Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 29 - Big Bend, Texas

No Travel Mileage Today.

Last night was cold and windy. The forecast for tonight is colder with a possibility of up to an inch of snow. Today was fairly overcast.

We did go exploring today and to our pleasant surprise there is quite a bit of history along with things to see.

We have no internet or cell phone service where we are camping. We were able to find a spot about 5 miles from here that is high up on a hill where I got 2 bars of single strength on the cell phone and was able to connect to the internet. The connection is rather slow so I am limited in what I can send and receive.

IMG_0001We are camped within a few hundred feet of the Rio Grande Rio.  As IMG_0002you can see the trees have started to change to their fall colors.

Our first stop was a floodplain farm house on the Rio Grande. To transform the desert into a IMG_0003productive garden, settlers in the 1920s dug a system of irrigation ditches and pumped water  from the river. For a few decades the fields yielded melons, corn and cotton. There was a rock by the river that had walking sticks along with a few other trinkets, a note listing the prices of items and a jar for the money. Raija thought that some down and out person was trying to make a buck. My thought was that there must be a small Mexican Village across the river and that it was a Mexican enterprise.



Rio Grande River by old farmhouse

The route to our next stop solved the mystery. There was a pull out overlooking the river. IMG_0009 Across  the river was the Mexican town of Boquillas. The overlook hadIMG_0010 several large rocks with walking sticks, jewelry, beaded figures, etc. Across the river on the Mexican side was a canoe and by the canoe were several stock piles of walking sticks. It seems that Mexicans from the village slip across the river, restock the IMG_0008 shopping rocks and collect the money from the jars on at least a daily bases. There is no legal border crossing for over 100 miles so appears that IMG_0012both the Park Rangers and the Border Patrol must look the other way to this little operation.



IMG_0014 Our next stop was the site of an old tramway that carried zinc, silverIMG_0015 and lead ore across the Rio Grande from a mine in Mexico to railroad in Marathon, Texas. The tramway started at the old Puerto Rico Mine above Boquillas, Mexico transverse six miles and terminated in the Ernst Valley. Four 6 mile-long cables carried 90 buckets at a time, delivering 7 tons of ore per hour, it was then an 85 mile wagon trip to the railhead in Marathon.




Cables from Tramway



The last stop of the day took us to Hot Springs, Texas. CharlesIMG_0022 Livingston built a house, store / post office, motor hotel and hot springs bath house in the late 1920’s and early 1930’ along the banks of the Rio Grande River and Tornillo Creek.

The buildings are typical construction of time and area using native rock and local materials.


Post Office Store

Charles believed in the healing powers of the springs and encouraged tourists to sample the  healing waters of the Hot Springs spa and fish for large catfish.

The Hot Spring water is considered old water, fossil water, ancient and irreplaceable. Heated by geothermal processes and emerging at 105 F, the water carries dissolved mineral salts reputed to have healing powers.

Research indicates that the hot water is emerging from a pocket of fossil water deposited at least 20,000 years ago. The ancient water is not being replaced and may one day become extinct. The temperature is 105 degrees F throughout the year. The rate of flow in 1936 was claimed to be 250,000 gallons per day. More recent measurements show a slight decrease in flow.

IMG_0028 The two story bathhouse was built over the largest of several hot springs found along this section of the Rio Grande River. Today the foundation is all that remains of the main structure. The bathhouse was built of native rock and jutted into the river channel; its thick walls were angled to cut into the flow of the water during heavy floods. The idea was sound but the river was overwhelming. All that remains today is the foundation that is submerged when the river flow is above tree feet.

IMG_0010Another rock store by the old Hot Springs



Ancient Indian Art by Hot Springs

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