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Big Bend National Park

By: Chris Robles Block 1: Environmental Systems


Get on 290, head west until you hit I-10, then merge and proceed west. Then head south on 385 until you hit Big Bend. Official directions via Google: Directions to Big Bend National Park from Austin, Texas

Ecosystems in Big Bend

Within the are of Big Bend National Park, there are three major ecosystems/environments; desert, river and mountain.

Ecosystems: Desert
The majority of Big Bend can be found in the northern parts of the Chihuahuan Desert. With this area being the largest area of the park, there are many different species of plants and animals including: mule deer, roadrunners, sotol, yuccas, and many more.

Ecosystems: River
In Big Bend, the Rio Grande is the border of the park as well as Texas. Stretching 118 miles along the border of the park, the Rio Grande is the main attraction for humans, as well as animals, in the vast desert surrounding it.

Ecosystems: Mountain
The Chisos Mountains are the only mountain range in the United States fully contained within a National Park, they are also the southernmost Mountain Range in the United States.

Ecological Balances
Within in Big Bend National Park, there three different types of environment, which means there are three different food chains. As well as creating different food chains, the different environments add limiting factors and succession to the Big Bend ecosystem.

Food Chain: Desert

The Road Runner 4th Level Consumers


The Rattlesnake

The Western Whiptail

The Coachwhip Snake

3rd Level Consumers

Frankia Bacteria
The Desert Big Horn Sheep

The Kangaroo Rat

2nd Level Consumers

The Cricket

The Pronghorn Antelope

1st Level Consumers

The Agave Plant

The Yucca Plant

The Creosote Plant


Food Chain: River

Catfish Decomposers Couchs Spadefoot Toad Garfish Turtle 3rd Level Consumers

Mosquito Fish

Vermillion Flycatcher

2nd Level Consumers

E. Coli Bacteria



1st Level Consumers

Willow Tree

Cottonwood Tree


Food Chain: Mountain

Coyote Decomposers Mountain Lion Black Bear 2nd Level Consumers

Frankia Bacteria

Whitetail Deer

Javalina Pig

1st Level Consumers

Juniper Tree

Madrone Tree

Persimmon Tree

Blooming Century Plant

Agarita Bush


Limiting Factors And Succession

Even though having three different environments in Big Bend allows a wider variety of animals to live within the park, it also limits the areas in which they can survive. After the vast overgrazing starting in 1900, Big Bend was soon a barren desert. After it became a national park, not many plants and grasses grew back, but the number of cacti increased vastly.

Abiotic and Biotic features

Abiotic The Rio Grande Temperature Biotic The animals/plants Humans

Different Species
Black Bear Coyote Jackrabbit Javelina Mountain Lion Mule Deer Turkey Vulture Black Vulture Peregrine Falcon Montezuma Quail

Agave Sotol Nolina Oaks Mesquite Pion Pine Juniper Yuccas Prickly Pear Cottonwood

Different Species (Cont.)

Great Horned Owl Burrowing Owl Elf Owl Flammulated Owl Eastern and Western Screech Owls Barn Owl Northern Pygmy Owl Northern Saw-Whet Owl Short-Eared Owl Long-Eared Owl And many more

Huisache Willows Retama Saltcedar Creasote Bush Ocotillo Cenizo Quaking Aspen Douglas Fir Ponderosa Pine And many more

The geology of Big Bend National Park is divided in three sections: The River, The Mountains, and The Desert. With each section comes many different geologic occurrences within the land.

Geology: The River

The Rio Grande runs along the Southern border of the park. Along with being the border of the park, the Rio Grande is what give Big Bend its name. The name comes from the irregular U-turn the Rio Grande makes in Southwest Texas. As well as giving the park its name, the Rio Grande is what gives the park such a great biological diversity.

Geology: The Mountains

Within the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend, there are species of plants and animals that are only found there in the United States, and some only found there in all of the world. Some examples are the white-tailed deer, which can only be found in the mountains of Big Bend in the US, but also found in Mexico; the Chisos oak only grows in the Chisos Mountains, and no where else in the world.

Geology: The Desert

The Chihuanhuan Desert is bordered one three sides by mountains that block out the rain, with the fourth side being vast semiarid plains; but even with the little rain it gets, the Chihuanhuan Desert is very green and lush with plants. Life in the desert has learned to conserve energy and hoard what little what it gets. The desert is thought to be a vast, lifeless plain, but it is actually full of animals and plants that are suited to survive in the harsh weather.

Endangered species
The list of endangered species in Big Bend National Park consists of the Black-Capped Vireo, Mexican Long-Nosed Bat, Big Bend Gambusia, Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, Chisos Hedgehog Cactus, American Black Bear, and the Texas Horned Lizard. Since Big Bend is a fully protected habitat by the national government, all animals within the park are protected and benefit from it.

Other Interesting Facts

Big Bend is the only national park that has three different environments coexisting in a confined area. Big Bend is the largest national park, but also the least-visited park. Within all of Big Bend, there are only five paved roads.

Average Temp. and Precip.

Geological History
Big Bend started out as part of a deep-ocean trough, which stretched from present-day Arkansas and Oklahoma to the Southwest region of Texas where Big Bend is found. With that lasting at least200 million years, sediment from the highlands accumulated in the trough which formed layers of gravel, sand, and clay, which turned into sandstone and shale beds after some time.

Geological History (Cont.)

About 300 million years ago, the layers of sandstone and shale beds were compressed upwards by a collision with a continent from the South, which formed the Ouachita Mountains. After 160 million years, the majority of the mountains were eroded and left only the roots. About 135 millions years ago, a warm, shallow sea began to invade Big Bend, which created the setting of lime mud and the remains of seadwelling organisms such as clams and snails.

Geological History (Cont.)

About 100 million years ago, the shallow Cretaceous Sea began to draw back into what is now known as the Gulf of Mexico. Soon after, the Rocky Mountains began to form from west-toeast compression or the earth. For nearly 10 million years after the formation of the Rocky Mountains, non-marine sediments were the only record of events in Big Bend. About 42 million years ago, the beginning of a long series of volcanic eruptions began, which led to the formation of the Christmas Mountains.

Human History
The first recorded group of humans living in Big Bend were several tribes of Native Americans, including; The Chisos, The Jumano, The Mescalero Apaches, and The Comanches. After 1535 the Spanish explorations reached Big Bend in search of gold, silver, farmland and ranchland. After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848 military forts and outposts were spread out across Trans Pecos Texas to protect settlers from Native Americans.

Human History (Cont.)

By 1880, ranchers were beginning to migrate to Big Bend, and by 1900, sheep, goat, and cattle ranches covered the majority of the land, which then led to massive overgrazing. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mineral deposits were found in Big Bend, which attracted miners and supports of miners. In 1933, Big Bend became Big Bend State Park, as to preserve its beauty, and soon after in 1935, it became Big Bend National Park, protecting it more than the state of Texas could.

What To Do
With only two day in Big With a week in Big Bend, you could spend Bend, you could see just your time going on the about all of Big Bend, Auto Tours, which will traveling on all the show you most of the paved roads and some park from the main of the dirt roads, or roads, but more than even going on a long two days is required to hike through Big Bend. see it all.

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