Near the Mexican-American border, rivers curve and cut through spectacular canyons in the shadows of mountains and amid a desert that covers much of northern Mexico and portions of the American southwest. This lonely stretch of land is roughly the size of Rhode Island and bordered to its south by 118 twisting miles of the Rio Grande, one of the most iconic natural features of modern-day Texas. Ancient fossils and artifacts left behind by ancient people are still occasionally discovered in the deserts and canyons here. This is the land of the Apache and Comanche, of Pecos Bill and cattle ranches, of cinnabar and mining towns. The first national park created in Texas, two Mexican national parks are now its neighbors on the other side of the Rio Grande. This is Big Bend National Park.
Nearly a week after American, British and Canadian troops began making their heroic D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed off on the creation of Big Bend National Park half a world a way. The American military and Big Bend always had a close relationship, from the end of the Mexican-American War when the military was used to buffalo soldiers survey this land to the cinnabar mines of the early 1900s that provided mercury and quicksilver needed for soldiers in World War II. Fort Stockton, a former military town, is still one of the closest cities to this remote park in west Texas. While it doesn’t have as many visitors as some of the more well-known parks out west, it is no longer one of the least visited national parks in the country, thanks in part to a historic 1960s visit by Lady Bird Johnson, a native Texan and America’s first lady at the time of her trip. Today, Big Bend National Park is still proving the adage that everything is bigger in Texas.
From a valley that reshapes its trees into strange formations to a desert where rocks seem to magically move to some of the strangest colored waters in the world to the giant remnants of lost ancient civilizations, North America is home to some unique sites. In addition to those man-made wonders, the varied landscape of this region ranges from the wintry, dense forests of Canada to the diverse ecosystems of the U.S. to the Mexican desert, coastal Caribbean islands and dense jungle of Central America help make it an awe-inspiring place to visit.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
Rediscovered in 1989, the cave is located within Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve and in order to get a look inside, visitors must swim in and then wade through water for nearly three-fourths of a mile. Once inside, visitors can see remnants left behind by the ancient Maya, who researchers believed used this cave either as a burial ground of a place for sacrificial victims. Several skeletal remains have been discovered - and permanently left - in the cave that are believed to be thousands of years old. Of the 14 bodies discovered, the most famous is the Crystal Maiden.
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