Texans no longer have to cross state lines to camp overnight. After a six-week hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic, Texas state parks resumed limited camping on Monday, May 18 — but with one caveat.
Only existing reservations (which got postponed during the shutdown) will be honored at the moment. No new reservations can be booked yet.
The rule is an attempt to control overcrowding and maintain safe social distancing at state parks, officials say.
"After careful consideration, we are taking this additional step towards returning to normal operations in our parks by resuming some overnight camping at Texas State Parks," Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director, said in a statement. "As overnight campers are welcomed back to their favorite natural spaces, our team will continue maintaining the cleanliness of frequently used facilities such as campsites, cabins, and restrooms to ensure that visitors, volunteers, and staff can continue to enjoy Texas State Parks safely."
The department will notify the public when new reservations can be booked.
Texas parks reopened for day use only on April 20 as the first step in Gov. Greg Abbott's plan for getting the state back to business amid the COVID-19 crisis. Parks in all corners of the state had been a refuge for Texans with cabin fever when shelter-in-place began in March. But by the end of the month, restrictions in parks tightened, and on April 7, they closed their gates indefinitely.
TPWD urges visitors to continue to adhere to local, state, and federal guidelines for safety and social distancing before traveling.
All visitors must pre-purchase and print day-use and overnight camping permits through the Texas State Parks Reservation System before entering a park. All reservations can be made online or by calling 512-389-8900.
In addition, the following rules apply:
- Masks and face coverings are strongly encouraged, but not required. (Masks will not be provided by the parks.)
- Six-foot social distancing is required.
- No groups larger than five people are allowed, except for families or people living in the same household.
Visitors are encouraged to bring all necessary provisions, including their masks and hand sanitizer, with them to help local businesses stay in stock for their own communities, TPWD advises.
The parks also will continue to operate at a limited capacity.
"Operational changes still in effect at parks include the suspension of all transactions at parks, equipment rentals and in-person interpretive programs," the agency says on its website. "All group-use facilities, visitor and nature centers, headquarters and other enclosed spaces where people congregate will also remain closed."
To troubleshoot issues with the reservation system online, visit the reservation help page on the TPWD website. To find out about park closures due to weather, construction, and other factors, check TPWD's Texas State Parks Alert Map.