Big Bend National Park Moves Into Next Phrase of Reopening

By Carlos Morales

After partially reopening in August, Big Bend National park officials are moving forward with their next stage of reopening, allowing backcountry camping and giving visitors access to nearly all trails.

The latest reopening phase for the far-flung 800,000-acre park will also allow visitors to plan overnight trips on the Rio Grande. The Chisos Basin campground reopened in September and remains the only park campground available to the public.

While in the park, visitors are encouraged to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

“There’s a lot of people coming here now that the camping is open in earnest,” said Tom VandenBerg, the park’s Chief of Interpretation. “It’s still somewhat limited, but there’s a lot of opportunities.”

Currently, the Chisos Basin is open at about 50% capacity, said VandenBerg, who noted that visitors are booking reservations through to next Spring Break.

All overnight camping is by reservation only.

Most of the park’s hiking trails–including the well known Santa Elena Canyon, Lost Mine and Boquillas Canyon–have reopened. The only hiking locations off-limits to hikers are in the Hot Springs Historic District.

The park’s visitor centers at Panther Junction and Chisos Basin remain closed, but park officials have set up outdoor information kiosks where visitors can ask questions.

Big Bend National Park first partially closed in March out of precaution for the coronavirus. Since then, there have been two COVID-19 cases within the park’s residential community.

About Carlos Morales

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director, Border and Immigration Reporter, and Morning Edition Host.
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