Texas over Time: Big Bend National Park–Santa Elena Canyon

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.


  • Big Bend is one of the United States’ most remote national parks and is located in the southwest part of Texas. It is 801,163 acres and was established in June 12, 1944, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • The Spaniards originally named the area “El Despoblado,” the uninhabited land.
  • Big Bend is named after the winding path of the Rio Grande River that runs throughout the park, dividing it into massive canyons and straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • The Chihuahuan Desert rests partly inside Big Bend’s borders and is the largest desert in North America. This ecosystem helped establish Big Bend as an International Biosphere Reserve, which can allow for future environmental research
  • Until the mid-1960s, Santa Elena Canyon (pictured in the GIF) was formally known as “Santa Helena Canyon.” English-speaking visitors were not pronouncing the name correctly, so the National Park Service dropped the H from the name to assist with the proper Spanish pronunciation.

GIF and factoids by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant. See these and other images of Big Bend in our Flickr set.


“Chihuahuan Desert.” – DesertUSA. Digital West Media Inc., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://www.desertusa.com/chihuahuan-desert.html>.

“Texas’ Gift to the Nation.” National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/historyculture/tgttn.htm>.

“Big Bend National Park Mountain Hikes.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 03 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/mountain_hikes.htm>.

“Big Bend National Park.” National Geographic. National Geographic Partners, LLC., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/big-bend-national-park/>.

No Comments

Post a Comment