Wednesday December 9 Through Saturday December 12, 2020
Texas farm to market road FM-170 is known as The River Road. It starts in Study Butte and winds along with the Rio Grande River past Presidio Texas. River views are amazing. Travelers can get a feel for how connected the USA and Mexico are along this section of the border. FM-170 passes through Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Big Bend Ranch is arguably the wildest, most pristine, largest and most remote Texas State Park. The main ranger station, Sauceda Ranger Station, is a 30 miles drive from the nearest paved road, FM-170. Other Big Bend Ranch State Park visitor centers are more accessible. Barton Warnock Visitor Center, the eastern entrance outside Lajitas Texas and Fort Leaton State Historic Site, the western entrance, outside Presidio for Big Bend Ranch State Park are on FM-170.
Big Bend Ranch State Park’s very remoteness, wildness and size makes exploring the park challenging. We needed a stable base near the park for further exploration before we can be comfortable with camping inside the park.
Loma Paloma RV Park is the closest full hookup RV park to the interior of Big Bend Ranch State Park. Loma Paloma is about 35 miles from Sauceda Ranger Station. While proximity was the primary reason we chose this park, it is by no means the only reason we plan to return.
This park, like the surrounding area, is quirky. In a good way. It doesn’t have a store. They don’t sell ice, snacks or firewood. No manicured lawns or traditional landscaping. No firepits. No employees to greet arrivals and lead them to their campsite. No credit cards. No concrete or asphalt roads. Think desert minimalism.
It is easy to miss the turn into the park. The sign is there but the grand entrance isn’t obvious.
The entrance is simply a break in the scrub brush where tire tracks lead on through the gravel. The park has large campsites, good laundry facilities and a daily late afternoon gathering at the “Lounge Lizard” where campers hang out drinking adult beverages. The park offers reasonable daily, weekly and monthly rates.
All campsites are sized the same: much longer and wider than usual. All the sites are pull-through. There is plenty of space here. The scarcity of vegetation means RVs and vehicles can be parked pretty much anywhere.
The park was fairly empty while we were there. Partly because of Covid. The Presidio area was at the top of the list of places in Texas with the highest infection rates during our stay. Some of the park residents were passing through. Others were staying here for the season, presumably December through March.
Presidio December average high temperatures are 69 with lows averaging 36. December and January are the coldest months. May through September highs average above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. While one can’t recommend staying here during the warmer months there are pretty good arguments to stay over the winter.
We woke up after the second night to discover the water was off. A water line broke overnight and flooded a campsite. The park’s maintenance guy discovered the leak before daylight and turned off the water to our row of campsites. He had the leak repaired before lunch. A long time seasonal resident told me the park was always responsive fixing problems like this.
Our original plan to drive into the park two days in a row was derailed on the first day. The entrance into the park interior was closed.
The park was closed for hunting. No mention on the website. We found this notice at Fort Leaton State Historic Site just outside Presidio. We stopped to use the fort’s restrooms on our way back.
The following morning, we tried the entrance again. Thankfully, it was open.
The park’s rugged desert landscape is why we come here.
The park roads have been greatly improved since our last visit two years ago. Two years ago, the park’s grader had been broken for over a year. Needed road maintenance had been deferred too long. The road to Sauceda Visitor Center has been greatly improved so that passenger cars were able to safely drive on it the day we were there.
At the visitor center, we talked to a ranger (facemasks for all and a plexiglass shield separating us) who helped us figure out where we would go on our next trip into the park. The rangers in Big Bend Ranch State Park are tops!
Hope to see you on the road ahead!