Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Big Thicket National Preserve has temporarily modified its visitor services. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and use a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. Currently at Big Thicket National Preserve the following areas and activities are available:
- All 40+ miles of official hiking trails, including the popular Kirby Nature Trail, Sundew Trail and Pitcher Plant Trail, are available for daytime use.
- Access to water-based recreation, such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking and motor-boating, remains abundant along the Neches River, Village Creek, Turkey Creek and numerous other small tributaries throughout the preserve.
- All boat launches are open, including the Confluence Boat Launch in Orange County and McQueens Landing Boat Launch in Jasper County.
- All picnic areas are accessible, including Edgewater Day Use Area in Jefferson County, the picnic shelter at the Sundew Trail in Tyler County, and many other informal picnic spots at trailheads throughout the park.
More information, including maps and other details about all these activities and locations, can be found on the preserve website at nps.gov/bith. With public health in mind, the following services remain unavailable at this time:
- The Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center and Headquarters complex remain closed to the public.
- The issuance of all backcountry camping, trapping and special-use permits remains suspended until further notice. Those with active permits may continue to operate through the duration of their permit period.
- All ranger-led programs, academic field trips, volunteer workdays and special events remain canceled until further notice. “In these turbulent times, while practicing physical distancing, we hope that everyone can safely find relaxation and enjoyment in the many recreational activities the national preserve has to offer,” stated Big Thicket National Preserve Superintendent Wayne Prokopetz. “In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to providing everyone with safe and meaningful ways to reconnect to their national parks.”
The health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers and partners continues to be paramount. At Big Thicket National Preserve, the operational approach will be to examine and regularly monitor each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance. They continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and staff workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners and volunteers. A return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.