Exhausted after hiking the Outer Mountain Loop
When I finally finished the Outer Mountain Loop adventure, I was a mess. I was sore from head to toe, I had rashes on my inner thighs were the fabric in my shorts tore the flesh off my skin. I was thirsty and sunburned. It was 6 p.m., and I had been hiking all day in the desert and climbed up the Chisos Mountain range.
Read about the Outer Mountain Loop adventure beginning here
I celebrated with two powerades and a chocolate milk at the Chisos Basin general store. I was too dehydrated to even think about a beer. Normally, I would have limped to a hotel and enjoyed air conditioning and pizza, but I had one more stop in Big Bend National Park before I left.
Time to hit a Big Bend Rio Grande hot springs
I hightailed it down to the Rio Grande Village. Before I entered the camping area, there was a sign to a dirt road that said “hot springs area.” I drove the somewhat treacherous road in anticipation of hot water to soothe my aching muscles.
The hot springs area is known as Boquillas Hot Springs, the Langford hot springs, or just the hot springs and used to be a resort. J.O. Langford developed the area beginning in 1909 after hearing about the area when looking for a place to cure a case of malaria developed as a child.
I too was seeking a cure, not for malaria, but for sore feet that pounded the trails of Big Bend for over 30 miles in the torrid desert sun. I was also looking forward to taking a dip in the Rio Grande River. The springs straddle the Rio Grande River on the Texas side. It is possible to sit in the hot springs, and once too hot, one can cool off in the refreshing Rio Grande.
Arrival at the Big Bend Rio Grande hot springs
Once parked, the hot springs are down a trail about a half mile along the river. There were three other cars in the parking lot. The parking lot is open all the time, so you can enjoy a hot spa at anytime day or night. You are not allowed to camp there, but the parking lot is open anytime. Alcohol is not allowed although one couple sipped a mysterious liquid out of a cup.
I walked down the trail and was greeted by three couples enjoying the 105 degree hot pool. One couple was from Austin, Texas, another was from Finland, and a third couple had just arrived from Portland, Oregon. Sitting in a small spa in the middle of one of the most remote national parks in America on the Mexican border is a good place to talk to strangers.
Immediately, the where are you from, where have you been in the park, where are you going and other ice breakers got a great conversation going. I love these type of situations where you have an enjoyable dialogue with other travelers.
About the hot springs and getting in
The hot springs are geothermal. According the park website: “The temperature of the springwater, which is heated geothermally, is 105°F year-round; the water contains calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, and lithium. The springs’ flow rate in 1936 was 250,000 gallons a day, but more recent measurements show a decrease.”
It felt heavenly. My feet and legs immediately felt restored. My sore back, which saddled a crazy heavy backpack for three days and my shoulders shuddered in ecstasy as I put my whole body into the soothing spring.
Next is a plunge in the cool Rio Grande River
After ten minutes of conversation and warmth from the springs it was time to jump in the Rio Grande. The water is over waste deep right off from the cement blocks that surround the spring. I would not recommend diving, but it is possible to jump off safely into the channel along the spring. I jumped in, and it felt glorious. Then I manuevered upstream and sat in the middle of the small rapids and enjoyed the invigorating water that flowed over me.
When I was hiking over dry arroyos on the Dodson and Blue Creek Trails through the Chihuahuan Desert I fantasized about this moment. I would have died for a jump in a river even just 6 hours earlier. Now that the hike was over, I was living it up in the hot springs and the Rio Grande. Technically, I jumped the border into Mexico as I swam more than halfway across the irver.
I spent close to two hours here switching back and forth between the river and the springs while talking to other visitors as they joined us. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful, but exhausting hike.
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