In 1852 US and Mexico Boundary surveyor Major William H. Emory described the Lower Canyons segment of the Rio Grande as “never having been traversed by civilized man, because of the impassable character of the river; walled in at places by stupendous rocky barriers and escaping through chasms blocked up by huge rocks that have fallen from impending heights”.
Rio Texico Ranch is located in the vast expanse between Big Bend National Park and Black Gap WMA to the west, Highway 90 to the north and Mexico to the south in one of the last truly wild landscapes of the Chihuahuan Desert. This massive contiguous operating cattle and hunting ranch fronts on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande where Asa Jones pioneered his famous candelilla wax factory in the 1940’s and through his ingenuity succeeded in tapping the river through a series of pumps and pipes zig zagging crazily down the canyon side. The “bathtub” hot springs known by many river travelers along the National Park Service Wild and Scenic River at San Rosendo Canyon in Mexico is directly across the river from this ranch. Bullis Gap and the Bullis Range are also located on the ranch which are deep in history, biology, heritage, and scenery.
Rio Texico is an assemblage of several historic ranches that have been combined into one and is accessed by deeded road traveling south from US Highway 90 for 13 miles from Longfellow crossing between Marathon and Sanderson or from Dove Mountain road east from Highway 385 into the ranch. Large neighbors, including additional ranchland owned by this Seller that could be acquired, are on all sides of this remote ranch neighborhood and what could be described as a country unto itself.
Rio Texico is the combination of Bullis Gap, Rancho Verde, San Francisco Creek, Cow Creek, Slaughter and Asa Jones Ranches. Thirty miles from west to east the ranch has a central main road accessing the various amenities making this large ranch diverse, interesting, scenic, and adventuresome. The ranch has several distinct providences from the clear live water of Cottonwood-lined San Francisco Creek at the west, the rolling limestone hills of the central region, the walled gorge of San Francisco Shut Ups, to the wild canyons of the Rio Grande to the east. There are a number of noteworthy natural features including the Bullis Range, San Francisco Shut Ups, Lomas de las Palmas, Lower Canyons, Darling Canyon, Shelly Peaks, Wolf Point, Cedar Gap, Beef Canyon, and Sawtooth to name a few.
The ranch is currently managed as a single cattle ranch operated by an extremely responsible Lessee who has invested greatly into new fences, water infrastructure, roads and pens. This historic ranch is made up of six headquarter complexes, all having a wide degree of improvements and infrastructure. Three of the complexes have dirt airstrips that if refurbished would create a great fly-in fly-out venues on the ranch. Currently the San Francisco Creek HQ is used by the Lessee as the main headquarters with a couple living at the Slaughter HQ located in a scenic limestone canyon created by San Francisco Creek. The others are in various need of repair and improvement.
The Chihuahuan is the largest desert in North America-stretching all the way from the southwestern United States deep into the Central Mexican Highlands. Rio Texico’s landscape is diverse with high desert mountains to rolling western Edwards Plateau to desert flats and draws surrounded by a rugged landscape and some of the most scenic canyons in North America. Classic “Big Bend Country” of the Old West, Rio Texico Ranch has maintained much of the environment and appearance of times past. This vast area lies in wide elevation range between 1,600 feet on the river and 4,635 feet in the Shelly Peaks allowing for mix of vegetation from the mid to lower Chihuahuan Desert such as dagger, yucca, lechuguilla, creosote, catclaw, javalina bush, mariola, sotol, ocotillo, and cholla with a mix of chino grama, black grama, red grama, bear grass, and sideoats grama. Brush and trees include juniper, hackberry, mesquite, persimmon, and oaks in the higher elevations and draws. In springtime this landscape is in bloom with a wide variety of cacti, yucca, daggers, and native forbs.
San Francisco Creek runs west to east across the entire ranch which is a major drainage into the Rio Grande River. The upper 4 miles of this Creek is year-round live water with Cottonwood gallery forests on both banks. Live water and riparian vegetation are very rare in this desert and a magnet for wildlife. The central part of San Francisco Creek is a gorge called the Shut Ups where there is a dramatic limestone canyon with a variety of side canyons and diverse vegetation.
This property is home to many species of birds, raptors, songbirds, and game birds such as blue (scaled) quail, mourning dove and white-winged dove as well as larger mammals such as desert mule deer, javelina, desert big-horn, aoudad, mountain lion, and occasional black bear. The brush, forbs, and grasses provide excellent habitat for these game and non-game animals. The live water segment of San Francisco Creek is especial important for migrating songbirds, bats and butterflies utilizing the riparian habitat. These desert streams are literally “highways’ for these migrations in fall and in spring making wildlife watching here on the ranch second to none.
The ranch is a working cattle ranch with some excellent recently improved infrastructure. There are miles of new internal fences, pens, and traps as well as water and road improvements. Improvements by Headquarters are as follows:
- Several houses, barns, pens that need restoring.
- Electricity at the Headquarters and along the north and west roads.
- Large Historic rock house currently uninhabited but a great start to a unique remodel.
- Functioning Airport at Headquarters with two cross gravel strips with metal shade hanger.
- Submersible water well, storage and troughs
- Excellent caliche road both north and west.
- Livable house with kitchen two bedrooms and bath.
- Submersible working water well and storage.
- Working Cattle and Round Pens.
San Francisco Creek- Lessee Home
- Main rock house and separate sleeping bunkhouse.
- Separate camp kitchen building and barn storage.
- Two-bedroom one bath camp house with large porch.
- Horse pipe pens.
- Very large metal barn, shop, and work area in great shape.
- Pipe Cattle shipping pens
- Submersible Well with storage and water troughs
- Electricity to all improvements.
- Old Airstrip with Hanger
- Good submersible water well with two Poly storage tanks.
- Several houses in disrepair.
- Working pens.
- Old Airstrip
- Attractive headquarters with several houses in current use.
- Pens, Barns, and outbuildings.
- Electricity to all improvements.
- Located in scenic limestone canyon.
- Old Headquarters ruins and outbuilding.
- Old Adobe HQ house in disrepair.
- Submersible Well and storage with troughs.
There are six submersible water wells all serviced by electricity that are used to pump, store, then distribute water across the ranch. The Bullis Gap well is currently under repair, but once fixed the southern troughs and storage near the Rio Grande will be put back into operation.
At the west end of the ranch San Francisco Creek enters the property from the adjoining ranch as a live water cottonwood lined creek and travels for over four miles playing out into the gravel bed. San Francisco Creek continues as a seasonal creek for another 20 miles through the ranch before it drains into the Rio Grande east of Rio Texico on the neighbor’s property. Within this 20-mile stretch is a feature called the Shut Ups where canyon walls carved by the creek make crossing impossible by vehicle but there are permanent pools of water in giant tinajas on the canyon floor. Additionally, the Rio Grande fronts on this ranch for over 5.5 miles with its torturous scenic steep canyons and tributaries. This is critical water for Aoudad, Deer and other wildlife. It is rare to have live water features in this remote wild part of West Texas.