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Texas Ghost Town - Boquillas

Boquillas & Boquillas Del Carmen


Crossing the Rio Grande at Boquillas

Shortly after this article was written, the crossing was closed and the current status is unknown. Calls to the National Park were not returned, so visitors should be warned that the area is often used for drug smuggling. - Editor, February 2006

by John Troesser

Boat in Rio Grande River

The river at rest
TE Photo

Hot Springs, the crossing, burro ride, and Boquillas

We've read about the crossing at Boquillas for years. How you travel two miles up a mountain and there's nothing but a cantina at the top. Something about mules and boats - it was all pretty vague and uninviting. Until you get there. There's something very Steinbeckesque about it. Cannery Rowish or Tortilla Flatish. Of course, if Steinbeck had written about it, it would now be a theme park. A park with Red Ponies and George and Lenny with rabbits frolicking in huge oversized heads.

Rather than just present the facts, we decided that for our readers, we'd brave the currents and fill in the detail the other guides have left out.

We're here to tell you that for adventurous types, it's a pretty dull trip. For un-adventurous types it's still pretty dull. The hand-pulled ferry at Los Ebanos is more interesting from a technical / mechanical point of view, but Boquillas has more color, a nicer view and besides, Los Ebanos is about 400 miles down river.

Hot Springs in Big Bend
The Spring and bathhouse ruins
TE Photo

On the way to Boquillas, if time permits, you should take the time to visit the Hot Spring (follow the signs). It's worth the drive and the walk is easy and enjoyable even in mid-summer.

We were told the bathhouse over the springs was blown up by the former owner when the National Park acquirred ownership. Others say it was destroyed by a flood in 1938. The complete story is told in the highly recommended book: Taking the Waters in Texas by Janet Mace Valenza, University of Texas Press, 2000.

Big Bend, Texas - Stone building and palm
Flora on the way to Hot Springs
TE Photo

The boat ride across the Rio Grande
and the burro ride to Boquillas
The signage in the park is adequate to get you to the parking lot at the crossing at Boquillas. When you reach the lot and you don't see someone immediately, just start down the path to the river toward the screams. Just kidding!

The boat as we mentioned in our title is named La Enchilada for some reason known only to the boatman and of course, the other villagers. Fare is $2 per person round trip. Be sure to pay for the "whole enchilada." The actual boat ride takes about 20 seconds and if they had another boat, they could just put them bow to stern and one could walk across. The depth of the river in early September was about 2.5 feet due to the drought.

This is not always the case. Mrs. Marquart of Sanderson has seen local boys diving to retrieve the boat after heavy rains have swept it downstream. Mrs. Marquart, Mr. Norris and other Sandersonians visit frequently, bringing clothes, school supplies and even desks to the schoolchildren of Boquillas.

Boquillas has about 180 people from about 25 families. That's what we were told. There is no electricity in Boquillas; everything runs on propane. The two-mile trip is in truth closer to of a mile.

Rio Grande River Texas  - Boquillas burro ride
Relucant riders can easily be tied in place.
TE photo

Two animal providers await you on the Mexican side. One has burros only and the other has burros and burritos, horses and horsitos.

We took a horse and a burro - one from each "stable." The animals are docile, healthy and well watered. You can ride them yourself, or for a few dollars more, a guide will walk with the animal, holding the reins for you. If you insist and pay them more, I'm sure the guide could be talked into riding, while you walk behind. The rate was $4 per animal - for one hour. That's enough time to ride to the top, have a tepid beverage and/or something to eat and ride back down.

Rio Grande River Texas  - Boquillas hitching post
The Hitching Post in Downtown Boquillas
TE photo

Boquillas and Lobo
As you near the village, tables of quartz and other minerals are put out to catch your eye. The cubic shapes and translucence of the quartz makes it look like pink, hard Jell-o.

Upon arrival the animals are tied to a hitching post 10 yards from a store/restaurant with a fine view.

The Cantina is 100 yards further up the hill—follow the music. Boquillas has a tranquillity lacking in other border towns. The population has worked out a system that seems to work well for all concerned.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the trip (if your horse doesn't wander off into the verdant and prickly riverside growth) is watching "Lobo."

Rio Grande River Texas  - Boquillas  dog Lobo swimming
Lobo swimming alongside "La Enchilada"
TE photo

Lobo is a waterdog and has the look that no doubt inspired his name.

Any fear you may have of Lobo disappears when you see him swim behind the boat and bite at the splashes of water deliberately thrown his way by the boatman's oar.

Lobo follows the horses/mules to the top of the hill, even though he's seen it all thousands of times before.

Rio Grande River Texas  - Boquillas  dog Lobo
Lobo had the heart of a puppy - but he ate it for lunch.
TE photo

The ride back is somehow shorter than the ride up. The animals seem more eager to discharge their riders for the last time.

We encourage visitors to Big Bend to cross at Boquillas, if only for the novelty. Why did you leave home in the first place, if it wasn't to experience something new?

October 2000

John Troesser

Big Bend National Park website: http://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm

TX Brewster County 1920s map
Brewster County 1920s map showing Boquillas
From Texas state map #10749
Courtesy Texas General Land Office


Love your articles - keep them coming... by the way the crossing to Boquillas, Mex. is now closed due to some drug trafficking and arrests made there in Sept of this year... do not know when they will reopen it - Mike Arnold, November 28, 2000

Our sincere thanks to Mike Arnold. We called Big Bend and it seems that the Mayor of Boquillas, Sr. Jose Falcon passed away a short time after our article was written and that undesirable elements briefly reared their head. Thanks to the Border Patrol, The DEA, Big Bend Park Officials and Mexican Authorities, arrests have been made, Boquillas is once again open as of Nov. 27th and although Lobo was questioned, we are happy to report he is back with his family. - Editor
December 2000

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