Commercial Use Authorizations

Commercial Activities in Big Bend
A wide variety of commercial activities occur in Big Bend National Park.

Effective April 26, 2022
There are currently no Covid restrictions on commercial tours or guided tours in Big Bend National Park. Commercial operators are expected to follow all federal and CDC guidelines.

UPDATE: New Covid-19 Guidance for Commercial Use Authorizations.

As of March 3, 2022 masks are no longer required in either indoor or outdoor locations, both for the public and federal employees while the local community level remains in either low or medium (for Brewster County). Please note that this standard is flexible depending on conditions in Brewster County. It is possible that we may return to a mask requirement under this guidance if conditions in Brewster County returns to a high condition. We all need to be prepared to be flexible under this new system.

Visitors and employees are always welcome to wear a mask if it makes them more comfortable.

If conditions change, Big Bend National Park reserves the right to change these parameters or other operational conditions immediately. Please understand the Park will make every effort to communicate the need for the change in a timely manner; however, depending on conditions, immediate action may be necessary.


Big Bend Commercial Use Authorization Permits (CUAs)


What Is A Commercial Use Authorization?

Approximately 50 companies provide a wide variety of commercial services in Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River. These services are limited to those companies having specific authorization, usually in the form of a Concessions Contract or Commercial Use Authorization (CUA).

Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA), are a permit issued by the park Superintendent to allow certain commercial activities within the park. Permits are required of all operators who provide any goods, activities, agreements or other services to the general public that:

  • take place, at least in part, on lands managed by the National Park Service,
  • use park resources, and
  • result in compensation, monetary gain, benefit or profit to an individual, organization or corporation.

Federal regulations prohibit engaging in or soliciting any business in the park areas, except in accordance with the provisions of a written agreement with the United States. Commercial aspects, such as advertising, negotiation of compensation, and receipt of money/compensation must occur outside of the park. Year-round permits coincide with the fiscal year, starting October 1 and ending September 30 of the following year. Permits may also be issued for one-time use.

Park Entrance Fees

A CUA does NOT exempt the holder or clients from NPS entrance fee requirements, nor does it grant automatic access to areas controlled by reservation systems.


Big Bend Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA)

  • Meet all insurance requirements over duration of permit.
  • Comply with all park rules and permit conditions.
  • Submit accurate Annual Report within 60 days after permit expiration.
    • River Outfitters must submit their Monthly Reports with the Annual Report using NPS Form 10-660A, an approved “in house” recording form, or by emailing the CUA Coordinator for a template.

Big Bend National Park accepts CUA applications for the following activities:

  • Boat Tours - Non-motorized
  • Art/Photography Instruction
  • Backpacking
  • Bike Tours
  • Environmental Education
  • Guided Vehicle Tours
    • (jeep/vans/vehicles with capacity of 26 or less)
  • Hiking/Walking Tours
  • Motorcycle Tours
  • Outdoor Skills
  • Transport- Non-tour
    • (Road/air/water-based)

For a detailed description of each activity, see Application – “Attachment B”.

If the service you are proposing to provide is not a currently approved service listed above, contact the park CUA office at  

Application Fee
is a $350, non-refundable, annual fee. Permits will not be renewed from previous years; every commercial operator will need to submit an application for a permit for each fiscal year they operate.

All application and cost recovery fees MUST be paid on We will no longer accept business or personal checks for payment. A $350 Application Fee must be submitted as part of your complete application package. This fee is cost recovery for the staff time to process your application and issue your CUA Please note that we do not issue refunds for overpayment.

Cost-Recovery Fee
A cost-recovery fee, to recover costs associated with the administration and management of the CUA program. Fees will be based on a percentage of revenue earned from in-park or park-based operations. Market price fees will be based on the following:

  • Less than $250,000 earned from park-based operations:
    3% of gross receipts (minus application fee)
  • $250,000-$500,000 earned from park-based operations:
    4% of gross receipts (minus application fee)
  • More than $500,000 earned from park-based operations:
    5% of gross receipts (minus application fee)
This will be included as part of the annual report.
CUA Coordinator will issue a Bill of Collection to confirm amount with CUA holder BEFORE CUA holder submits payment on

General Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is required for all CUA holders under the terms of the authorization. Such insurance should be of sufficient scope to cover all potential risks and in an amount to cover claims that can reasonably be expected in the event of serious injury or death. Minimum coverage amount is $1,000,000 per occurrence. Some activities may require increased coverage or other types of liability insurance. Liability insurance policies must name the United States of America as additional insured. The business or person that is providing the service must be named insured (policy holder).


Automobile Liability Insurance

CUA holders who rent vehicles will now be required to show proof of automobile liability insurance as of October 1, 2022 (FY 2023 permits). Please refer to the permit application (Attachment A) for required minimum coverages.

Commercial automobile insurance coverage types are identified as auto designation symbols (1-9). Each symbol represents the type of vehicle protected by the applicable liability policy. CUA insurance certificates will typically reflect one or more of the following symbols (from RM 48B Commercial Use Authorizations):

  1. Symbol 1, "Any auto" provides coverage for any owned, hired, non-owned automobile use in conjunction with the business. This is the most common comprehensive auto designation symbol available.
  2. Symbol 2, "Owned autos" provides coverage only for those vehicles owned by the CUA holder. It does not include autos hired or non-owned.
  3. Symbol 7, "Specified auto" provides coverage for vehicles specifically listed on the CUA insurance policy.
  4. Symbol 8, "Hired autos" provides coverage only for autos leased, hired, rented, or borrowed from an employee, partner, or member of an insured's household.
  5. Symbol 9, "Non-owned" provides coverage only for autos owned by employees, partners, or members of an insured's household, but only while those non-owned autos are used either in the conduct of the insured's business or personal affairs. It does not include autos hired, leased, or borrowed from other sources.

Insurance Company Rating

Insurance companies must be rated at least A- by the most recent edition of A.M. Best’s Key Insurance Reports (Property-Casualty edition) or similar insurance rating companies (Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, or Fitch). You may be subject to additional insurance requirements. Refer to “Attachment A”.

The insurance certificate and insurance ratings must be submitted with the CUA application. The rating companies do not issue certificates. We require the insurance broker to note this rating in the Certificate. If the rating does not appear on the certificate, the insurance broker must provide it in another document.

CUA holders must submit an annual report each year. This report is due by November 30th each year. This report provides the park with visitation statistics, reportable injury data, and a record of annual gross receipts. CUA holders conducting river trips must submit their monthly reports at this time also. You may use your own trip recording form, but it must be attached to the 10-660A for each month.

The 2023 Annual Report is due no later than November 30th, 2023. If a 2023 Annual Report is not submitted by November 30th, a 2024 CUA may be suspended pending receipt of report.


How To Apply For A CUA

2024 Application Information

Apply Now website
Pay your CUA fees here

Permit Fees

Application Fee is $350 annually. Permits will not be renewed from previous years; every commercial operator will need to submit an application for a permit for each fiscal year they operate.

Please email the park at to obtain a CUA # before submitting payment through - Big Bend NP Commercial Use Authorization Fees

  • Cost-Recovery Fee
    A cost-recovery fee, to recover costs associated with the administration and management of the CUA program. Fees will be based on a percentage of revenue earned from in-park or park-based operations.

    For more information on market based fees, please see



Contact Us

If you have any questions concerning the Commercial Use Authorization program at Big Bend, please contact:

Kelly VandenBerg
CUA Coordinator
(432) 213-3309

Last updated: May 8, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

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



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