BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas — EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from Big Bend's 75th Anniversary in Oct. 2019. 

Headed to Big Bend? If you are trying to save money, you may need to act fast.

The park will the National Park Service (NPS) will soon be implementing a number of changes that they believe will make it easier for park visitors to plan ahead and better enjoy Big Bend National Park.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that people want us to expand the park’s reservation system, and I’m excited that we’re able to respond,” said Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “The reservation system will allow many visitors to plan their stays ahead of time and guarantee they have a campsite when they arrive. These changes benefit the visitor and will generate increased revenue for the NPS to reinvest in visitor services and deferred maintenance here at Big Bend.”

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Increased Reservations for Rio Grande Village and Chisos Basin Campgrounds

The park will significantly increase the number of campsites available for reservations online via www.recreation.gov or via phone at 1-877-444-6777. 

Beginning at 9 a.m., January 15, 2020, two-thirds of the campsites in the Rio Grande Village and Chisos Basin Campgrounds will be reservable up to six months in advance. 

One-third of the sites will remain on a first-come-first-served basis. 

Cottonwood Campground will continue to operate as entirely first-come, first-served.

New Reservations for Backcountry Camping

In order to better serve park visitors by decreasing wait times at visitor centers and to allow for more opportunities to plan ahead, beginning at 9:00 a.m. on February 1, a selection of primitive backcountry campsites will be included in the online reservation system available through www.recreation.gov or via phone at 1-877-444-6777.

The first 58 sites to pilot this change will include the popular, centrally-located primitive car camping sites and designated backpacking sites in the Chisos Mountains.

Roadside sites to be included are those at: Grapevine Hills, Paint Gap, Croton Spring, K-Bar, Hannold Draw, Nine-point Draw, Nugent Mountain, Pine Canyon, Robbers Roost, and Twisted Shoe.

Visitors will be able to review the various campsites, check for availability, plan a backcountry itinerary, and obtain a permit for specific backcountry campsites before heading out to Big Bend.

Reservations will be available year-round, up to 6 months in advance. Following this initial phase-in period, additional backcountry sites may be added to gradually expand the opportunities available for reservation.

Camping Fee Changes

Beginning January 1, a number of changes to Big Bend National Park camping fees will be enacted. Those who already have campground reservations will not be affected.

  • Developed Campground fees will increase from $14 per night to $16 per night.
  • Backcountry Permits (backpacking, primitive roadside, and overnight river trips) will change from $12 per permit to $10 per night.
  • Group Campsite feeswill change to a nightly per site fee, rather than a nightly per person fee. The nightly rate is based on site capacity:
    • Sites accommodating up to 14 people, $40 per night.

    • Sites accommodating up to 25 people, $60 per night.

    • Sites accommodating up to 40 people, $100 per night.

Holders of the Interagency Senior Pass (US citizens aged 62+) or Access Pass (permanently disabled US citizens) receive 50% discounts on camping, not to include the group campsites.

The increased revenue will be used to provide the contracted online reservation service through www.recreation.gov, improve camping and other visitor facilities parkwide, and help reduce Big Bend’s $90 million backlog of deferred maintenance.

In September-October 2019, NPS staff conducted public outreach for proposed increased reservations and camping fee increases at Big Bend.

Hundreds of comments were received and support for these proposals was clearly indicated. 

The NPS also completed a campground comparability study that indicated an increase in camping/backcountry fees was appropriate. 

While the fee increase makes the campsites comparable to similar options, it also helps offset the fees charged by the contracted reservation service.

For more information about Big Bend's fee structure, please visit www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fees.htm.

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