Presidio www . cityofpresidio . com 61 miles south of Marfa on US 67 The western gateway to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park and the western terminus of “ River Road ”, FM 170 , one of the most scenic drives in North America . Presidio / Ojinaga is the only 24 hour port of entry in the Big Bend region .
Marfa www . marfacc . com 25 miles west from Alpine on US 90 / 67
Founded in 1883 , Marfa is named after a character in the Jules Verne novel Michael Strogoff : Courier of the Czar . The name , a Russian version of Martha , was suggested by the wife of a railroad executive .
Like all the towns along the line , Marfa began as a water stop for the trains . It was also a freight headquarters for the Galveston , Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway . In its first 40 years Marfa grew quickly , reaching a population of around 1,200 by the early 1920s .
The Marfa Army Air Camp was a major training ground for U . S . pilots during World War II . As an advanced-flight training area thousands of pilots passed through Marfa , including Rod Sterling of The Twilight Zone fame . The army established the Chemical Warfare Brigades at Marfa , and many of the country ’ s Chemical Mortar Battalions trained there . The army also established a prisoner of war camp for German prisoners at Marfa . Several German officers held there were artists ; they were permitted to paint murals in Building 98 , which can be visited today at the International Women ’ s Foundation .
Situated on the wide Marfa Plateau , the town is surrounded by distant mountains which protect it from the vagaries of extreme West Texas weather . The Davis Mountains to the north and the Chinati and Chisos Mountains to the southeast and southwest provide an ancient backdrop for the town ’ s modern identity as a contemporary art haven .
Minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa in 1971 after falling in love with the desert landscapes . He purchased ranchland and the decommissioned Fort D . A . Russell and began creating art there . He used the land as a sort of anti-museum , where artists could show their work permanently rather than for a short period of time , believing that temporary
installations affected the artists ’ abilities to communicate with their viewers . The Judd Foundation and the Chinati Foundation have continued this legacy since Judd ’ s death in 1994 , and there are now 13 artists with permanently displayed works across the 30 buildings owned by the Chinati foundation .
In the late 1990s Marfa saw a surge of interest from artists and trendsetters , and it has become an international destination for contemporary artists and art lovers . Apart from its ties to the art community , the town is famous as the location of such iconic films as Giant with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean , There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day Lewis and No Country for Old Men with Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones , among others .
Apart from movie stars and minimalists , Marfa is known for its mysterious Marfa Lights , visible from a viewing area a few miles east of town . Recorded since at least 1883 , the lights have been unsatisfactorily explained as an atmospheric phenomenon which distorts and reflects the distant light of campfires or headlights , though viewers will often see them move vertically or in circles while changing color .
Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County , and its population as of the 2020 census was 1,831 .