The Big Bend National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert. This desert is the second largest in North America, covering about 140,000 square miles. It extends south of the border into Mexico and spans from southeastern Arizona, into New Mexico and onto central Texas on the US side. Its minimum elevation is above 1,000 feet and rises above 6,000 in some areas. The majority of the desert lies at elevations between 3,500 and 5,000 feet. Temperatures in the winter are cool but summer temperatures can be as hot as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the area receives less than ten inches of rainfall annually, most of it occurring in the summer months.
The Chihuahuan Desert is a geological wonderland. Although the Desert is relatively young (~8,000 years old), rocks in the area have been dated to about 980 million years ago, long before the time of the supercontinent, Pangea (300 million years ago). The Desert is home to multiple large mountain ranges including the Chisos mountains (shown in the background).
Every desert contains plants that appear throughout the entire desert called “indicator species”. These plants indicate when you are in a specific desert. The Indicator plants for the Chihuahuan are not cacti as most people might suspect. Although they appear throughout this desert, the real indicator plants are the Chihuahuan shrubs such as creosote bush, mesquite, agave and ocotillo. Although not part of the indicator list, the Prickly Pear (shown in the foreground) is abundant in the Chihuahuan Desert. It happened to be flowering when we visited there last week.
This image was taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III using my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens. The camera was set on Manual mode with the aperture set at f/5.6, shutter speed at 1/1600th of a second and the ISO set at 320. This is a single image processed in Lightroom.
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