Big Bend National Park To Consider Increasing Fees And Changing Camping Reservations

By Carlos Morales

Big Bend National Park officials have put forward a proposal that would significantly change the park’s camping reservation system and increase camping fees.

When it comes to reservations, the changes would make a larger number of campings sites available and would extend how far out in advance visitors are able to make those reservations.

“For many, this will greatly reduce the frustration of driving all the way to Big Bend, only to find that all campsites are full,” reads a press release from the park.

Additionally, the 800,000-acre national park is considering adding backcountry permits to its online reservation system. Currently, all backcountry permits must be issued in person at park facilities like Panther Junction.

The park would add nearly 60 of the most popular roadside and backcountry sites to its online reservation system by Jan. 2020 — with more expected to follow.

“Things are kind of at the point where we need to make changes,” Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg said. “We want to help our visitors, we want people to come to Big Bend. But we don’t want them to be stressed out (about finding a camping site).”

Campsite Reservation Changes

  • Chisos Basin: 40 campsites open for year-round reservations, six months in advance
  • Rio Grande Village: 60 campsites open for reservations up to six months in advance for visits between Nov. 1 through April 15.
  • Cottonwood Campground: No changes. Reservations remain first come, first serve.
  • Group campsites at park campsites: No changes. Reservations remain available year round, up to a year in advance.

Proposed Fee Increases

Officials at Big Bend National Park have also put forward increasing park fees for camping. If approved, VandenBerg estimates the new fees would generate more than $100,000 each year. As mandated by the federal government, about half of that revenue would go toward chipping away at the park’s roughly $90-million backlog of deferred maintenance. The rest of the expected revenue would pay for the online reservation system parks use and for specific types of projects that would “enhance visitor experience.”

Passes for campsites would generally increase a few dollars, and group camping fees would change from an indivudal-based fee to a group-based fee.

  • Developed campsites: $16/$8 with an interagency pass.
  • Backcountry campsites: $12 per night/$6 with an interagency pass.
  • Group campsites:
    • Groups of up to 14 people, $40 per night.
    • Groups of up to 25 people, $60 per night.
    • Groups of up to 40 people, $100 per night.

Park officials are looking for input on the proposed changes. If you have any feedback on the proposals, you can leave your comment here. You can also e-mail, or you can send your comments to the following mailing address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129.

About Carlos Morales

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