Big Bend Veteran Wilderness Expedition

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Expedition Snapshot

Big Bend Expedition 2019

PHOTO GALLERY: In 2019, No Barriers and Raytheon partnered to bring a team of veterans with disabilities on a transformative experience backpacking through the Chisos of Big Bend, followed by rafting down the Rio Grande. Photography by Micah Baird. See full Flickr album >>

Sponsored by Raytheon



Expedition Description

The Big Bend Veteran Wilderness Expedition, sponsored by Raytheon, takes place in Big Bend National Park and on the Rio Grande River, which flows through the park in Southwest Texas.

A team of veterans will explore some of the most remote, wild land in the United States by foot and boat. Surrounded by stunning southern desert terrain, participants will fully immerse themselves in the No Barriers Life, overcoming physical and mental challenges and forging lasting relationships. Following the legacy of No Barriers co-founder and world-renowned blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, veterans will take part in transformational curriculum to unleash their potential. To prepare for the journey, participants will complete online interactive modules that will introduce them to the rest of the team and No Barriers’ values.

The expedition begins in the backcountry of Big Bend National Park, one of the most remote parks in the U.S. and largest protected section of the Chihuahuan Desert in the country. After flying to Midland, Texas, and meeting their leaders and fellow participants in person, team members will embark on a backpacking trip in the Chisos Mountain region of Big Bend National Park. All meals and group camping gear will be provided, and personal gear is available to borrow (see our FAQs for more information). For three days and two nights, participants will hike across a high desert mountain range, taking in beautiful views and unique flora and fauna, and will camp under a blanket of stars set in the lower 48’s darkest skies.

After this ethereal experience, the team will transition to the next leg of the journey, paddling through the breathtaking Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande River, which divides the U.S. and Mexico. Participants will pack everything on their boats and spend four days and three nights winding through the remote canyon, camping on secluded sandy beaches and listening to the river carve its way through the rugged desert. Evenings will include thoughtful group discussions and individual reflections on the journey behind them and the one still ahead. After exiting the canyon, the team will return to Midland for a celebratory dinner and departure the following day.

Expedition activities will encourage participants to reflect on their past, recognize where they are in the present and look to the future with positivity. After returning home, veterans will finish the final phase of the program online. It’s designed to help team members pursue a meaningful pledge they set during the journey, and to internalize the No Barriers Life.

Upon completion, participants are welcomed into the No Barriers family for ongoing support in accomplishing goals and overcoming barriers, as well as potential future opportunities with No Barriers USA.


  • Oct. 5: Arrive in Midland, Texas
  • Oct. 6: Drive to Big Bend National Park and begin backpacking in the Chisos Mountains
  • Oct. 7-8: Backpack the Chisos Mountains
  • Oct. 9: Transition to the Rio Grande River and begin paddling through Santa Elena Canyon
  • Oct. 10-11: Paddle the Rio Grande through Santa Elena Canyon
  • Oct. 12: Complete river portion on the Rio Grande and drive to Midland for celebratory dinner
  • Oct. 13: Depart Midland

Big Bend Veteran Wilderness Expedition Team

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