Flying Down to a Rustic Getaway Near Presidio and Ojinaga

Old movies about Texas often depict the entire state as a desert surrounded by rugged mountains. This is true of only one special region of Texas, the Big Bend Country, where the Great Chihuahuan Desert unfolds. Within this starkly beautiful country lie numerous ranches, and Cibolo Creek Ranch is one of the grandest, with dozens of springs creating an oasis in the desert.

Joe Pace, Willard Teel, and Scott McGehee fly Joe's Caravan over El Cibolo, the main structure. Photo by George A. Kounis.

Joe Pace, Willard Teel, and Scott McGehee fly Joe’s Caravan over El Cibolo, the main structure. Photo by George A. Kounis.

In the 1850s, the original owner erected three separate forts with two-foot-thick adobe walls to guard his hacienda and his workers. In those days, such precautions were necessary safeguards against the fierce Comanche and Apache Indians.

That era is brought to life at the luxurious Cibolo Creek Ranch—not by contrivances that dude ranches might employ, but by authentically restored forts, presented as they appeared at their zenith over 150 years ago. The ranch is a 30,000-acre working cattle property with one of the largest purebred longhorn herds in the U.S. They also have American bison, horses, burros, and two camels. The restored buildings are furnished almost entirely with Spanish, Mexican, and a few American antiques, yet modern conveniences are concealed within the structures. Guests can see ancient Native American cave shelters, explore Big Bend National Park in an off-road vehicle, or simply relax and enjoy the beauty of the desert.

Years ago you had to rough it to set foot in the wilderness of the Big Bend. But these days you can touch down on the smooth, sealed runway of Cibolo Creek Ranch. The smooth landing is the perfect introduction to a ranch-style adventure. This is a Texas guest ranch, but the food is certainly not of the chuck-wagon variety.

Flying There

Cibolo Creek Ranch Airport (TS15) is privately owned, so you must sign a release before landing. Call ahead for the necessary forms, 432-229-3737 or 866-496-9460. You will be asked for your ETA so that they may send a representative to meet you.

The remote Big Bend Country of southwestern Texas is named for the great curve the Rio Grande takes as it winds through the stone canyons. You’ll find Cibolo Creek Ranch Airport 31 nm southwest of Marfa (MRF), about 158 nm southeast of El Paso (ELP), and about 17 nm northeast of the Mexican border. The airport is at 4,400 ft. MSL, and the Chinati Mountains rise as high as 7,726 ft. just 10 nm west. The region is high and often hot, so density altitude and turbulence are considerations. To minimize both, fly in the evening or early morning hours.

At or above 9,500 ft., most routes to Cibolo Creek Ranch are straightforward with two notable exceptions. First, keep in mind the airport is deep within the “Big Bend” of the Rio Grande. The Mexican border defined by the river surrounds Cibolo Creek Ranch for about 180 degrees from southeast through northwest, so you’ll have to make a detour toward the north to avoid the border if you’re arriving from points west of El Paso or from the Corpus Christi and Brownsville areas. Second, watch out for R-6318, where an unmarked, tethered balloon extends to 14,000 ft. MSL (it is used as a surveillance platform by the U.S. border patrol). The Valentine MOA extends northwest of the area as well. For flight following, contact Albuquerque Center on 135.875 MHz. The nearest instrument approaches are at Marfa. CTAF and pilot-controlled lighting are both on 122.9 MHz. The 5,318 x 60-foot Runway 9/27 is crushed rock and asphalt with an emulsion coating. After landing, taxi to the southwest corner where you’ll find tiedowns. The closest fuel is available at Marfa Airport.

Complete Story at AOPA

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