West Texas

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend

Santa Elena Canyon by Tom


The majestic Santa Elena Canyon is the most impressive in Big Bend National Park – it is visible for over 10 miles away, as the Rio Grande changes direction abruptly after following beneath the straight Sierra Ponce cliffs for several miles and heads due west, cutting through the mountains via a deep, narrow gorge. This sharp bend in the river was formed by movement along the Terlingua fault zone that crosses the park. For many miles upstream the river is trapped beneath the high walls, eventually emerging into a wider valley at the small town of Lajitas. A 0.7 mile path follows the river up the north side of the canyon, and walking further is possible when the water level is low.

Reprinted from American Southwest | Photo by Tom