park visitors with the opportunity to once again access the unique riparian habitat found at the beaver pond."

Big Bend is popular with birders, and the Rio Grande Village area is a key spot for that activity all year long. This new platform will be a plus for visitors looking for the chance to enjoy the park's wildlife—or the superb desert scenery.

You'll find all the necessary information to help you plan a visit to Big Bend National Park on the park website.


As I recall, there are Indian hieroglyphics along the trail leading to the Hot Springs. It is amazing to me that these have not been defaced. Think twice about going to Rio Grande Village in the summer. When I was there in early July, it was a balmy 113 F down on the river.

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