American Locations 9 – Rio Grande Village 2

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Rio Grande Village Campground, Big Bend National Park, Texas


This was our campsite at Rio Grande Village Campground.

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Notice the metal locker. They all had latches so the bears couldn’t get in them. I never saw any bears. But I did see several road runners. They look surprisingly like the cartoon version that Wiley Coyote is always chasing. And they are fast. I never had an opportunity to photograph one, they were gone by the time I got my camera out. I didn’t get any photos of a little pig-like animal running loose in the campground, either. Javalinas (pronounced ‘havalinas’), the rangers insisted, weren’t pigs, but they sure looked like them. Here is a photo I took of a statue.


The first trip we embarked on was to Boquillas Canyon. It is the deepest easily-accessible canyon on the Rio Grande River in the eastern side of the park. It is named after a small nearby Mexican community. There is a border crossing in the park to this small isolated town just across the river. It was closed for some reason while we were there. But when it is open you can check in with the agent at a kiosk near the river, then be ferried by canoe across to Mexico. It is a short hike up a hillside to the small village. There are shops and restaurants and bars in a rustic setting. After being ferried back across the river you are required to check back in with the border agent.

The water level was so low when we were there that none of the outfitters were offering rafting trips. So the only way we could see Boquillas Canyon was to drive as close as we could.

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And then park.

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Notice at the left of the above photo on the Mexican side a parked van and a person standing by river. Here is a close-up.

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Now you can see several men. What they were doing was hawking their wares set up on our side of the river.

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It was on the honor system. Prices were marked, and you were expected to leave money for whatever you took. They either snuck across to set up their little market and then snuck back across to collect their money, or they had someone on the American side working with them to do this. Either way, it is illegal. Warnings are posted not to engage in this commerce. Whatever you bought could be confiscated and you could face a substantial fine. It was also posted that it was illegal to cross the river, and that if I did I could be arrested upon my return. Being a law-abiding citizen, I didn’t buy anything and I kept my feet dry. But I did stop to admire their crafts. Besides shouting their sales pitch across the river, which they did politely in excellent English, one of them also entertained by singing in a very good voice.

We parked at an overlook of the Rio Grande River.

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And began hiking.

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As we ascended we were presented with good views of the Rio Grande River.

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We soon were in sight of Boquitas Canyon.

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When we reached the Rio Grande.

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No one was hawking his wares from the Mexican side. But we did see a man in a blue boat just off the Mexican side.

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He could have been the man who ferried tourists across the river when the crossing was open. Or he could have been a Mexican border agent. Or an American border agent for that matter, keeping an eye on American tourists to ensure they didn’t cross into Mexico illegally. Or he could have just been fishing.

We hiked into the canyon as far as the trail allowed.

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Then we hiked back out.

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Intrigued by the laws concerning the border I had seen posted, I had questions for one of the park rangers when I got back to the campground. I asked who owned the river. I’m from Ohio, and although the river is named Ohio it is owned by Kentucky. All that Ohio owns of the river is about three feet off the north bank. He said the Rio Grande was owned by both countries. So I asked where exactly the border was in the river. He said that was kind of fuzzy. So I asked if I was allowed in the river. He said I would be good as long as I didn’t step out of the river onto the Mexican side. Then I asked what if I was rafting or canoeing down the river and overturned and had to swim to the Mexican side to save myself. He said a person had to do what he had to do in order to keep from drowning, but if I did emerge on the Mexican side I would have to be processed through immigration before I could re-enter the country, and I really didn’t want to go through that hassle unless I absolutely had to. So it is best to just stay on our side of the river.


The Next Location is Rio Grande Village Campground 3 in Big Bend National Park, Texas.



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