• Inspiration
May 8, 2024

Canoeing in Texas

Photos and sketches from Maria’s family trip visiting Big Bend National Park and paddling Boquillas Canyon on the Rio Grande!

By Maria Coryell-Martin

A view down a green and brown river with towering canyon walls, and a red canoe.

Paddling in Big Bend

I traveled with my family to Big Bend National Park in West Texas this April as an adventure we had planned before viewing the total solar eclipse in Austin. This little side trip (Texas: not so little) became the undisputed highlight of our time in the Lone Star State, and witnessing the eclipse was icing on the cake.

Lunch break along the river.

In Big Bend, we paddled Boquillas Canyon on the Rio Grande for four days, led by Wild Adventure Outfitters’ affable guides. Traveling on our own by canoe with kids in a remote canyon would be a considerable challenge, so we were grateful to leave the cooking and logistics to local experts.

Our trusty 12-passenger rental van!
Capturing canyon views along the river.
Sketching at dinnertime.
Puerto Rico Canyon.
Paddling southeast on the Rio Grande.

The river was low and slow, and kids could paddle or relax (and snack non-stop!) as needed. Every so often, the canoes would bottom out, and we’d have to drag our boats through shallow rapids. Our daughter relished the opportunity to wade in the cool water while keeping the canoe pointed downriver.

The desert landscape was so different from my home in the Pacific Northwest. I found myself reaching for colors such as Yellow Ochre, Buff Titanium, Lunar Earth, and Nickel Azo Yellow to mix the varied cliff tones and sandy greens. Moonglow, which Gavin Snider introduced to me, was useful for shadows!

The nights were clear, and the stars shone more brightly than I remember. On our last night, we observed the expanse of the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

Eventually, the canyon walls receded, the relentless sun returned, and it was time to take out. Leafing through my sketchbook, I can reflect on each camp, side canyon, and swimming hole we visited. I love how sketching while traveling keeps me present and heightens my awareness of a place, and I'm left with a book of memories I can return to anytime.

Boquillas Canyon.
Slot Canyon.

I sketched the trip in an A6 Hahnemühle ZigZag Book. I love the narrative it creates, as you can open it up completely. Sketching quickly on the road and river, I exclusively used my Platinum Desk Pen filled with Carbon Ink, a Pentel Water Brush, and my Folio Palette (paint list here!). 

Our family in Marathon, Texas.
Our motel from the 1940’s.

Total Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse took place on April 8th, 2024 for 3 minutes 30 seconds of totality at approximately 1:35pm local time. Read the blog post, “Sketching the Total Solar Eclipse,” here!

Sketching the total solar eclipse.
The sun moved from a crescent to a sliver before totality.
Good company and eclipse-viewing glasses!

It was incredible to spend time with family and share a truly unique adventure with my loved ones!

Artwork by Maria Coryell-Martin.
Photos courtesy of Darin Reid.

An artist sites on a rock, dipping a paintbrush in a Pocket Palette.

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