The River And The Wall

U.S. On The Left-Mexico On The Right
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)

My parents loved talking about their visits to Big Bend National Park in west Texas. A few of the trips involved hiring a boatman to take them across the Rio Grande to the Mexican side where they hiked and camped. This was legal and the Mexican police even offered a pistol to my dad to carry as protection. I grew up hearing these stories and looking at their photos of the natural beauty of the mountains. My first trip there was during my college years. I have been back on several trips since then with friends and family. We have camped in campgrounds with amenities (water and a bathroom nearby), back country primitive sites with no amenities, at the park lodge, and in nearby towns.

Big Bend Bluebonnets
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)
Big Bend Mountainside
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)
Beauty in the Desert
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)

I have been thinking a lot about my trips and my parent’s trips after viewing the documentary movie “The River and the Wall.” The movie was filmed in 2018 and released earlier this year. It follows five people traveling the length of the Rio Grande in Texas from El Paso all the way to the mouth of the river as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. The group consists of four men and one woman and they come from a variety of backgrounds (photographer for National Geographic, ornithologist, river guide), but they are all conservationists. The goal was to document the existing border before a proposed border wall cuts through the natural beauty. They traveled 1, 200 miles using mountain bikes, walking, canoeing, and on horseback. They passed areas with a border wall and areas with border patrol agents, but much of the adventure is in wild and rugged territory with no man made border wall.

Sign Warning People Not To Buy Goods Sold By Mexican Nationals
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)
Mexican Made Items for Sale on U. S. Side of River
Hard to see in photo but there is a walking stick and some little scorpions made of colorful wire, some quartz, and a small can to put money in. The note says that the money will help the school across the river in Boquillas.
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)

The movie is directed by Ben Masters. We saw the film at the Austin Film Society Cinema theater and after the showing we were privileged to enjoy a question and answer session with two of the adventurers, Jay Kleberg and Austin Alvarado. I give the film two thumbs up for the stunning photography and the message that we need to protect our natural areas from being destroyed. It is entertaining and educational at the same time, as well as containing some laugh out loud humor. Go see “The River and the Wall.” I guarantee you will learn something you did not know about our Texas/ Mexico border.

Cooling Off In The Rio Grande
(2009 photo by Betty McCreary)

At there is more information and a movie trailer. There is a The River and the Wall Facebook page with clips from the film. The movie is available in select theaters and you can rent or buy it if you have Amazon Prime.

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Born and raised in Central Texas. Spending time outside brings me joy and I love to share my observations. I also belong to two writing groups and enjoy researching my ancestors. I find people interesting, but Nature keeps me sane.

9 thoughts on “The River And The Wall”

  1. Betty, thank you! I’m moving this up my priority list after reading your review!
    Gary has those wire scorpions in his car – from before we met in 2002. Unable to go across anymore, when he took me to Big Bend (my first time) we did go into the water (US side) and we did camp along “River Road” – nothing but a sleeping bag on sand – about 20 degrees but clear sky – a camp-out like none since!
    Your photos are gorgeous.


    1. Thank you Jazz! I think it was somewhere off the river road that my husband and I camped one time 20+ years ago. Our car battery died while we camped there a couple of nights. We walked up to the road and ended up putting rocks across the road in the shape of an arrow pointing down to the side road where we were parked. I found a freshly killed jackrabbit and put that atop the rocks! Was sure that would get someone’s attention. Few cars traveled that road. It worked and the guy that stopped was a retired park ranger and his son. They gave our battery a jump. I was a bit nervous about what had killed the jackrabbit and just left it…maybe a hawk dropped it?


  2. Great pictures! The River and the Wall was a great documentary. There is so much beauty and so much history along the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte). It is an under appreciated resource.


  3. Twice we have visited the Boca Chica beach, where the Rio Grande flows into the Gulf. Raw, untamed beauty. We have also visited many of the wildlife and nature refuges along the Rio Grande, with Mexico just a stone’s throw away. Such beautiful and rich resources. We mourn the loss of these treasures should the wall go ahead.


  4. I too have visited Big Ben and crossed over the river by a little boat provide by a Mexican nationalist. We were met by a man on a donkey and escorted up into the little village where we had bottled soft drinks in the early 1990’s. I have heard this has been halted and no one can cross. I am sad to think of these freedoms lost. I hope to see this documentary Betty. Thank you for your wonderful photos and comments and your memories of the border lands.


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