When we asked a ranger at the visitors center about little known or special places we could go in Big Bend National Park, he pulled out a little black and white brochure from its hiding place behind the counter. And thus we were introduced to Cattail Falls.
Today our quest was Cattail Falls, the only permanent waterfall in Big Bend National Park and a place that is so fragile it's not indicated on any of the park maps. There is a trail, but there is no signage on any paved roads.
The park service is trying to protect the fragile environment around this "sacred" spot, so they don't volunteer any information. It is open to the public and there are trail signs once you know where to look, but they don't want much traffic because there are rare orchids and other plants at the base of the falls they don't want trampled.
After turning off the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive onto the very rocky and bumpy Oak Spring Road, we were able to located the trailhead.
We started out across the open desert and our ultimate destination was tucked into these mountains.
There are some ups and downs, but it was a fairly easy hike. Eventually we went through a bit of a vegetation tunnel as we approached the falls.
Then we found our quest - the 80-foot Cattail Falls - an oasis in the desert mountains.
It was most certainly worth the mid-day hike. Have we seen prettier waterfalls? Yep. Have we seen bigger waterfalls? Yep. But there is just something special about the only permanent falls in an 800,000-acre park that most of the public doesn't even know exists. Note that though there is almost always a little water flowing at the falls, they may be dry in the middle of the summer.
It was such a peaceful, beautiful location to sit and just enjoy.
The only other people there were a dad and his three daughters. They knew how special this place is and they had been here before. They were extremely nice, polite, and respectful.
After hanging out for quite awhile, we eventually pulled ourselves away.
On the way back to the trailhead, we admired many of the native plants and the distant mountain views.
At the higher elevations, many of the plants are still in bloom. The Sotol, the larger spiky-looking plant, is one of those.
And the Lechugilla, which are the shorter spiky plants, were also blooming.
Check out the beautiful Lechugilla blooms up close.
And the Ocotillo were blooming as well.
The Sotol, Lechugilla, and Ocotillo, along with the Prickly Pear Cactus and the Yucca, were extremely important staples for the ancient people that once lived here. The many uses of these plants helped them survive.
There were numerous other plants that were blooming along the trail and that just enhanced our hike. Even if we don't spend a lot of time in an area, being able to do something interesting that not many people get to do makes for great memories. We'll remember Cattail Falls long after we leave Big Bend.