One possible silver lining to the partial shutdown of the federal government: The closure of Big Bend National Park has created a welcome influx of visitors at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Campers at Big Bend National Park in far West Texas had about 24 hours to vacate the park after Congress declined to pass a budget to keep the National Park Service and other federal operations running beyond Monday.
Barrett Durst, superintendent of Big Bend Ranch State Park, said the state park has seen a 100 percent increase in visitation over the past two days. The phone has been ringing frequently with inquiries from people who originally planned to visit Big Bend National Park.
“Our clientele is probably 90 percent return customers, so hopefully we’ll have a few more people come back to the park now,” Durst said Friday in a telephone interview. “It just opens up the door a little more. Hopefully word will get out, and more folks will start to visit.”
Big Bend Ranch State Park is Texas’ largest state park, encompassing 486 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas. The park sits along the river just west of Big Bend National Park.
The state park recorded 963 visitors in October 2012 between its Sauceda Headquarters, Barton Warnock Visitor Center, and Fort Leaton State Historic Site, Durst said. Durst said he expects the park to reach that number this weekend—the first weekend of the month.
But there’s still plenty of space at the park, which is only about 25 percent full, Durst said. The park has 107 drive-up primitive camping sites and 86 backcountry camping sites.
“Historically, we would have not seen very many people at this time at all,” Durst says. “This is a really good thing. People walk through the door, and say they didn’t even know we were here.”