BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX – Late Wednesday, May 22nd, a fast moving wildfire crossed the Rio Grande and caused extensive damage in the Castolon Historic Area of Big Bend National Park.
Smoke was initially observed on May 21st on the Mexican side of the river near the Castolon Historic District of Big Bend National Park. Park staff monitored the fire, and at 6:00 pm on May 22nd they observed embers crossing the river and starting spot fires on the U.S. side. Wildland and structural fire crews were alerted and mobilized. The fire rapidly spread, and embers from the fire landed on the historic barracks building, which housed the La Harmonia Store and Castolon Visitor Center. This building and the nearby restrooms were destroyed. The Officer’s Quarters suffered slight scorching damage. Cottonwood Campground was evacuated, but has not been damaged. All employees and visitors are accounted for and safe.
The fire has burned approximately 100 acres and is not yet fully contained.
Wildland fire and structural crews from Big Bend National Park, Terlingua Fire & EMS, and Fort Stockton are on scene and continuing to work toward containing the fire. Additional crews, including the international Los Diablos crew, will be arriving later today.
“It is heartbreaking to have lost La Harmonia, a major icon of Big Bend’s history,” said Acting Superintendent Tom VandenBerg. “High temperatures, extremely dry conditions, and strong winds have made this fire particularly challenging. The entire staff extends our deep appreciation to all of the fire crews who are working hard to contain this fire.”
The historic buildings in the Castolon District were built nearly 100 years ago to house units of the U.S. Cavalry during the Mexican Revolution. Damage to these structures is a terrible loss to the rich history that the park is honored to preserve. More information about this area can be found at: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/historyculture/castolon.htm
Closures are currently in place within the park, including the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Old Maverick Road, and River Road West from Buenos Aires to Castolon. This includes Cottonwood Campground and Santa Elena Canyon areas. These closures are in place for public safety and to allow the fire crews to work as efficiently as possible.
Big Bend National Park is deeply saddened by these losses, and will continue to post updates on social media at www.facebook.com/BigBendNPS.