64 Years Ago in Texas Game and Fish
Giant oyster fossils and the promise of an international park made Big Bend a hot topic in 1943.
By Jon Lucksinger
Long before it was one of the best-known parks in the nation, the Big Bend area of West Texas was a mostly unknown, sprawling stretch of wilderness. Today, it remains a place of unspoiled natural beauty and still instills visitors with the feeling of leaving the modern world completely and stepping into a world untouched by man.
From the January 1943 issue of Texas Game and Fish:
Big Bend Park Soon a Reality
For years Texans have dreamed of the Big Bend country of the Rio Grande becoming a national park. The dream is now approaching realization. Park-minded Texas, with its Legislature’s appropriation of $1,500,000, has completed the purchase of the necessary lands, which will be deeded by the state of Texas to the United States Government. The Congress has already authorized the Secretary of the Interior to accept them, and the Secretary is further authorized, upon acceptance, to designate the area as the Big Bend National Park. It will be the first national park in the nation’s largest state. With an area of approximately 725,000 acres, it will be one of the largest national parks, exceeded in size only by Yellowstone, Mount McKinley, Glacier, Olympic and Yosemite.
Proposed Big Bend National Park is located on the Mexican border west of the Pecos River and lies within the “big bend” of the Rio Grande. It is the last great wilderness of Texas. A most extraordinary example of rugged, unspoiled country, it is one of the few areas in all the United States that remain unchanged by the march of civilization.
Scientists are wrestling with geologic mysteries of the area, seeking answers to such riddles as the source of extensive volcanic beds, and the story behind remnants of prehistoric monsters that inhabited the region in the long, long ago. One discovery is a petrified oyster that measures more than four feet in length. Six such oysters on the half-shell would have provided a fair-sized meal for one of those prehistoric monsters. Through the great uplift of jagged, colorful peaks the Rio Grande during the centuries has cut three canyons — the Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas — whose sheer limestone cliffs in places tower more than 2000 feet above the river. Here the prehistoric Cave Dweller Indians lived. Their caves have yielded an assortment of artifacts, such as baskets, wooden implements, matting, sandals and cooking utensils.
Mexico is proceeding with preliminary arrangements for the establishment of an adjoining national park south of the river. The two areas will form the Big Bend International Park. Like the Glacier-Waterton Lake International Park which extends our good neighbor policy into Canada, the Big Bend International Park will further cement our friendly relations with the Republic of Mexico. It is in Texas that the colorful characteristics of Mexico have made perhaps the greatest influence upon our music, our dance, and our art; but besides a blending of cultural sympathies, the economic and political relationships between Mexico and the United States are becoming increasingly important.
Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment in an eight-part series commemorating the 65th anniversary of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine (formerly Texas Game and Fish).