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Texas Parks Begin Overnight Camping Reservations For Summer

Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Big Bend Ranch State Park is one of nearly 100 state parks and historic sites that will close in response to the coronavirus.

Visitors to state parks will be able to make new camping reservations beginning May 27, as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department continues gradually reopening its public spaces. TPWD first began limited overnight camping on May 18 for visitors with existing reservations.

Campers will need to make reservations between June 1 and Sept. 7, and the parks agency says existing social distancing standards and public health recommendations are still in effect. That includes wearing face-coverings, bringing your own supply of hand sanitizer and practicing social distancing.

“No one is more pleased than us to welcome more outdoor enthusiasts back into state parks as part of the continued reopening of Texas,” said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith in a press release announcing the changes.

Park visitors, including guests with annual passes, will need to purchase day passes and overnight reservations ahead of time. You can do that through the online parks reservation system or by calling 512-389-8900. The parks department says callers should expect longer-than-normal wait times. While parks gradually reopen, headquarters, visitor centers and gift stores will remain closed.

“Our careful and deliberate approach to phasing in the reopening has served our visitors, volunteers, and staff well as we have continued our emphasis on the safety of everyone in the parks,” said Smith.

In Far West Texas, the Davis Mountains and Big Bend Ranch State Parks are now taking overnight camping reservations during the time outlined by TPWD. In Big Bend Ranch, all trails will open next week, but backcountry and roads requiring four-wheel drive will remain closed. The Sauceda Ranger Station will stay closed, but park rangers and staff will remain available for emergency services in the remote Far West Texas park.

In the other corner of the Big Bend region, the popular swimming hole at Balmorhea State Park remains closed. The so-called “Crown Jewel of West Texas” closed its doors in 2019 for major construction projects.

In an update on their Facebook page this week, park staff say they were aiming to reopen sometime this summer, but “due to unforeseen construction delays, we are not sure if that will be possible.”

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.