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part ofBig Bend National Park, National Park Service
Cottonwood Campground
Status: Open year round.   Season Dates


Cottonwood Campground is a quiet desert oasis in the southwestern corner of Big Bend National Park. Conveniently located between the Castolon Historic District, the scenic Santa Elena Canyon and the tail end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, this small, 31-site campground is one of the least-known and typically least-occupied campgrounds in the park. The group site is the only reservable campsite in the facility and is tent-only; individual campsites are first-come, first-served year-round.

Cottonwood gets its name from the cottonwood trees that surround and provide shade for the facility nearby the Rio Grande River. A general store and visitor center -- a converted former military outpost -- are also nearby.

The campground is at an elevation of 1,900 ft. It is relatively cool in the peak seasons of fall and winter due to cold air sinking into the lower elevations.

Natural Features:

The national park is named for a curve in the Rio Grande River called the "big bend." For 1,250 miles, the river is an International Boundary between the United States and Mexico.

Due to its proximity to water, many species of birds can be found in the Cottonwood area, including nesting migratory birds. Santa Elena Canyon is a beautiful river canyon that can be seen from facility.


Particularly popular with bird watchers, Cottonwood Campground is a haven for those wishing to study the abundant bird life in Big Bend while also escaping the more crowded areas in the park. Because of its diverse ecosystems and plant life, the park provides habitats for many rare and unique birds, including the Mexican mallard, Lucifer hummingbird, Mexican jay, black-capped and gray vireos, and Varied Bunting. Visitors are often the eyes and ears of birding in the park and are encouraged to report sightings at the visitor center.

Hiking trails are also found both in and around the campground.


The group campsite is a walk-in, tent-only site; no RVs or trailers are allowed. The campground has pit toilets, potable water, picnic tables and grills. There are no hookups or dump stations, and the use of generators is not allowed. Vehicle parking is restricted to an adjacent parking area.

Activities and Amenities

Within Facility
  • Accessible Flush Toilets
  • Amphitheater
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Canoeing
  • Drinking Water
  • Educational Programs
  • Fishing
  • Food Storage Locker
  • Hiking
  • Historic Sites
  • Mountain Biking
  • Picnic Tables
  • Rafting
  • Recycling
  • River Access
  • Self Pay Station
  • Trash Collection
  • Vault Toilets
  • Visitor Center
Within 10 Miles
  • General Store
  • Pay Phone
  • Scenic Overlooks
  • Trailheads
Greater Than 10 Miles
  • Accessible Trails
  • Bank
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Golf
  • Grocery Store
  • Horse Corrals
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hospital
  • Lodging
  • Restaurant
  • River Trips
Know Before You Go
  • There are no authorized border crossing points within Big Bend National Park; the closest legal ports of entry are at Del Rio and Presidio, TX
  • Individual sites are on a first-come, first-served basis
  • The group site is tent-only; no RVs or trailers allowed.
  • Generators are not allowed
  • There are no electricity, water or sewer hookups
  • Javelinas, bobcats and bears frequent the area; all food must be kept in approved containers or in a hard-sided vehicle; trash must be disposed of in the animal-proof dumpsters provided; coolers or food boxes should not be placed on the ground at any time

Getting There:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
29.13694, -103.52222
29°8'13"N, 103°31'20"W

From Interstate 10, take State Highway 385 south to Fort Stockton and onto Marathon. From Marathon, drive 40 miles south on State Highway 385 to the north entrance of Big Bend National Park. Drive straight for 26 miles to Park Headquarters at Panther Junction. Turn right at the intersection and go 13 miles west. Take a left at the Santa Elena Canyon turn-off and drive 23 miles to Cottonwood Campground.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:

PO BOX 129

Phone Number:

Information:  (432)477-1121
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