More than a Trickle, but not a Waterfall
This is an easy hike down a wide wash in Fresno Canyon. It begins at the ruins of a historic ranch and ends at Fresno Cascades, a small waterfall in the Chihuahuan desert. On the drive to the trailhead you can stop to check out some interesting rock art.
The Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) brochure does not say when Fresno Ranch was established. However the brochure states that "In 1915 James L. Crawford and his son-in-law, J. J. Allen, purchased the Fresno Ranch. They brought their families (there) because they knew the area's natural springs would provide a reliable source of water. But, they were no the first to see the site's potential. For thousands of years, native peoples had used this area as a camp."
"Between 1915 and 1946, the Crawford family, and later, the Smith family used (the ranch) as the nexus for their livelihood. While today the Fresno Ranch might seem remote and isolated, it was located along the Marfa to Terlingua road. Established in the late 1890's, this road was the first to connect the local cinnabar mines to the rail lines in Marfa, providing a crucial route for freight and supplies. A passenger stage line also ran a couple times a week."
"The Crawford and Smith families raised Angora goats. The families also turned to other local industries, making wax from candelilla plants and mining cinnabar for mercury production, to make a living. Droughts, the Great Depression and the declining health of the landscape caused an end to most family ranches in the area by the middle of the 20th century".
The hour-long drive from the BBRSP visitor center to the ranch begins with a steep ascent into Fresno Canyon followed by criss-crossing the wash. A 4x4, high-clearance vehicle is needed. Along the way you'll see a sign on the left for Manos Arriba. There are some easily accessed small caves in the hill above the sign. If you look carefully, you'll see both "positive" and "negative" handprints on the ceilings of the caves. The "positive" ones were made by dipping one's hand in pigment and then pressing one's hand to the wall. The "negative prints were made by placing one's hand on the wall and then outlining it with "paint". It was especially interesting to us as we'd never seen that type of rock art before.
It's well worth the time to check out the remains of the Fresno Ranch. There are still a couple of refrigerators there, several cots, many of the walls are intact, some in crumbles. We couldn't figure out where the swimming pool was, but perhaps you can find it when you visit.
After checking out the Fresno Ranch, simply hike down canyon. There is actually a trail that goes back and forth across the wash to the banks, but we felt it was much easier just to stay in the wash. The sand and gravel were firm and packed and there were no bushes or cacti to avoid.
The canyon is very wide and has interesting geology. If only we'd had a geologist with us! The cottonwoods were turning yellow and provided nice shade. Eventually you come to the cascades. We turned right to get up on the bank and then hiked down to the base of the cascades. Perhaps during monsoon season the flow would be more impressive, but it was still pretty to see in such an arid landscape. Also, if you're at the base of the cascades and looking directly at it, rotate 90 degrees to your right and you'll see the remains of walls that someone (an old cowboy??) built for shelter underneath a rock overhang.
Return to your vehicle the way you came.
Check out the Official Route.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.