WILLOW MOUNTAIN. Willow Mountain is on the east side of State Highway 118 three miles north-northeast of the settlement of Study Butte in southwestern Brewster County (at 29°22' N, 103°31' W). The mountain rises steeply from the desert floor on its northwestern side and falls off in sheer cliffs over 800 feet high on its western and southern exposures. The peak reaches an elevation of 3,830 feet above sea level and towers over 1,000 feet above State Highway 118, which flanks the base of the cliffs on its western face. Willow Mountain, like many formations in the region, was formed by volcanic processes. What makes it unique is the distinctive columnar jointing that is highly visible in the cliff face. The joints, formed during cooling, appear as closely spaced, nearly vertical columns that run from the base to the top of the cliffs and provide the most spectacular display of rock joints in the Big Bend region. Perhaps to early settlers the joints resembled a dense growth of willows, or Willow Mountain may have been named for Willow Spring, which flows at its southern base and has long supported stands of native desert willows. With the exception of the willows, the vegetation in the area is dominated by Chihuahuan Desert scrub, such as lechuguilla, sotol, ocotillo, yuccas, and creosote bush.
Virginia Madison and Hallie Stillwell, How Come It's Called That? Place Names in the Big Bend Country (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1958). Ross A. Maxwell, The Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, 1968). A. Michael Powell, "Vegetation of Trans-Pecos Texas," in New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook (Socorro, New Mexico: New Mexico Geological Society, 1980).