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Late winter is perfect for exploring the Rio Grande as it meanders its way 118 miles across the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend, cutting through the spectacular canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas. At this point, the scorching, 100-degree days of May and June are still far away, and winter rainfall makes the river runnable. The Far Flung Outdoor Center offers fantastic al fresco dining within the 1,500-foot walls of the Santa Elena on its laidback three-day gourmet raft trips, which are run in association with San Antonio-based Crumpets Restaurant and Bakery. Sample menus include goose liver pâté with truffles and herb-and-Dijon mustard-encrusted New Zealand rack of lamb, and the views from river's edge can't be beat.
And it's true what they say: The stars at night are big and bright, down in the heart of Texas. Last year, Big Bend was named a gold tier International Dark Sky Park after it retrofitted every single outdoor light in the park, making them shielded LEDs. Now, when you gaze up into the night sky, you can clearly make out the Milky Way and, on any given night, faint meteors streaking across the great big West Texas sky.