As its name would imply, the Museum of the Big Bend provides an excellent introduction to the Big Bend region. Located in Alpine on the campus of Sul Ross University, the museum’s purpose has remained constant: to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the cultural, historic and natural materials that relate to the prehistory, history and cultural diversity of the Big Bend region of Texas and northern Mexico.
The Museum of the Big Bend offers some of the most accurate, well-curated fossil, rock art, and interpretive installations that any museum has to offer. Perhaps the museum’s most popular exhibit for dinosaur enthusiasts is the life-sized replica of Quetzalcoatulus Northropi which hovers with outspread wings over museum visitors. Discovered in Big Bend National Park, it is the world’s largest flying creature to ever live. This pterosaur (flying reptile) was giraffe-sized with thin limbs, a long beak and a wingspan of up to 40 feet.
The native rock museum building was built in 1937 with funding from the Texas Centennial Commission and in cooperation with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Self-trained architect, amateur archeologist and professor of industrial arts Victor Smith designed and supervised the building project on the university campus. In the early 2000s, the building was restored and renovated both inside and out. Today, the museum is engaged in a major expansion project with completion scheduled for early 2023.
In addition to the pictographs discovered at the Tall Rock Shelter, two caches of arrowheads were also found on that site. The first discovery occurred in 1895 when T.A. Merrill and C.C. Janes uncovered a cache of 1700 arrowheads that were donated to the museum in 1929. Much later, another cache of 1200 points was unearthed by David Means and his two sons; known as the John Z. and Exa Means Cache it is also in the protection and custody of the museum.
Whether it’s dinosaurs or ancient peoples, the Museum of the Big Bend continues to provide ample clues about life in ancient Big Bend and continues to tell the fascinating stories of the area.
Museum of the Big Bend
Sul Ross State University campus
Randall Kinzie is owner and manager of the Stone Village Tourist Camp in Fort Davis and member-manager for the Texas Mountain Trail Region on the Authentic Texas LLC board.