El Jacal de Luna

About 6 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border, and the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, just off the Old Maverick Road, is “El Jacal de Luna,”  (Luna’s Jacal)

We had no idea this pioneer structure existed until we came upon it as a result of our decision to take this lonely unpaved, rough and washboarded road as a 14-mile shortcut out of the park from the canyon, instead of the paved and well-maintained Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive route that is twice as long.

According to various sources and the National Park Service, a tough old man name Gilberto Luna crossed the border into the area in 1901 and raised his family from this low=celing house built of rock, earth and plant fiber — a “jacal.”

I’m a vertically challenged guy, and was not able to stand upright in this structure. It was surprisingly cooler inside. Cooler being roughly 85F/29C vs. 95F/35C outside.


It is said that he was a diplomat of sorts and made peace with the Comanches [unverified], who by some accounts were known to use a nearby creek as a war path to attack nearby Mexican villages and settlements.

Believe it or not he farmed this rather inhospitable area, and supposedly raised 58 children and step-children, before passing away in 1947 at the age of 108. Descendants are said to be residing in the Alpine, TX area and in Mexico.

It’s a quiet place. All you hear is wind. We never saw another car or person during our entire journey on this road—and we weren’t driving a 4×4. Luckily conditions were very dry otherwise we would have never attempted to navigate this remote western region of the park.

IMG_8277_hrd74_dsat58_psE1_wm1I used my mirrorless Canon M3 to capture these images a few weeks ago (May 2018).

We were in our FWD crossover SUV of sorts. Not a 4×4.  I would not recommend navigating this road during the summer monoon season unless you have a 4×4 and plenty of water and fuel.  It is not unsual for the rangers to close this road or post warnings after some decent rains.