Big Bend National Park ~ Vol 2
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Riparian ecosystems : green fingers of dense vegetation stand out against the sparse greenish brown-yellow-red-orange vegetation of the desert.
The Rio Grande is no longer that. Some but very little moving water graces it channel. The Mexicans who lay claim to its tributary waters upstream recognize it not as the Rio Grande but as the Rio Bravo.
Big Bend refers to the great southwest Texas U-turn the Rio Grande makes here – defining the Park boundary, the State of Texas, and the Mexican-US boundary for 118 miles. The river is an arcing linear oasis, a ribbon of green that cuts across the dry desert and carves deep canyons. Like all rivers surviving desert passages, it has its headwaters outside this desert, in Colorado. Irrigation, dams, agriculture, manufacturing, exotic plants and evaporation sap most of the Rio Grande’s water before it gets to the Park. In the Park the river’s water mostly comes from Mexico’s Rio Conchos.
The river creates an oasis for species not adapted to arid desert life, adding to the Park’s biological diversity. Its thin flood plain looks like a green belt in the desert. River sand and gravel bars and cliff banks host creatures not expected in the Chihuahian Desert. Sunset captures looking west over the Rio Grande from outside Boquillas Canyon towards the Chisos Mountain Range.
Big Bend NP Brochure, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior