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Big Bend National Park Moves Forward With Third Phase Of Reopening

Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio
As part of Big Bend National Park's next reopening phase, the Chisos Basin campground will reopen to 70% capacity, or 42 campsites.

After being opened for two weeks now, Big Bend National Park officials are moving forward with the next step in their multi-tiered reopening plan.

Beginning Monday, limited overnight camping will be available at the Chisos Basin campground — although the campground's capacity will be limited to 70% or 42 campsites. By Friday, the Chisos Mountains Lodge will reopen to half of its capacity. When camping or lodging inside the park is full, park officials say visitors will need to find overnight accommodations outside the park. Both the Cottonwood and the Rio Grande Village campgrounds remain closed at this time.

The announcement of limited camping and lodging in the park came a day before state health officials announced six new cases of COVID-19 in Brewster County, which is home to Big Bend National Park.

Park officials say they're tracking the increase of coronavirus cases throughout the state and "will maintain flexibility to expand, adjust or contract operations as health conditions warrant."

Under this next stage of reopening, park visitor centers will remain closed, along with all primitive backcountry dirt roads. All backcountry camping at this time is off-limits and the Boquillas port of entry remains closed. Visitors to the park can hike trails accessible by paved roads, including Lost Mine, Window, Emory Peak and Santa Elena Canyon. 

As it was drafted, the park's 5-stage plan for reopening received feedback from local, state and federal health authorities. Park officials continue to ask visitors to practice social distancing and strongly encourage cloth face coverings.

The park’s continued reopening comes during the summer, which is traditionally a slower time for tourism to the massive 800,000-acre park as temperatures soar into the 100-degree range. Officials are encouraging, visitors to the park to continually check for weather updates and to be prepared for the extreme conditions of the Chihuahuan desert.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.