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Texas

Big Bend National Park reaches all-time record for number of visitors

 The mountainous desert landscape at Big Bend National Park.
Mark Stevens via Flickr/Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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The mountainous desert landscape at Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend National Park reached a significant milestone this year: surpassing 500,000 visitors in a calendar year — a first in the park’s 76-year history.

There’s still a few weeks left until the end of 2021, but the latest numbers show the Far West Texas destination has seen 524,126 visitors so far in 2021. This tops the previous yearly record in 2019 of 463,832 visitors.

Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker
says it’s important to keep in mind that almost all national parks in rural areas saw huge growth during the pandemic, so the increase in number of visitors is not unique to Big Bend.
“It’s not related to anything that we’re doing specifically here, but there is a pent-up demand post-pandemic. And I think a lot of people realize that wide open spaces are good places to be when health has been perceived to be at risk”, he said.

Krumenaker says most of the park’s visitors are from Texas and from the big cities. He says the last time the park did a survey of visitors, more than 60 percent were from Texas.

“So, we find that in the typical year, it’s people from Texas who are coming back and maybe bringing their friends, too,” he said, “But one thing that has been unique since the pandemic is we’re seeing a much higher percentage of first-time visitors than we have before.”

Krumenaker says the increase in visitors can be a challenge at times, like making sure there are enough staff on hand to help visitors have quality experiences each time they visit the park. But he says everyone is welcome, all they ask is that visitors plan ahead.

“This park is really remote. It is hard to get help if you need it. And so people who are well prepared, do their homework, bring the proper equipment. It’s not terribly complicated,” he said. “So, we’re making a huge effort to educate people better before they come and that helps.”

Copyright 2021 Marfa Public Radio.

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