When people think of wild animals, it's common to think of tigers, elephants, monkeys, and lions- rarely does anybody imagine the animals native to their state. Here in Texas, we might not have biodiverse tropical rainforests, but there is a level of beauty. Nature's beauty in Texas best represents itself in Big Bend National Park.
What kind of wildlife does the average Texan imagine to inhabit their state? A high school junior’s response suggests they might envision “antelope in the forest,” as she recalled that the only national park she had ever visited was Arizona's Colossal Cave, rather than any Texas park. In Colossal Cave, the interviewee remembered how “someone got hit [by a rock].” Still, the student “would like to visit [Big Bend],” enjoying animals most out of all nature.
During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, land was set aside for environmental protection and recreational purposes. Many people suggested the desert- mountainous lands that now make up Big Bend. For centuries, these lands served as an oasis for Native American life. Later on, the Spaniards come and nearly used up every natural resource. In 1933, Texas wanted to protect this land , and the federal government accepted in 1935.
Some animals that inhabit Big Bend include: bobcats, turkeys, javelina, bears, mountain lions, deer, snakes, golden eagles, black-tailed jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, roadrunners, and coyotes. In total, there are 75 mammal species, 450 bird species, and 56 reptile species. Most of the animals are seen at night, while it isn't as hot outside. Though there are mountain lions, sightings are at a relatively low, 150 or so a year. Nevertheless, these majestic predators are a reminder of the power of nature and our wild ancestors who lived among them. Mountain lions might not be tigers, but when you hear about how they are debated to lead a taxonomy of their own, you can appreciate the uniqueness of the cat.
The yucca and aloe vera are two of the most fascinating plants native to the Big Bend area. Other notable plants include: bluebonnets, willows, ocotillo, rock nettles, and lechuguilla. The park has are over 1200 plant species in total. The yucca are known to have lived up to 1000 years in the wild. To the native americans, they were the panacea, used for clothing, hygiene, and multiple medicinal purposes. Aloe veras are succulent plants that also contain an array of minerals and healing powers. In just 1% of the desert plant (the other 99% is stored water) calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, E, and C, amino acids and enzymes that help relieve burns and build immunity, are all provided.
The basis for all this life is the ground itself. Big Bend has amazing geography, with landforms ranging from rock formations, desert, mountain ranges, and water bodies. The oldest rocks are dated to about 500 million years, telling the history of the Earth through their multicolored layers. The first layer was made of limestone, followed by a salt-formed layer left by an ocean that once passed through the area, carving canyons. What was leftover from the ocean now forms the sedimentary sand dunes and the Rio Grande. This river is the heart of life in the park. Without it, the beautiful, ecologically essential foliage could never survive.
Big Bend is “living” proof that Texas is not void and hopeless. It is a state flooding with life, and must stay that way. Perhaps if Americans were more aware of Texan beauty, they would take better care of the state's environment. The point of national parks is to share the joy of nature with all people. Big Bend can, with your support, fulfill its important purpose.
BasicPlanet. (2013). Big Bend National Park. Retrieved May 08, 2016.
HerbWisdom. (n.d.). Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis). Retrieved May 08, 2016.
SoftSchools. (n.d.). Yucca Facts. Retrieved May 08, 2016.