March 12, 2012

River Road, Art and Camels

Because we wanted to experience just a bit more Big Bend scenery before we left the area, we took the River Road along the Rio Grande from Lajitas to Presidio.  This road travels through parts of Big Bend Ranch State Park, which abuts the national park on the west. River Road has often been labeled as one of the most scenic drives in the United States, and it was indeed a spectacular journey.  The road climbed and dipped and twisted and turned for fifty miles and offered wonderful vistas of the Rio Grande and the surrounding mountains.  It was definitely worth the detour.

Rugged Mountains
Expansive Views
A Closer View of the Rio Grande
We made our way north from Presidio, where a border crossing into Mexico is located.  Just before we reached Marfa, we encountered another checkpoint.  The Border Patrol agents here asked many more questions, including why we needed such a large vehicle.  They were also willing to answer our questions, and helped us with restaurant recommendations in Marfa.

Marfa has evolved into a very cool town that has become a serious arts community.  The historic buildings have been rehabilitated and adaptively used for art schools, restaurants and galleries.  Marfa is the home of the Chinati Foundation, which is a contemporary art museum featuring large, minimalist art installations.  We did not stop since the museum is open only for scheduled tours, but we explored the town and enjoyed a great Tex-Mex lunch.

Downtown Marfa
A Texas Longhorn
We continued on our way toward the Davis Mountains where we planned to camp at Davis Mountains State Park.  Unfortunately, spring break interfered with our plans, and we discovered that the park was full.  We had to scramble to find another park, since we had no internet connection to check out our options.  Tim found Prude Ranch, and a quick call revealed that campsites were available.

I thought I had misunderstood the directions when I was told to turn right at the rodeo arena with the camels.  Huh?  Camels?  Indeed, camels!  It turns out that the U.S. Army imported 75 camels in the 1850s to use as pack animals in the Southwest.  The experiment was abandoned after ten years, but the Prude Ranch continues the traditions.

Prude Ranch turned out to be a great find.  It’s a historic cattle ranch that was established in 1897 and has been offering accommodations since 1921.  The original ranch house is still occupied by the family.  The ranch offers horseback riding (and camel riding), wagon rides and chuck wagon cookouts, as well as swimming and hiking.  The ranch was full with families on spring break, and it was a festive place.  An added bonus was Wi-Fi in the lodge, where I was able to update the blog.

Prude Ranch
Camels Are a Novelty at Prude Ranch
Prude Ranch House


  1. What a cool place! Glad you had to change your plans and stayed here instead. :-) LV

    1. LV, Changing plans seems to be what we're good at, and it's often for the best. We've happened upon some great places that way. Sarah