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Contact: Tom VandenBerg, 432-477-1107
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS – The wide-open spaces of west Texas lured a record 581,000 recreational visits to remote Big Bend in 2021. These numbers reflect a 25% increase since 2019 (464,000), the last year the park was completely open, and a 49% increase since 2016 (390,000). Once relatively unknown, the Big Bend area continues to see a significant increase in visitation, and the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in even more visitors seeking out the qualities of this special place.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Chief of Interpretation & Visitor Services Tom VandenBerg. “When Big Bend National Park was established in 1944, a mere 1,400 visitors arrived that first year, but park promoters dreamed of a day when the area would host half a million visitors. That dream has now become reality.”
Park managers continue to address the effect that increasing visitation is having on visitor and employee safety, resource protection, visitor experiences and operational capacity. Increasingly, during the busiest times of the year, it has been necessary for park employees to limit vehicle access to the popular Lost Mine Trail, Chisos Basin, Hot Springs, Boquillas Port of Entry, Boquillas Canyon, and Santa Elena Canyon Trail when all parking is full and heavy congestion warrants. During the winter holidays, spring break, and many extended holiday weekends, visitors may find “one-in, one-out” traffic control measures in these areas and should have alternative itineraries planned.
Demand for lodging and camping in both developed campgrounds and backcountry primitive sites has also reached capacity in recent years. For most of 2021, all developed campgrounds were booked to available capacity. Reservations are required, and campers may make reservations online via www.recreation.gov up to six months in advance, with a limited number of sites reservable up to 14 days in advance. Visitors are strongly encouraged to make camping/lodging arrangements either in the park or gateway communities before journeying all the way to Big Bend.
The National Park Service looks forward to welcoming visitors in 2022, and encourage all to plan ahead and arrive prepared to enjoy this rugged and remote place. Big Bend is a gift from those who came before us, who worked hard to promote and protect the area as a national park. Please recreate responsibly and help ensure this iconic landscape may be enjoyed by future generations.
Additional details on National Park Service visitor statistics is available online at: https://irma.nps.gov/STATS/
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Last updated: January 18, 2022