Visiting Big Bend National Park in October? Be Aware of Road Work in the Chisos Basin

Roads at Big Bend offer some outstanding scenery. Photo by Jim Burnett.

If you've visited Big Bend National Park in the last several years, you may have noticed that most of the paved roads in the park were overdue for some work. The folks who handle highway maintenance understand that periodic upkeep on pavement saves money in the long run; it's a situation where the cliché "pay me now or pay me (a lot more) later" definitely applies, but finding the funds to do periodic maintenance is often a challenge for parks.

The good news for the long-term condition of the highways in Big Bend is that the park has received funding for a park-wide pavement preservation project, including chip seal work throughout the park. There is, of course, a small trade-off in convenience for visitors whose trips coincide with the work, and the park wants to get the word out to help the public with travel planning.

The work is now underway and is being completed in stages throughout the huge park. In most cases, roads will remain open and motorists will experience only minor delays, but there's one important exception: the road to the Chisos Basin and the Chisos Basin Campground.

At an elevation of 5,400 feet, the Chisos Basin is a cool "green island" that's a popular destination at Big Bend, and the area includes some of the park's key visitor-use facilities, including a major campground and the Chisos Basin Lodge and restaurant. Due to the paving project, the Chisos Basin campground will be closed until October 29. If weather delays occur, the project's end date could be pushed into early November, so check ahead if you plan to camp in the Basin during that time period.

The park staff notes that the "Chisos Basin Road is narrow, steep, and curvy in places," and this requires that the road be closed during the pavement work from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2010. It is expected that work will be completed in one day, but weather or other unexpected delays could extend the closure or even change the date.

The park staff asks visitors "to plan ahead and to check with the park if they will be staying at the lodge or planning activities in the Chisos Basin in late October. Visitors can obtain the latest information available from the park website or by calling 432-477-1108."

This project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Park Superintendent Bill Wellman said, “I am very happy to see this much needed large scale project underway and wish to thank park staff for their hard work and the great results. When the project is complete it will result in a long-lasting and improved road surface for visitors to the park.”

As always during such work, visitors are cautioned to drive carefully due to the possibility of loose gravel from the chip seal project.