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National Preserve lands reopen Sunday under modified operations post-Hurricane Laura 

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KOUNTZE, Texas — All national preserve lands will reopen Sunday, Aug. 30. The park’s Incident Response Team confirms that all park facilities and infrastructure remain undamaged by the forces of Hurricane Laura. We encourage all visitors to the preserve to exercise caution, as trees and branches may have blown down in the storm. It may take a few days until all debris can be safely removed. 

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Big Thicket National Preserve will resume modified operations on Sunday, Aug. 30. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. 

Beginning Sunday, Aug. 30, Big Thicket National Preserve will reopen access to: 

  • All 40-plus miles of official hiking trails, including the popular Kirby Nature Trail, Sundew Trail, and Pitcher Plant Trail, will be 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 will be 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. 
  • The issuance of back-country camping permits will also resume, over the phone. Visitors wishing to get a back-country camping permit are asked to call the park visitor center at 409-951-6700, seven days a week, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Park staff will complete the paperwork over the phone and mail permit and all the associated paperwork to the requesting party. Visitors are encouraged to place permit requests at least a week in advance to ensure the request can be processed in a timely manner. Visitors can find trail maps and back-country camping information on the preserve’s website at
  • The issuance of special use permits, and filming permits will also resume. More information can be found at 

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1, we will:

  • Start issuing hunting permits over the phone. Starting Sept. 1, visitors wishing to get a hunting permit are asked to call the park visitor center at 409-951-6700, seven days a week, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Park staff will complete the paperwork over the phone and mail all the associated paperwork to the requesting party. Prospective hunters will need to have their valid Texas State Hunting License and be able to provide the customer number to park staff over the phone.  
  • Visitors can find hunting maps and park-specific hunting regulations on the preserve’s website at .  
  • During this period of modified operations, immediate family members can request hunting permits for others, as long as they can provide that individual’s customer number from their Texas hunting license over the phone.  
  • These modified procedures will remain in effect only during periods when the preserve visitor center is not open for in-person visitor services. When in-person visitor services resume, prospective hunters seeking a hunting permit will be asked to obtain those permits in-person. We will cease issuing permits over the phone once the visitor center is open.  
  • Hunters seeking a disability permit for special UTV use in designated hunting units need to make this request at the same time as obtaining their hunting permit over the phone. A Special Use Permit application along with instructions on how to get this disability permit will be mailed along with the hunting permit. 
  • All other hunting regulations remain in effect.

With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:

  • The Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center and Headquarters complex remain closed to the public.   
  • All ranger-led programs, academic field trips, volunteer workdays, and special events remain cancelled until further notice.  
  • Most vault toilets at trailheads and day use areas throughout the preserve remain closed until further notice.  

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Big Thicket National Preserve, our operational approach continues to be centered on examining each facility function and service to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and are regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and workspaces are safe and clean.  

A safe and enjoyable park experience begins at home. The NPS encourages visitors to plan their visit by checking the park’s website and social media for current conditions and travel tips. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We ask the public to be our partner in recreating responsibly, by following CDC and state and local guidance, social distancing, and wearing a face covering when social distance cannot be maintained.  

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on our website and social media channels @BigThicektNPS. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on  

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 419 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at  



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