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, 25-site campground is one of the least-known and typically least-occupied campgrounds in the park. The group site is the only campsite available for advanced reservations 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.
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 the campground area.
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 located 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.
Historic & Cultural Site: Historic Sites
Picnicking: Picnic Tables
Day Use Area: Amphitheater
When we visited a few years ago, the camp was sparsely populated. Javelinas were about though, so exercise caution.
Be lulled to sleep to the gentle rustle of cottonwood trees. I tent sleep so I like a place where you can set up a tent without having a ton of rocks. They irrigate the camp so it is muddy at times and when that rare rain storm comes up the camp will flood. If you leave food out you will be visited by skunks, javelinas, raccoons and bears. During the summer it will be brutally hot during the day, but i have had the entire campground to myself for up to a week. Late summer this is one of the penultimate places on the planet to photograph the Milky Way. Since you are near to Santa Elena canyon you can drive up and get the iconic picture of the Milky Way stretched across it.
The is a Big Bend National National Park Campsite. The Camp is adjacent to the Rio Grande River and a popular camping spot for can expeditions. The site is sometimes an overflow from Chisos Basin Campers during busy season. The sites are in a grass meadow in one large loop. During the off-season this campground is usually close to empty. The major advantage is river access and proximity to the Santa Elena Canyon. They have basic restrooms, fire pits, and tables. If you are traveling along the Rio Grande this is a great option. You don’t get the scenic vistas from this site due to its low lying elevation.
This campground was very secluded when I visited, there were two others sites taken during my visit. The area was very quiet and we had fun watching the collared pecaries foraging through the sites. We saw multiple bird species and it was a very easy walk to the Rio Grande.
Small enough to not be noisy, large enough to be accommodating. Central to multiple trails. Staff was friendly and knowlegable. Shade trees at many sites, important even in November in Texas. Showers and restrooms available. Highly recommend!
If you are looking for a quiet campground, with no ambient light to diminish your view of the night sky, stay at this campground. Pit toilets only but who cares.
Also this campground doesn't seem to fill up as fast as others in Big Bend. Which means more open camp sites and a better selection. It might not have the best of views but the sunsets and night sky was amazing.
Nice flat sites, plenty of trees and shade, not a ton of sites which keeps it pretty quiet and more laid back and calm.
The site here was really peaceful with a huge campground. I took my family and my boyfriends family here for a weekend getaway in December of 2016. I was able to get the only group site here. We were located at the edge of the Rio grande. The site was a quiet one but with a couple of RVs coming in and out. I believe there are about 30 smaller sites surrounding our group site. There is no firewood here and you would need to pick up at the few gas stations you come along the way. During our stay the temperature was around the 70s and at night it dropped to the chilling 40s. The mornings was a little breezy. We were able to drive to Emory trail head and hike about 1 and a half miles. I would definitely recommend this campground.