District Attractions

Big Bend ceremony marks continuing U.S., Mexico preservation effort

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada have announced the next steps in a coordinated plan to protect and preserve the transnational Big Bend/Rio Bravo region.

In an Oct. 24 ceremony at Big Bend National Park, the two officials helped release 267,000 Rio Grande Silvery Minnows as part of an ongoing recovery project for the endangered species and outlined the next phase of the Cooperative Action for Conservation in the Big Bend/Rio Bravo Region.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

Located in northwestern Bexar County just outside of San Antonio, the 8,624-acre Government Canyon State Natural Area opened to the public six years ago this month. The area was purchased by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1993, in cooperation with Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio Water System, the Trust for Public Land and the federal government's Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The best time to visit Government Canyon, which is part of the state's rich ranching history, is between September and February, when protected habitat areas are open to the public. All other trails are open year around, but the Protected Habitat Trails provided a visitor with a glimpse into Texas' past, when soldiers rode the trails to Fort Sam Houston.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose, long known as the queen of San Antonio's missions, has reopened following an extensive 10-month restoration. Several hundred people turned out on Aug. 19 for the official opening and mass conducted by San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller.

The $2.2 million renovation included new wiring, the installation of air conditioning, and a new retablo, made of Mexican red cedar with a Latino-inspired crucifix in the center. The mission's interior walls were also painted to recapture its original 18th-century colors.

Father David Garcia, who led a $5.5 million campaign to restore all four of San Antonio's historic missions, said the project is designed to preserve the history of the missions' founding and fortify their legacy.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

In a state where everything is bigger, there's no state park larger than this one. Remote and rugged, the Big Bend Ranch State Park covers more than 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness. The park extends along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas in both Brewster and Presidio Counties, encompassing two mountain ranges and containing extinct volcanoes, desert, canyons, and waterfalls.

With 66 miles of trails, and primitive roadside and backcountry campsites, the park has a lot to offer those seeking adventure in the wild. Of course, food, lodging and Wi-Fi are also available at the Saucedo Complex, and the three-bedroom "Big House" provides luxury accommodations for eight.