Big Bend Country



West Texas has wide-open spaces with rugged plateaus (plat-toes) and desert mountains. The plateaus have short grasses and brush. The desert area is part of the great Chihuahuan (chee-wow-when) Desert of Mexico. The only mountains in Texas are found here.

Big Bend Country is a region of extremes. The desert is dry and hot in the day and cool at night. Plants and animals are adapted for the desert. The mountains provide cold weather in the winter, where on occasion it even snows. Forests grow on the slopes. The slopes of these mountains can grow trees because the high, cooler mountain tops cause precipitation to fall from clouds moving over the peaks.


The Rio Grande River runs along the southern part of the Big Bend Country. It forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The Rio Grande is one of the longest rivers in North America. This region is called "Big Bend" because the Rio Grande River turns here in a big bend. Look at a map of Texas. Can you see the big bend created by the Rio Grande River? Kayakers enjoy the rapids of the Rio Grande River and beautiful canyons along this part of the river.

Many people come to this part of Texas to see its mountains. The three highest mountain ranges are the Guadalupe Mountains, Davis Mountains and Chisos Mountains. The highest peak is Guadalupe Peak far in West Texas. The Franklin Mountains are on the edge of El Paso. All of the mountains have parks and many people enjoy hiking here.

Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch are located here.

Learn more about its wildlife and history.

Topography and Characteristics

Major River: Rio Grande
Major Aquifer: Hueco-Mesilla Bolson
Size: 38,000 sq mi.

Big Bend Country is also known as the Trans-Pecos. It covers the extreme western part of the state east to the Pecos River. The different soils and elevations in this region support diverse habitats and vegetation, from desert valleys and plateaus to wooded mountain slopes.

Mountain outwash materials formed the soils of the Trans-Pecos. Surface textures vary. The soil is generally alkaline.

Elevations range from 2,500 feet to more than 8,749 feet at Guadalupe Peak. Although most of Texas is located on flat plains or rolling plains, there are mountains in far West Texas. The highest point in the state is Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet above sea level. Elevation naturally rises from the east to the west and from the south to the north.

Major Cities - Rainfall / Elevation

Regional Average Rainfall: 8-20 inches per year
Regional Average Net Evaporation rate: 52-68 inches
Data source: National Climate Datat Center, U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Alpine - 17.19 in. / 4,530 ft.
Balmorhea - 14.19 in. / 3,220 ft.
Castolon (Big Bend National Park) - 9.80 in. / 2,169 ft.
Chisos Basin (Big Bend National Park) - 19.17 in. / 5,300 ft.
El Paso - 9.43 in. / 3,918 ft.
Fort Davis - 15.86 in. / 4,880 ft.
Fort Stockton - 14.06 in. / 3,000 ft.
Marathon - 14.51 in. / 4,055 ft.
Marfa - 15.79 in. / 4,760 ft.
Pecos - 11.61 in. / 2,610 ft.
Presidio - 10.76 in. / 2,560 ft.

Common Vegetation

In the DesertIn the MountainsIn Wetlands
(cienegas, rivers, washes)
  • Creosote bush
  • Lechiguilla
  • Prickly pear
  • Yucca
  • Agave
  • Sotol
  • Ocotillo
  • Chisos red oak
  • Big-toothed maple
  • Mexican pinyon pine
  • Ponderosa pine
  • Texas madrone
  • Alligator juniper
  • Cottonwood
  • Willow
  • Desert willow
  • Seep willow
  • Alkali sacaton
  • Common reed
  • Giant reed (not native)
  • Salt cedar (not native)

Rare Plants & Habitats

  • Bunched cory cactus
  • Chisos hedgehog cactus
  • Davis green pitaya
  • Nellie cory cactus
  • Sneed pincushion cactus
  • Hinckley's oak
  • Little aguja pondweed
  • Lloyd's mariposa cactus
  • Terlingua Creek cat's-eye

Common Wildlife

  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Squirrel
  • Hooded skunk
  • Coyote
  • Javelina
  • Desert bighorn sheep
  • Mule deer
  • Mountain lion
  • Cactus mouse
  • Collared lizard
  • Western diamondback rattlesnake
  • Cactus wren
  • Roadrunner\Painted redstart
  • Townsend's big eared bat
  • Tarantula
  • Horned lizard
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Great horned owl
  • Vermilion flycatcher
  • Bullock’s oriole
  • Jackrabbits
  • Blotched watersnakes
  • Rio Grande tetra
  • Round-nosed minnow
  • Catfish
  • Green sunfish

Learn more about these animals on our Wildlife Fact Sheets.

Rare Animals

Black bear
Peregrine falcon
Montezuma quail
Greater long-nosed Bat
Mexican spotted owl
Desert spring fishes: Comanche Springs Pupfish; Leon Springs Pupfish; Pecos Gambusia;
Big Bend Gambusia

Learn more about Endangered and Threatened Species.

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