Blue Creek (Brewster County)

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

Blue Creek rises from a spring in the Chisos Mountains about three-quarters of a mile southwest of Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park (at 29°14' N, 103°19' W) and runs west-southwest for eighteen miles, descending from the Chisos through rugged and beautiful Blue Creek Canyon, then issuing onto the Rio Grande floodplain, and finally running into the Rio Grande about 6½ miles below the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon (at 29°08' N, 103°32' W). Downstream, the creek crosses gravel and silt deposits where have been found a number of mammalian tooth, skull, and skeleton fragments, and also a sizable quantity of skeletal turtle remains, all dating from around the late Eocene. Blue Creek, the major drainage system in this area, drains the southwestern Chisos Mountains and the lands between the mountains and the Rio Grande. Much evidence suggests that the area was occupied for thousands of years by Indians, who depended upon the creek as a water supply. In recent years the water table has dropped because deforestation in the mountains and heavy grazing by domestic livestock at lower elevations have reduced the ability of the ground to absorb and hold rain. The springs that once fed Blue Creek have dried up, and it is now a dry channel except in rainy weather. The earliest settlement of the area began in the late 1890s, when mercury mining began in the Terlingua mining district to the northwest. The subsequent increase in population resulted in part from an influx of Mexican-American families onto the Rio Grande floodplain, where they herded goats and cattle and took up irrigated farming. The most significant settlement to emerge from this development was Castolon, which was built just below the confluence of Blue Creek and the Rio Grande.

Clifford B. Casey, Mirages, Mysteries and Reality: Brewster County, Texas, the Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1972). Clifford B. Casey, Soldiers, Ranchers and Miners in the Big Bend (Washington: Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1969). Ross A. Maxwell, The Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, 1968). Ross A. Maxwell et al., Geology of Big Bend National Park (Austin: Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas, 1967).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Blue Creek (Brewster County),” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994