Calamity Creek

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

Calamity Creek rises southeast of Ranger Peak, 6½ miles southwest of Alpine in northwestern Brewster County (at 30°16' N, 103°43' W), and flows down a winding course through rugged mountain terrain for a number of miles before issuing out on open desert flatland. Thence it flows south-southeast for sixty-two miles to its intersection with Chalk Draw, about four miles west of Santiago Peak. The stream then continues southeast for thirty-five more miles through Chalk Draw, Nine Point Draw, and Dog Canyon in the north end of Big Bend National Park, before it finally reaches its mouth on Maravillas Creek, about five miles east of the Persimmon Gap ranger station (at 29°40' N, 103°10' W). Calamity Creek is the westernmost tributary of the Maravillas Creek drainage basin, one of the major drainage systems in Brewster County. Its headwaters are on the flank of the now-extinct and deeply eroded Paisano volcano. The rocks there consist primarily of quartz trachyte and rhyolites and are approximately thirty-five million years old. Unlike most streams in the Trans-Pecos, Calamity Creek is perennial in its upper reaches since it is fed by several springs. Over the free-flowing portion of its course the creek is lined with lush vegetation, including thick growths of willow, large cottonwoods, and numerous Mexican walnut and soapberry trees. This vegetation provides cover for numerous small mammals, as well as a large number and variety of small passerine birds, both resident and migratory. The many high cliffs towering over the creek along this mountainous portion of its course also provide habitat for such larger birds as red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. The outlying area is characterized by high, semiarid grassland. Calamity Creek ceases to be perennial near Elephant Mountain, where it leaves the mountains and grassland habitat and enters lower, flatter, more desert-like terrain. The vegetation in the more southerly reaches of the creek does include grassland, but the area is covered predominantly with invading Chihuahuan Desert scrub. The vegetation along the creek's banks also turns much sparser after the creek becomes intermittent. The name Calamity Creek derives from an incident early in this century. An adobe house built near the creek on the Nevill Ranch about twenty miles south of Alpine was washed away by a particularly destructive flash flood. At least one source claims that several people were drowned in the flood, but the name Calamity appears to be most closely associated with the destruction of the cabin.

Virginia Madison and Hallie Stillwell, How Come It's Called That? Place Names in the Big Bend Country (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1958).

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

Anonymous, “Calamity Creek,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994