* As of there is 1 reported case of COVID-19 in Brewster County
Visit Big Bend is trying to stay up to date on the latest developments with the Corona Virus situation and it’s impact on Brewster County as well as following general recommendations from local, state and federal agencies. Due to the remoteness of our area, this is a difficult process but we will maintain the latest news possible here. Visit Big Bend encourages everyone to contact your hotels and outfitters prior to arriving as many have changed operational procedures, reduced hours or are closed all together due to this COVID-19 crisis.
Big Bend National Park Begins to Re-open
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX – The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that: Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Public Health Service, and Texas Department of State Health Services, Big Bend will soon resume visitor access for recreational day use. The park has been closed to visitors since April 3rd, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning 9:00 AM June 1, 2020 Big Bend National Park will resume Day Use Only access for:
- Scenic driving and bicycling along all paved park roads.
- Selected frontcountry trails for day hiking.
- Rio Grande for day-use river trips from paved road access points.
Group size limits apply.
- Panther Junction Gas Station and store
- Fossil Discovery Exhibit
- Restroom facilities.
While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased in and visitor services will be limited. When recreating, the public must practice social distancing and cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged as recommended by the CDC. Visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.
“After being closed for two months, it’s great to be able to provide the people who love their national park the opportunity to enjoy Big Bend again,” said Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “We’ve been in frequent consultation with federal, state, and local public health authorities to develop our plan for a careful and phased reopening. It moves steadily towards increasing access to all park facilities and recreational opportunities, provided that the public health indicators remain positive. Protecting the health of our staff and volunteers, the residents of the Big Bend gateway communities, and of course, the visitors, is paramount, so it’s essential that everyone who comes to Big Bend accept the responsibility for their own actions. If you’re feeling sick or if you’ve got underlying health conditions, please come at another time — or enjoy the park virtually right now.”
Visitors to Big Bend must also be prepared for the extreme summer heat of the Chihuahuan Desert. During the summer months, temperatures in the park’s lower elevations and river areas typically exceed 100 degrees by late morning, and remain at dangerous levels until after sunset. Hikers should stay off trails in the afternoon and carry (and drink) plenty of extra water.
Big Bend’s phased approach is designed to gradually allow increased access, while maintaining employee, visitor, and local community safety, and to avoid overwhelming the area’s limited medical services. The park will actively monitor conditions (in the park and in surrounding counties); and will maintain flexibility to expand, adjust, or contract operations as health conditions warrant.
With public health in mind, the following areas and facilities will remain closed at this time:
- Chisos Mountains Lodge overnight accommodations
- All campgrounds and backcountry campsites.
- All gravel roads and backcountry roads.
- The Hot Springs Historic Area and associated trails.
- Boquillas Port of Entry.
- All Visitor Centers.
Big Bend National Park Entrance fees will resume once appropriate safety measures are in place. All transactions will be credit card only.
While many people think coming to Big Bend National Park, is the ultimate in social distancing, the park has many pinch points – scenic overlooks, restrooms, narrow trails, the Chisos Basin restaurant, and the stores and gas stations. Superintendent Krumenaker reminds potential park visitors that, “It is up to each individual, and every group travelling together, to manage themselves so as not to share whatever they may have been exposed to with the other visitors. If everyone cooperates, then all of Big Bend will be accessible soon!”
The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Park staff will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
Please visit www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/big-bend-covid-19-status-updates.htm for specific details of park closures/openings and regular updates of Big Bend National Park’s phased return to operations. The NPS will notify the public when additional areas open and more operations resume via the park website and social media channels. Updates about the NPS response to coronavirus will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
UPDATE: April 3, 2020
Effective at 8:30am April 3, 2020, Big Bend National Park will be closed to all visitors due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This includes all day use activities.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS:
Effective Monday March 20, 2020 at noon, all hotels, RV Parks and campgrounds in Brewster County have been ordered to close. Please contact your lodging partner for cancellation policy and refund status.
Brewster County Declaration of Local/State of Disaster Due to Public Health Emergency (as of 6:00pm March 19)
CLOSURES/CHANGES IN HOURS: (as of 11:27pm March 16th)
IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR VISITORS ALREADY IN THE BIG BEND AREA OR WITH PLANS TO VISIT IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE:
Big Bend National Park will be initiating several closures and staffing changes effective March 17th.
From Big Bend National Park
For those of you currently visiting Big Bend National Park and those of you planning to go…..
Effective Tuesday March 17, 2020 until further notice:
-All Big Bend National Park visitor centers will be closed including Big Bend Natural History Association bookstores
-Entrance stations will be closed
-All formal interpretive programming and special events scheduled for the next 60 days will be cancelled
-The Boquillas Port of Entry will be closed effective March 18, 2020
-Camping permits will be impacted – group campsites will be closed when current parties vacate
-Backcountry camping will be restricted to those sites available for advance reservation on recreation.gov
-All activities will be restricted to the CDC’s guidelines of 10 persons or less including guides
-The hotel will remain open, the bar will be closed, the salad bar will be closed. The restaurant will attempt to maximize takeout meals
-Restaurant and patio capacity will be restricted and tables spread out to maximize distance between diners, patio dining will continue through April unless there are negative trash or animal impacts.
-The RV campground at Rio Grande Village will remain open.
Please note that park staff realize these are significant changes to daily operations. Park staff feel strongly that these restrictions are in line with CDC’s guidance. They will work to keep the park open so that visitors can enjoy the open, solitary spaces. But they will keep both visitor and employee safety at top of mind.
Brewster County Courthouse: Closed to tourists and visitors but open for regular business.
Espresso y Poco Mas (Terlingua): Open as usual but now taking “to go” orders over the phone: 432-371-3044
Taqueria Milagro (Terlingua): Only offering food “to go”. 432-371-2060
Farmer’s Market (Terlingua): On hiatus due to the Corona Virus issue.
Chisos Mountains Lodge Restaurant (Big Bend National Park): Bar has been closed but beer and wine will be served on the patio. The Restaurant remains open but will focus on offering food “to go”.
UPDATE: (4:49pm March 16)
* The CDC has suggested limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Brewster County is the largest county in the state of Texas with a population of less than 10,000 people. The social separation and distances of 6 feet per person suggested by the CDC take place almost naturally here due to the lack of people. The exception to this are bars and restaurants. Local officials are meeting over the next 24 hours to decide the next steps regarding those businesses. (An update and any mandatory closures should be posted here by noon March 17th.)
* As has been stated by the CDC, common sense hygienic procedures should be adhered to during these times and during your visit to Big Bend: wash your hands more often than you think, try not to touch your face, when possible avoid touching common areas such as railings on stairways, door knobs, countertops, etc. and if you have to touch these areas use hand sanitizer and wash hands afterwards.
* Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park are still open as well as local outfitters and hotels in Marathon, Study Butte, Terlingua and Lajitas.
* Visit Big Bend visitor kiosks located in Marathon and Study Butte will remain open.
All of this information is subject to change and is changing rapidly – almost by the minute. We will try and update this page regularly as more information from official sources comes in.
Spring Break is the busiest time of year in Big Bend. For visitors coming during the month of March, a little preparation in advance can help make the trip even more enjoyable.
Camping: campsites fill up early each day including back country campsites!
* there will be no camping sites available in Big Bend NP after approximately 9:30-10:00 am
* sites do open up each morning (1/3 of the sites remain first-come first served), but they are taken almost immediately each morning
* if you are arriving later in the day, expect to have to make alternate arrangements for camping outside the park (either in Terlingua/Study Butte, Marathon or at the Stillwell Store & RV Park north of the Persimmon Gap entrance to the National Park. https://stillwellstore.com/
* no camping is allowed along roads or in parking lots
* parking at the Hot Springs will become full almost everyday
* the road is closed for one in/one out entrance most days – expect a short wait
* parking will become full in the Basin area most days
* the Basin Road typically closes around noon on most days for one-in/one out access due to parking being full
* lots of people mean lots of hungry tummies – be patient, plan ahead and expect wait times at all restaurants during peak hours
* an alternative is the CottonWood Grocery Store located in Study Butte with a nice choice of options for meal preparation, sandwiches and softs drinks
If you have not already made reservations for the month of March, we highly recommend you call your accommodation of choice and make certain they have availabilities. There are no “chain” hotels with hundreds of rooms in Big Bend and all lodging providers will fill up to capacity each day. Make reservations ahead of time to avoid disappointment when you arrive. A full list of places to stay can be found here: https://visitbigbend.com/lodging-new/
Visitor Kiosks: UPDATE:Visitor Kiosks have been closed until further notice
Visit Big Bend maintains two 24-hour visitor kiosks. One is located in Marathon at the intersection of Highway 90 and Highway 385 and the other in Study Butte just outside the National Park entrance. At certain peak times during Spring Break, Visit Big Bend staff will be on hand to answer questions personally. Brochures, maps and other materials can be picked up 24 hours a day.
Enjoy your visit to the Big Bend area and have a wonderful Spring Break 2020!