Heart of Texas Magazine

What’s YOUR Big Bend Story? Explore Real Texas Beauty

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The Local

The Marfa Lights are a curiosity with no clear answers. The strange lights have long been reported by both Native Americans and early cowboys. There is no satisfying explanation for them, and I’ll leave the exploration of the possibilities up to you. Now there is a TXDOT built viewing area/restroom complex in the area where locals used to pull off the road to watch for the lights, along US Highway 90, 10 miles east of Marfa toward Alpine. Randall, who owns the iconic and unique Stone Village Tourist Camp and Market in Fort Davis, grew up in the area. He believes the lights are less often seen since the construction of the viewing area. It is an altogether unique Texas experience, and if you want to be a full-fledged Texan, regardless of where you were born, you must spend some time on that viewing deck.

What’s YOUR Big Bend Story? Explore Real Texas Beauty

Photo by Mike Lewis and David Cain – Big Bend Mountain Bikers

The Missionaries

Judy, a now-retired nurse in Fredericksburg, made her first trip with the Mision de Candelilla prior to 9/11. Doctors, nurses, other health care providers, and laymen would take a john boat to the Boquillas river crossing in the Big Bend National Park and ferry medical equipment and supplies across to the village of Boquillas. There they would be met by Mexicans with pickup trucks for the trip to the village of Jaboncillos. The group would hold clinics in several villages, working their way back to Boquillas and the Rio Grande crossing, where they would ferry themselves back across the river. After 9/11, they were no longer allowed to cross at Boquillas, so they began driving to Eagle Pass and crossing into Mexico at Piedras Negras, then on to Muzquiz and finally Boquillas. The drive was much longer (13 hours), but the mission had grown larger and it was necessary for them to have their own vehicles. Today the mission provides basic health care three times a year to five villages spread along the Rio Bravo (the Mexican name for the river) in the Big Bend, an area where the people are too poor to travel to the government health care system many miles away. Volunteers find the Chihuahua Desert environment profoundly beautiful, the lack of electricity, cell phone, and internet connections calming, the people charming, and the work rewarding. Boquillas has long been a popular side trip for visitors to the Park. There is now a Boquillas Crossing Point of Entry facility operated by the National Park Service. You will need a passport (birth certificate for children), and the crossing is not open every day; see the Park’s website for details. US Dollars are acceptable currency in the businesses in Boquillas. The river crossing is provided by the village people in rowboats for $5 per person round trip. Even though you may be able to walk across the river nearby, the rowboat trip is a part of the experience not to be missed. Boquillas is ½ mile from the river, and you can walk, or hire a ride on a horse, burro, or pickup truck. Access to these remote villages from inside Mexico involves a long and arduous drive on dirt roads, and the difficult of life on the south side of the Rio Grande will become obvious to the visitor. For the romantic view of this unique experience, listen to Gringo Honeymoon by Robert Earl Keen.