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Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Had NO idea......

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Offline kbingy

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Had NO idea......
« on: January 06, 2015, 09:13:13 AM »
We have been planning our trip to Big Bend for ages and although I knew it's best not to go during spring break. :-[ I didn't realize how early that was there.  Here in Michigan spring break comes at Easter,,,so needless to say, we are going during the worst time of the year and those times are rather in stone....so...here is what I need help with:

We found one site available to reserve for the Sunday the 8th....so we did thinking then we will be there EARLY the next morning to either find a walk in site, or...get a back country site with the 24 hour advance.

Is this even possible?  If so, what is the best way to accomplish this?  Should one of us go to the PJ office for a back country permit while someone else stays back and walks around looking for someone is who is leaving from the non reserved sites? 

How about cottonwood?  What time would one go there? Is it possible to reserve a site there at the PJ place?  Or do you have to drive there and look around?  If they are first come first serve, can you find out what is avalible in one spot?

I guess, because I've never been there, it looks like places are far apart and I just don't know how to go about this with no reservation.  We have a small fiberglass trailer with high suspention plus solar panels and 4 wheel drive truck and wanted to stay for a week.  We would stay in a campground or back country, whatever anyone thinks would be most likely to find at that time.

Thanks all for any help you can give me... :icon_biggrin:  karen

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Online steelfrog

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2015, 09:34:30 AM »
You won't have any trouble getting a backcountry site as long as you are flexible, even at that time.

You could consider zone camping as well. 

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Offline kbingy

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2015, 10:00:15 AM »
OK, after all that, It looks like we CAN move our dates up by one week.  We will just leave this cold weather in Michigan one week earlier than planned. Which means, there are some sites available to book on line, but that might also mean that first come, first serve will be more than possible as well, right? IF that is the case, maybe we could just wing it. We are also thinking of staying at the RGC for 3 nights, the Basin for 3 nights and maybe a couple nights in the backcountry so that we can hike and explore the areas near each campground instead of driving, or would it just be easier to pick a spot and stay there for the whole time?

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2015, 10:12:47 AM »
The best way to find walk in sites at either the Basin or Rio Grande Village is to find the campground host early in the morning. The host usually has a list of which sites are opening up. Splitting time between the campgrounds is not a bad idea, but without reserved sites, it could be a challenge finding a new site after giving up one. The campgrounds are pretty far apart, so you could spend half a day driving back and forth if you try to see what's open in another campground before leaving your current one.

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Offline presidio

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2015, 10:32:07 AM »
We found one site available to reserve for the Sunday the 8th....so we did thinking then we will be there EARLY the next morning to either find a walk in site, or...get a back country site with the 24 hour advance.

Is this even possible?  If so, what is the best way to accomplish this?  Should one of us go to the PJ office for a back country permit while someone else stays back and walks around looking for someone is who is leaving from the non reserved sites? 

How about cottonwood?  What time would one go there? Is it possible to reserve a site there at the PJ place?  Or do you have to drive there and look around?  If they are first come first serve, can you find out what is avalible in one spot?

it looks like places are far apart and I just don't know how to go about this with no reservation.  We have a small fiberglass trailer with high suspention plus solar panels and 4 wheel drive truck and wanted to stay for a week.  We would stay in a campground or back country, whatever anyone thinks would be most likely to find at that time.

Thanks all for any help you can give me... :icon_biggrin:  karen

Spring break always is crowded. Yes, things are far apart; it's a big place. Except for the reservation sites, everything is first-come, first served. As you enter the park you can inquire at the fee booth about current campground occupancy. There also are signs that show you the current status. So, you will know upon entering the availability of the developed campgrounds: Basin, Rio Grande Village and Cottonwood (which is pretty much the order of popularity among those needing developed facilities.

Since folks don't have to vacate until noon each day, you can spend a lot of time waiting to see what will open up (though many departing are out reasonably early).

With a small high clearance trailer, you have a lot of options for the backcountry sites so your best bet might be to be in line at the backcountry office when it opens in the morning. Some of the backcountry sites are convenient to the middle area of the park, but they tend to be popular for that reason, as well as ease of access over the more remote places.

A site that I believe frequently is overlooked by many campers, and may sometimes be the last place to fill up is Hannold Draw. It is a few miles north of Panther Junction and is just about the most centrally located backcountry site.

A lot of folks that might wander into Hannold Draw are not impressed with the place. Essentially, it is a large gravel pit where the NPS stores road maintenance equipment and other things that do not enhance the scenery.

http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/campsite_hannold-draw.htm

Since you most likely will be arriving via the Persimmon Gap entrance, you will pass Hannold Draw 4 miles before arriving at Panther Junction. It's just off the paved road so you can quickly stop in to see if it's occupied (there's only a single site) and immediately go to the backcountry office to secure it.

Since Panther Junction is in the middle of the park, you will be able to easily decide which way to go for a site. If the crowds are at the usual levels, I'd suggest picking a site and staying in it the entire time. Regardless of where you camp, you are going to be doing a lot of driving in a week.

If you get dry gulched by no park sites, there's always the private Stillwell site, which is SE of Persimmon Gap and before you enter the park.
http://stillwellstore.com/

It's a drive but one of the few places where you can be assured of finding a site that doesn't have the artificial occupancy limits of the park. Other out of park options are in the Terlingua/Study Butte area west of the park.

If you should have to use an external site like Stillwell's, carry some chairs or other things you can drop at a park campsite that you may later find available to claim it (pay the fee and put the receipt on the post).

As you marvel at the crowds in such a remote place, keep in mind there's only a very few times a year when so many people show up. Usually, you have the place to yourself if you come outside of spring break or the major holidays.
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline ds9writer

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2015, 10:48:25 AM »
We've found that there are more campsites (backcountry at least) available a little later in the week (as in Monday-Wednesday) than there are Sat-Sun... not sure why, but this has been the case on several spring break trips...  so if you have a site for the 8th, then you may be fine for some of the backcountry sites listed above for later in the week...  (but snag them the second you get to the park)

...and we found Grapevine hills nearly empty Tue-Wed of spring break last year, though a trailer may be difficult for the farther back sites...??
You don't travel to see different things,
You travel to see things differently.

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Offline kbingy

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2015, 11:00:23 AM »
Yeah, what a difference a week makes.! Once we wrapped our heads around making a break for it a week earlier, all our troubles faded away.  WE now have reservations for 6 nights in the Basin campground till Saturday the 7th, then added a nite onto the one had earlier to make 2 at the RCV campground till Monday the 9th and if we want to stay longer, the ability to do just what others said about securing back country sites. By then we will have a pretty good lay of the land as well.  Thanks for all the feedback.  Can't wait to experience the park!

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Offline kevint

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2015, 01:29:24 PM »
Although the backcountry sites are where I'd prefer to stay, on your first visit, I recommend doing just what you have done and locate yourself centrally in the basin.  After you've gotten familiar with the park as a whole, you can move to a backcountry site.  Some of them take a few hours to get to so they aren't suited to running around the park
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

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Offline ds9writer

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2015, 01:36:50 PM »
Although the backcountry sites are where I'd prefer to stay, on your first visit, I recommend doing just what you have done and locate yourself centrally in the basin.  After you've gotten familiar with the park as a whole, you can move to a backcountry site.  Some of them take a few hours to get to so they aren't suited to running around the park

I can attest to that!  McKinney Spring campsite, though only being around 7 1/2 miles from the main road, takes nearly 1 1/2 hours to get to down the 4WD Old Ore Road!  So you're spending nearly 3 hours just driving to and from your campsite!!!  Very nice, very secluded, but sometimes not worth the extra driving time...
You don't travel to see different things,
You travel to see things differently.

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Offline kevint

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Re: Had NO idea......
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2015, 02:22:09 PM »
Although the backcountry sites are where I'd prefer to stay, on your first visit, I recommend doing just what you have done and locate yourself centrally in the basin.  After you've gotten familiar with the park as a whole, you can move to a backcountry site.  Some of them take a few hours to get to so they aren't suited to running around the park

I can attest to that!  McKinney Spring campsite, though only being around 7 1/2 miles from the main road, takes nearly 1 1/2 hours to get to down the 4WD Old Ore Road!  So you're spending nearly 3 hours just driving to and from your campsite!!!  Very nice, very secluded, but sometimes not worth the extra driving time...

I wrote from experience, except mine was gained at La Noria instead of McKinney Springs.
Both great places from which to base some local exploration, not daytrips throughout the park.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

 


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