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Sam Nail Ranch

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

An oasis in Big Bend National Park

Just off scenic Maxwell Drive in Big Bend National Park there is a modest hiking trail that leads to the remains of the ranch of Sam Nail, who arrived in Big Bend in 1909 as a homesteader.


Ranchers dug wells and erected windmills to bring scarce water out of the ground. Around the windmill the water created a lush oasis that offered respite from the searing summer heat. What remains of the Nail windmill now tilts precariously, serving as a perch for turkey vultures.


Although I was raised in the southwest desert of Arizona, I've never been a fan of heat and sun. I spent a quiet 30 minutes sitting at a shaded bench in the Nail oasis listening to the abundant birds in the trees and marveling at how life can thrive in harsh places.

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