Big Bend Ranch State Park – Canyons and Sunset

Closed Canyon

Closed Canyon is a short trail that lies right off the main road. There is a parking lot from which you can quickly hike down to the stream bed and walk to the canyon’s entrance. The canyon cuts through the mesa to the Rio Grande, but you can’t hike all the way down to the river because it gets steep and involves rock climbing. Below is a crop from a satellite view showing the canyon between the highway and the river.

Once you get in the canyon, you are mostly in the shade and it is very pleasant. The first part of it is a very easy hike, but as you progress farther into the canyon you begin to have obstacles to climb. I hiked along until it looked like more trouble that it was worth and then headed back. The sun shines high up on the walls, providing a lot of contrast with the shaded stream bed below. I tried to find photo vantage points that showed the path heading off through the canyon using features in the close foreground.

Closed Canyon Trail at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Parts of the canyon open up and let more light in and you find many more plants in these areas. You can see in the image below some large boulders along the stream bed. There gets to be progressively more of these as you go along and also sharp drop-offs that you have to climb down.

Closed Canyon Trail at Big Bend Ranch State Park

So, that was a nice little hike through millions of years of erosion.


Next we stopped at the Contrabando ghost town and movie set. There are some old buildings there that were constructed for some movies, but they are mostly falling apart these days. I poked my head through the damaged back door of one of the buildings because I wanted to take some bracketed images from inside to create an HDR merge showing the cracked walls and the scene outside. Unfortunately, you cannot see the river from this building. Below is the imaged of the barred front door and its long shadow on the dirt floor.

Contrabando Building at Big Bend Ranch State Park


For sunset we went to a high overlook from which the Rio Grande and some desert mountains are visible to the west. It was another clear day and there were few clouds to work with for sunset, but we persevered and picked out some vantage points for sunset photography. The photo below was my first thought on framing a sunset with the bright ribbon of the river in the canyon leading off into the distance and the rolling landscape in the foreground.

Overlook at Big Bend Ranch State Park before Sunset

While waiting for the Earth to rotate, I spied a lone yucca growing precariously on the side of a rocky cliff and it seemed to be catching the light of the sun while everything else in the view was in shadow. So, I mounted up my longest lens and set about shooting a photo of this plant. The long focal length also makes the river standout in the lower foreground as well as the cliffs of Mexico in the distance. This image was shot at 200mm and handheld. If you zoom way in, you can see some motion blur and I probably should have bothered to mount the camera to a tripod for this shot.

Cactus on a Cliff at Big Bend Ranch State Park

I continued to wait for the sunset and the horizon over the mountains began to transition to yellow with the help of dust in the air. The below image is a bit of a crop to focus on the layers of mountains against the yellow sky and I like the way that it turned out. You can really see how thick the dust is in the air in this image.

Yellow Sky at Big Bend Ranch State Park

The sunset behind the mountains and a some high clouds did show up over the mountains. They briefly transitioned through orange to gray. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to edit to following image. The colors in the sky never looked quite right to me, because of all the dust in the air I think. This is not as wide a shot as my initial idea, but those clouds were so far away that I needed to zoom in quite a bit to get much of them.

Sunset at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Perhaps I will get a chance to come back to this state park with better conditions in the future.

6 thoughts on “Big Bend Ranch State Park – Canyons and Sunset

  1. Enjoyed seeing the bright orange color again from your canyon picture. Cool picture of the door in the ghost town with the shadow.
    Nice shot of the Yucca flower. Glad that you didn’t try getting close enough to the flower to touch it! đŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

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