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The Chisos Basin: Timeless Beauty and a Changing Texas Landscape

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Ten hours in the car makes for a long journey from Dallas, but at the end of that trip awaits unique enchantment. The Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park is familiar to us after many visits, but it’s never quite the same place.

During our recent arrival in late August, thanks to rains a few days before, vibrant purple and lavender sage blossomed throughout the park. When we visited a year ago, a crowd of blooming century plants, which bloom only once, lined the road up the mountain to welcome our one-car parade.

The Chisos Basin: Timeless Beauty and a Changing Texas Landscape

Photo: John Spaulding. Providing a colorful trail, purple sage lines portions of the last six miles up to the Basin.

The Chisos Mountains, the southernmost range within the U.S., form part of the topography impacted by volcanic activity. Combine that with the uplifting and subsequent erosion of the land, and you have a geologist’s workbook. The Chisos range hosts hundreds of plant and animal species, which vary with elevation and habitat.

From where the main road of the park connects with the Panther Junction ranger station, it’s still quite a drive to the basin. The path before us twists an extra six miles of rugged scenery and increases another 1,700 feet in elevation. As we ascend, we watch in anticipation for the car thermometer to drop degree by degree. Our blood pressure will no doubt do the same. As we make one of the last 10-mph turns (and pass caution signs featuring a black bear), we finally see the basin, at 5,400 feet in elevation, nestled in a ring of mountains with “The Window” rock formation view to the west. The Window is the park’s most famous view, fostering extraordinary sunsets.  We are here at last — to breathe deeply once again.

The Chisos Basin: Timeless Beauty and a Changing Texas Landscape
Photo: John Spaulding. Your back porch view of The Window from one of the stone cottages.

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