Friends of Big Bend National Park
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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Recent Posts

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1
I suspect the main reason that backcountry permits will soon be charged on a daily basis is that recreation.gov probably cannot handle one price for a variable 1 to 14 day for a permit.  They've decided to force the square peg into the existing round hole.  No changes required to the existing reservation system that way.

Still haven't heard the official word on what the plan is for zone camping.
2
Just checked my e-mail and this is what the government representative wrote back to me.  YoungHiker (my daughter) read both messages and stated : "From the way they worded their response, it seems like they don't care what the public thinks, they are just going to do what they want and implement the new system."        :great:

Greetings from Big Bend National Park.
Thank you for taking the time and providing input on the park service's proposed changes to Big Bend reservations and camping fees.

I do have a couple of clarifications regarding concerns mentioned in your comments

1. Campground reservations at Big Bend are managed online through recreation.gov. When visitors reserve a campsite for park campgrounds, they sometimes arrive late in the day or in the evening. Their site is held for the first 24 hours. Typically the visitors let the park know they are late, or that they are on their way and will be there the next day. In that case the sites are held. If no contact is made, during busy times, those sites are released. Refunds are processed through Recreation.gov.

2. The proposed amenity fee changes were derived through a comparison study of similar camping options in the surrounding area, and other regional national park sites. It is NPS policy to regularly review fee structures at each park, and make sure that offerings are in line with other similar opportunities.

3. One of the many advantages of having campsites reservable online through Recreation.gov is that the public can access the site and see which sites are reserved and which sites are available 24/7 in real time. This proposal would increase the numbers of reservable campsites and expand the "reservable" season at the two busiest campgrounds, facilitating park visitors in planning their vacation and ensuring that they have a place to camp. 

Thanks again for your input,


1.  Didn't clarify anything.  I asked for the published policy on "no-shows" and you gave me "during busy times, those sites are released".  What is a busy time?  When are they release?

2.Where exactly in the Big Bend region  are there federally funded campgrounds that the comparison can be made with?  You mentioned Canyonlands as being in the area on the phone.  Well, it's $30 for up to a 14 day permit there, not $168.  In the area?

3.  You really need to list some of these "many advantages".  You have only stated the one obvious thing a reserve system does.   If a system that gives the public up to date info on campsite vacancies is SOOO good, Why can't that be a stand alone feature like it was before?  Why does it have to be paired with reservations?  And at such a high price?

As we say on the trail "It Sucks to Suck."  So, Suck it public.  That's all folks!

3
Are they proposing that zone permits also will be issued by online reservation system?  And/or will experience an increase fee?

If not, won't affect me much.
4
Only about 10 more hours to get your comments in.  Here is what I sent:

Thank you for the opportunity to give input on the proposed camping changes.  I understand the frustrations of people driving a long way to the park and not being able to find front country campsites and can agree to both increasing the number allowed to be reserved in advance and an increase in fees to do so.  My main concern is with the recreation.gov site and the potential abuse of it with people reserving sites and not showing up to use them which would in effect actually reduce the number of sites available to the general public not increase them.

Do you have any good data on how many sites are now reserved online and how many are no shows?  What is the policy for opening up sites that have no shows?  I think that people who do that kind of thing should lose their sites and pay the fees they would have owed.  No refunds for no shows and limited for cancellations.

Likewise I can also see opening the most used backcountry roadside sites to online reservations, these are, in reality, front country sites just with fewer amenities than the three campgrounds.  The fees should be slightly lower but I have the same abuse of the system concerns.

As a backpacker in the park for over 45 years I cannot agree with both opening the Chisos sites to advanced reservations or the enormous fee increase for a permit.  The whole reason for no permits being issued more than 24 hours in advance is the harsh nature of the Big Bend backcountry and the need for most people to have some kind of guidance and discussion of their backpacking plans with a ranger or volunteer.  I would speculate that most people coming to the park to backpack are first timers and first time desert hikers who need guidance, this is a classic ranger interpretive/education job and cannot be substituted by a reservation system.  Backpacking is not the same as car camping.

The proposed reservation system might help in reducing the number of permits having to be written for roadside sites but people will still have to have permits written for backpacking trips as each one will be slightly different and just being able to reserve the Chisos sites will not reduce the need for rangers to write permits for an Outer Mountain Loop hike or any other backpack that might or might not include a stay in the Chisos. 

While $12 for a permit of up to 14 days is probably the lowest in the entire NPS system, at least for major parks, the proposed increase is not “reasonable” and to charge the same per night for a person who carries their camp in on their back as someone who drives up to a site (with a bear box) is ludicrous.  Most parks have either per-site-per-night or per-person-per-night fees and many have a cap.  I think the most reasonable is a fixed fee per permit for simplicity.  Increase it to say $36, a 3X increase but do not make it open ended.  Most of my trips are now zone or wilderness camping of 6 or 7 nights, which would make my permit $72 or $84, that is a huge increase for no additional services.

If you do go to a backpacking reservation system it should include the whole park and should use the software system like Zion or Great Smoky Mountains use, they work well and are easy to use.  With Zion’s system you can reserve but you still have to pick up your permit in person which gives the double check needed in a place like Big Bend.  Do not use recreation.gov for backpacking reservations.
5
Big Bend on the Web / Re: Texas Monthly interview with the Superintendent
« Last post by Imre on Today at 12:54:15 PM »
FM: You are not alone. I would never have guessed the lodge was built on bentonite. In a park that's full of igneous extrusions!
6
Regional News / Re: Ok who was it?
« Last post by The Scorpion on Today at 12:50:16 PM »
haha, not me...wait, what, where is my wallet :eusa_shifty: :eusa_shifty:
7
Hiking the Mountains / Re: Message in a bottle?
« Last post by Imre on Today at 12:49:11 PM »
"Cave man with a sharpie." I'm going to be laughing about that all day. All kidding aside, I hope no one was hurt.
8
  He said some have suggested keeping the old, stabilizing the foundation of the restaurant (apparently it was built in a bed of bentonite).

This just goes to show how geologically ignorant I am, as I would have said that there is no significant amounts of bentonite anywhere in the basin.  :icon_redface:
 Having been impressed with that building since I first saw it when it was maybe only 5 years old or less, I'm going to miss it. :(   I still recall the diagonal wooden cross hatching that they had behind the counter that housed all of their photo film for sale. It always reminded me of a bunch of brick hods full of little yellow bricks (Kodak film boxes).
Still, it isn't what keeps me coming back to the park, so I guess I can let it go. Hopefully they'll pick a new more stable site to build on so that the old building can still function until the new one is ready.
10
Hiking the Mountains / Re: Message in a bottle?
« Last post by Slimkitty on Today at 06:44:51 AM »
The cave man, when confused and frightened by the forces of nature, might find some comfort making primitive cave drawings.  With a f*#%ing sharpie. 
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