Ten years ago February, we went to Big Bend National Park and dispersed camped with Diane Bailey, her friend Ivan and our soon to be friend Sam. We met Diane at a Vintage rally in in Austin a few weeks earlier and made plans to meet up at Big Bend (pictured below).
I really don’t remember how we knew where to meet, or what the logistics were, so I recently messaged Diane asking where exactly we had camped and did she have the GPS coordinates. Diane told me it was a spot called Hannold Draw.
We had a big list of dispersed camping locations that we planned to visit for Campendium, so I wasn’t worried about finding a place to camp. As we entered the park, we checked out Nine Point Draw (pictured above). It was a really beautiful spot, though a little tight.
From there we headed to Hannold Draw. We figured it would be our basecamp since it’s a nice central location in the park. Ten years ago, we had a couple airstreams, a tent and a truck camper. There was plenty of room then, so we were surprised how it changed.
We found many construction vehicles, a class A and no room for us. Brian jumped out to take some photos and chatted with the guy who was camping there. He told us that we needed to go to Panther Junction to “reserve” a backcountry site.
Ok, we figured there were still some good options in the area, but soon learned from the ranger that everything was booked. Dispersed camping at Big Bend National Park is not first come first serve in the traditional sense, where you show up and the spot is yours. You actually have to go to the visitor center and tell them the size of your rig and they tell you what is available for the night. For us? Nothing dispersed, but at least there was still availability at the Rio Grande Campground.
If we had more time and were planning to be at Big Bend for the next 2 weeks, the ranger could have “booked” us into a dispersed spot, on Monday or Tuesday. But at 4p on a Saturday afternoon, there wasn’t anything available.
The next day we scouted many of the “roadside primitive camping” spots. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have one to call our own, but learned a lot for next time. In the next week or so, I’ll be posting a rundown of all of the dispersed camping in Big Bend National Park on the Campendium blog, including which sites have cell service!
2016 Cost of Camping:
22 nights free camping
17 nights paid camping
39 days this year
Total spent on camping this year: $344
Daily average cost of camping: $8.82