Written by Shirley T
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 08:56
If you happen to visit Texas Big Bend National Park with a limited time for sightseeing, be sure you put Santa Elena Canyon Trail at the top of your list! The sight of Rio Grande cut vertically the limestone walls of 1500-foot height is amazing! A definite must see. And Santa Elena Canyon Trail is the best spot to catch this impressive view!
The trailhead begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive near the picnic area. A round trip takes about 1.6 miles and generally, the trail is a short and easy hike. Following the 'Santa Elena Canyon Trail' sign led us to walk on a fine sandy ground pathway, passing through an area of lush vegetation. The next marker on our trail was Terlingua Creek. Fortunate for us, when we were there, the creek was almost dry so there was no barrier at all. On wet season, you may have to wade the water if it is not too deep and safe to cross.
Next ahead is the brown colored hiking sign. Take the sandy path uphill and after several yards, there are concrete-limestone switchbacks with hand railings. Slightly steeper hike but do not forget to turn back to witness the aerial view of the Santa Elena canyon's mouth, Rio Grande, the vista of Chisos mountains and beyond.
At the middle of the switchbacks, there is a good spot to pick up archeology lesson. Fossil seashells are easily spotted here. When you take a closer look on the rocks, these fossils appear to be carved beneath the limestone wall. One hypothetical reason explains that Big Bend has not always been a desert land. Oyster-like creatures lived here during the Cretaceous Period. About 135 million years ago, this area was a warm shallow sea that deposited lime mud and housed sea-dwelling organisms such as oysters, clams and snails. After the sea retreated, limestone layers were formed from shallow muds like what we could see today on the cliff walls of Santa Elena Canyon. Evidence is also prominent as one walks further into the canyon trail. Observe the real tiny and fine sand on its ground which was 'once upon a time ago' a sea bed!
Going upstream of Rio Grande, the next section of the trail is a dirt path on a ridge almost hugging the
cliff. Over several yards ahead, the trail drops back on a flatter ground with several bare rocks sitting by
the river bank. The end of the trail is an abrupt sheer of canyon wall that dips into the Rio Grande River.
Some hikers took the inland boulder's trail whereby it is more challenging to get across to the end spot of
this trail. The less tougher approach is taking the river bank pathway which potentially may get some mud and sand into your shoes while overcoming the smaller rocks.
At this spot, we picked a rock by the river to sit down, stretched our legs, enjoyed the sight of the dramatic gorge, smelled the lush vegetation and listened to the sound of Rio Grande. It is a shady here. Do not miss to look upon the majestic canyon. Inspiring!
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