CBS7 in Big Bend: Park still open despite government shutdown

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK -- The government shutdown has left the country’s national parks without the service of rangers and other staff members. However, parks like Big Bend are still open.

If you visit Big Bend during the shutdown, you’ll be greeted by signs saying no overnight camping, and visitor centers that are closed down.

However, almost all of the massive park is still open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“There’s still over 148 miles of hiking trails that are open in the National Park,” Robert Alvarez with Visit Big Bend said. “750,000 acres are still totally available, so there’s a ton of things to do out here. I would suggest people still maintain their reservations and plans to come out here.

Park Rangers aren’t allowed to officially be on the job, and bathroom and trash services have been suspended. Still, the park hasn’t been abandoned.

“Forever Resorts has really stepped up to the plate,” Alvarez said. “Really just out of the kindness of their heart, they’ve been taking care of a lot of that, along with some volunteer groups that have been coming down and trying to maintain and make sure the trash doesn’t pile up.”

Although the shutdown may stop some people from visiting the park, others are still making the trip.

“It is so beautiful, we can see that already,” said Jean DeMaster, who drove to Big Bend from Houston. “We know that the wildlife is here. We can see that the cactus is starting to bloom. Those things are what we came to see. So if we have to find it on our own, then we’ll just have to stumble across it.”

Even though you can’t camp in Big Bend, guests can still spend multiple days at the park.

“Absolutely none of the hotels in the area are affected by this government shutdown, including the one in the park,” Alvarez said. “They’re all open and ready for folks.”

Alvarez said the National Park Service and Department of the Interior are trying to gather some extra funding, so that as early as next week they can restore some trash and bathroom service and get operations a little closer to normal.