Big Bend National Park. Photo by Brandon Jakobeit

Big Bend National Park and Padre Island National Seashore will both be closed for Fourth of July weekend due to COVID-19.

A positive COVID-19 test in the park’s residential community led to the closure of Big Bend Thursday morning with a reopening date unknown. Padre Island will close July 2 at 8 p.m. and reopen at 6 a.m. on July 7.

According to Adam Prato, a Big Bend park ranger interpreter, an employee of the park tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday and is now in isolation. The park allowed visitors to stay overnight but had to leave Thursday morning.

The only people allowed to enter Big Bend are employees, residents, and authorized personnel. The park is following a plan developed with workers in the public health sector. Prato said it will be a minimum of 14 days before the park reopens.

“We are working closely with our state and local partners during this closure,” said Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker in a statement on the park’s website. “Healthy [National Park Service] employees will continue to work behind the scenes, improving the condition of the park, with strict adherence to social distancing and safety protocols to assure their safety. We look forward to reopening the park, when the timing is right, as safely as possible.”

Big Bend Ranch State Park remains open at this time. 

The National Park Service made the decision to close after discussion with Nueces County, the city of Corpus Christi and the city of Port Aransas. The entrance gate will be locked and there will be a law enforcement officer stationed at the entrance as well.

“The local counties and cities requested that the park close for the weekend in order to ensure that all local beaches restricted vehicle traffic to limit the number of people to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Padre Island National Seashore park ranger Jamie Kennedy wrote in an email to Texas Highways. “National Park Service management ultimately decided that it would be good to follow the recommendations of local cities and counties to slow the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, had the park been the only beach to stay open locally during this weekend, we would have seen a dramatic increase in visitation that the park infrastructure is not capable of supporting.”

While Padre Island National Seashore will open back up on July 7, the Malaquite Visitor Center, Malaquite Campground, and Bird Island Basin Campground—all of which haven’t been open since March—will remain closed indefinitely.

We will update this story as our staff receives more information.

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