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Eerie Silence

I detest the travel blogs that delve into the minutiae.  “We went to the pancake breakfast and there were alot of people there and it was $2 for all you could eat. The pancakes were OK but they were sorta skimpy on the syrup” What is it about people and breakfast??  ” Well, it is Tuesday so I had oatmeal and tomorrow is Wednesday so I will be eating Pop Tarts and gravy. That’s about it for today.” Do people read these things?  Do people really live like this?  Christ on a Cracker!!  or “We drove through the park and here are some pictures. Enjoy!” 57 pictures all taken out the window of a speeding 4 door Honda with no further explanation.  Or “Jack and Jane (oldfart and hotsymama on the forum) came over and we had some brats on the grill and we asked them to stay for supper and then we played canasta.” OK, so people read this drivel?  I guess it is better than watching paint dry and now you are thinking ” Well, isn’t that what you have been doing the last few days Mr.  Man?” Damn right, somebody shoulda put a gun to my head and said WTF??? LOUD! Somebody stop me.  Next thing you know I will be wearing black socks and bermuda shorts. Yeah, right!

So I gotta go back to my old ways and I think this entry may just fill the bill.   We are on the Northeast side of Big Bend Park.  40 miles or so due south of Marathon.  You turn off 385 1/3 mile short of the Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend and go sorta southeasterly for 6 miles on RM 2627 to get to Stillwell’s Store. Sorta off the beaten path you say?

The Rio Grande cuts Black Gap WMA

Yep, by God it is, and it is worth it.  1/2 mile south of the store is the entrance to Black Gap WMA which is undeveloped and wonderfully wild.

The first evening we were here, I was scoping things out and figuring it would be best to check out everything on the EAST side of the park before we moved over Terlingua way – where I planned to check out Terlingua/Study Butte and Big Bend STATE Park.  Well, it kinda worked out that way and since I am not doing that travel blog thing any more we will leave it at that.  While I was doing the mapology thing the first evening, I noticed RM 2627 dead ends at the Rio Grande and I figured that would be a cool side trip.   My mapology Fu was very strong and I felt it.

Closed and caged - The Bridge at La Linda

The map said the end of the road was at La Linda.  I thought it looked like La Linda was in Mexico and I was right.  We popped over a hill  and I saw a town, a bridge, a big mining looking outfit up on the hill and a sign that said Dead End.  Truer words never spoke.  It was the end of the world.  There was not a sound except rushing water.  No cats or dogs or evidence of people in recent history.  It was ultra-creepy.  Thinking back, I didn’t even see any birds.

We pulled up a driveway to the left of the bridge that was on a high overlook and I was really trying hard to figure all this stuff out.

The ghost village of La Linda with the Rio Grande in the foreground

There were multiple transformers and power services coming down at this location and we were on an old concrete foundation that had weathered down to the rebar in some places.  The one lane bridge was obviously closed with a cage on the U.S. side.   There were a series of old ranch buildings to the right some 300 yards distant.   Across the river there were the makings of a small town which appeared rather substantial and the hulking

Abandoned chemical plant at La Linda

remains of a moderately large  industrial plant.  Leading down to the river from the overlook was a vehicle track that ended at the river’s edge.  Totally bumfuzzling and I cannot relate how utterly alone and abandoned we felt.  When I got 30 yards from the truck, I really regretted leaving the S&W 38 snub in the console.  It belonged in my back pocket – now.  I walked back and got it.

At this point, there was beaucoup speculation on this entire scenario.  I

Way out by itself - The mission at La Linda

carry a bugout bag (if you have to ask, google it)  in the ‘Burb and it has a pair of binoculars in it.  I broke them out to study the far side of the river. You ever watch the vintage TEOWAWKI movie ‘On the Beach‘.   Oh man, I was living it.   There was not a vehicle or sign of a human or even a stray dog evident. And then there was this crazy twin towered adobe church way off to the right  – I gotta admit this place was getting to me.  It was time to get outta Dodge.

We spent the rest of the day driving and finally got back shortly before dusk at Stillwells.  I couldn’t wait to wiki La Linda and find out what was going on down there.  So here  is the skinny –don’t hold me to the exact dates, OK?  I was right  — that was a mining facility and they were mining fluorspar.  I have no idea what fluorspar is — it sounds like something they put in toothpaste.   In 1964, Dow Chemical built the 10′ wide one lane bridge across the Rio Grande to facilitate  transportation of the fluorspar north. Prior to that, they had used a low water crossing — the vehicle track down to the river.  In its’ heyday, La Linda was home to maybe 5000 souls which is pretty substantial.  Now, back in the day, before 9/11 and drug cartels and Homeland Security,  the back and forth commerce in this area was about as simple as buying donuts.  Going back and forth across the border was no big deal; about as easy as us crossing a state line today.  As a matter of fact, this crossing had an official border crossing facility on the Mexican side– there was not even a Port of Entry on the U.S. side.

Somewhere around 1997, the powers that be decided to close the bridge.  Maybe it was drug smuggling or illegals or whatever.  They locked it up tight  — The distance between Del Rio, TX and Presidio, TX is now the longest stretch on the border with no crossings. 330 miles as a matter of fact.  Overnight, La Linda died.  Talk is afoot these days to re-open the crossing and maybe even do a partnership park in Mexico with Big Bend National Park.  That would be cool.  The only fly in the ointment is that the parties pushing the re-opened bridge also seem to have acquired all the property on the U.S. side of the border since 1997.  Greed seems to surface regardless of the environment.  Greed is universal.

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3 comments to Eerie Silence – The Ghost Village of La Linda

  • Ken

    Florspar. They put in tall buildings (skyscrapers) to allow them to sway with the wind. I was at the bridge back in the early 90’s. Was bowhunting in the Black Gap WMA.
    Regards

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  • cactus painter

    Andyj,

    Three years back my son and I, when putting in the river on a 90 mile canoe trip, ventured into la linda and walked through all the vacant homes, post office, cantina, and refinery. It was eerie. A wonderfully dangerous feeling experience. might not do it again if given the chance. My treasured momento is a
    rubber post office stamp. The post office had papers, filing cabinets, much still remaining. Curtains in the windows, moving in the breeze.
    I most enjoyed creeping through the empty, still refinery. It was there I felt most-likely to instantly come upon trouble. Exited nervous.
    Regret not making the long walk to the mission.

    Kendal Bevil

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  • Keith

    I drove to La Linda back in the late 80s. I was able to drive across the bridge. No one appeared to be manning it at the time. I saw a few Mexicns milling around in the town. I was the only gringo between there and Stillwell, so I figured it was time to vamos. I did a quick upturn and have never been back. It is indeed near the end of the world.

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