What is: a short hike to the Hot Springs Historic District where you can hike, soak in the springs crystal clear 105°F water, and explore the span of human history along the Rio Grande. It includes the former post office, general store and spa as well as nearby petroglyphs.

What was: In 1909 J.O. Langford , a native Mississippian who contracted malaria and had recurring bouts with this disease, was in the lobby of a hotel in Alpine, Texas. There he heard tales of a spring that would cure anything and everything. Within 2 weeks he obtained the land in West Texas (now Big Bend National Park) under the Homesteaders Act. “Upon his family’s arrival, the Langfords discovered Cleofas Natividad, his wife, and their ten children living and farming on their land.  At first the Langfords pondered what to do about these “squatters.” Then, they realized that this land had probably been home to this family for generations. Cleofas turned out to be the best neighbor anyone could have asked for,” said Mr Langsford.

Once J.O. regained his health by taking a 21 day treatment of bathing and drinking the spring water, he opened the springs to other bathers. The cost was 10 cents per day or $2.00 for the whole 21 day treatment. In addition to running the bathhouse, he became a schoolteacher, a self taught doctor, and a postman. The Hot Springs was more than just a place to restore health; it was also a meeting place for people from all walks of life, from both sides of the river. Sources:

In 1912, the area was vacated because of border unrest with Mexican bandits. They returned 15 years later to rebuild the bathhouse, and to build a store, and motor court. The Hot Springs flourished through the 1930s and early 1940s.The site was the first major tourist attraction in the area, long before the national park was established.

What is: the railroad running through the abandoned rail yard towards the mountains.

What was: Transportation across Texas was originally hindered by impassable roads across large expanses of land often damaged by unpredictable weather. Shallow rivers and desert prohibited major water routes across the State. The railroad changed that. For about 160 years the trains have rolled across the large state of Texas. Freight trains, a mile and half long or more, roll right on by the small towns, around the mountains and pass through the countryside. The railroad was not just a path to economic development, but also settlement. The early steam locomotives needed water every thirty miles and so across great swaths of Texas, there was a small town every 30 miles. Wherever the train went, a community built up and commerce bloomed. Short lines connected to larger cities connecting people and commerce throughout the State. The longer rail lines went across the country and connected to both coasts and the midwest.

What is: Marathon Texas, The train doesnt stop anymore and the corral and cattle chute are empty. A dusty little ranch town is being turned into a new tourist destination.

What was: Marathon was founded after the Southern Pacific railroad came through Texas in 1882 after threats of Comanche and Apache attacks were squelched in the region. Marathon was a major shipping center for cattle. One rancher ran as many as 25,000 head of cattle in the open range around Marathon. The train also picked up silver, zinc and quicksilver. Around World War I it also had a processing plant for a desert shrub that was used to make rubber. The town had its own newspaper, a bank, several mercantile stores, and a bustling main street. Until recently Marathon was a string of empty storefronts with tumbleweed blowing across the highway and the trains passing through.