There is some irony in finding the easiest U.S.-Mexico crossing — a seven-minute boat ride instead of a several-hour traffic jam, no bureaucracy, and for most of the last century, no documentation required — in the state of Texas. The Lone Star State is better known for calls to seal the border and issuing dire warnings against spring-break trips to Mexico. But the fact is, Big Bend National Park and the town of Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico’s adjacent Coahuila state are joined at the hip.
The village of between 200 and 300 people lies a mile south of the U.S. border across from the southeastern Big Bend National Park in Texas — and several hours’ drive from the nearest Mexican city. Boquillas grew from a mining operation that extracted silver, lead and other mineral ores from the Sierra del Carmen mountains to be ferried across the Rio Grande for distribution by rail. It peaked in the early 1900s with a population of more than 2,000, but quickly diminished when the mining stopped. Creation of Big Bend National Park is all that kept it alive.
In the 1930s, when Big Bend was established, there was talk of creating an International Peace Park (similar to Peace Arch Park on the Washington-British Columbia border). President Franklin Roosevelt corresponded with Mexican President Avila Camacho about establishing an international park in 1944. Neither plan saw fruition, but the informal border crossing to Boquillas effectively fulfilled the spirit of those visions by linking Big Bend with three large natural protected areas on the other side of the border. Boquillas is at the southwest corner of Mexico’s Maderas de Carmen National Protected Area.