BBNP River Use Rules & Regulations – a couple of changes


If you are coming to the Big Bend and intend to get on the Rio Grande, it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with the Rules and Regulations that apply to this reach of the river. Big Bend National Park has posted these on their website. Most of these R&R’s are in place to help protect the resource or to help insure that you have the right equipment along to have a safe trip down the river. Other rules are in place to aid in the management of this fine part of the backcountry.

For those of you that are planning on taking part in a guided tour with Desert Sports, we’ll take care of all the details; from getting the proper permit to making sure we have all the right equipment to abide by these rules. Desert Sports, as an outfitter is required to follow all these R&R’s as well as a handful of other requirements specific to commercial operations. We take pride in working with the National and State Parks to protect this wonderful resource and to enhance the experience that our visitors have while on tours.

Forms & Permits

If you are planning on doing the trip on your own, what we call a Self-Guided Trip, it would be a good idea to get to know all these R&R’s. Even if you have been coming to the Big Bend for river trips for a while and have a good knowledge of these, it is worth noting that there have been a couple of recent changes that can affect your trip. One thing that has been going on for a couple of years now is that multi-day trips require a $10 fee for your Trip Permit, day trips are still free. There is also the requirement for submitting a Customs Form for each trip, as we have been doing for the last few years.


There are a couple of rule changes that are new and have recently been added to the River use R&R: Every overnight river trip is required to have some sort of Toilet System. One canoe or kayak only trips are no longer exempt from this requirement. You can use one of the approved chemical bagged waste containment systems or a dumpstation compatible waste containment system. Desert Sports has the bagged system for sale (recommended for most small trips) and we also rent a small dumpable system. Every overnight river trip is now required to carry some sort of Firepan, even if you do not intend to have a campfire. No diameter is specified but it does have to have sides at least 2” high to conform to the requirement. You can only burn dead and downed wood or charcoal and you are required to carry out all floatable debris. It is worth looking at these changes on the page linked to above, just so you can see it for yourself in the words they use.


One other item worth noting, with the changes in legalities in carrying Firearms in the park, is referred to in the River use R&R. The use or discharge of firearms is prohibited within the park. It is also worth noting that possession of firearms or ammunition in Mexico is a felony and this includes the Mexican side of the river. Because of this, Desert Sports does not allow any firearms on any of our guided trips. You cannot do a river trip without at least getting into Mexican waters, even if you never touch the Mexican shore. I tell people that if you feel like you need a gun for protection on your vacation that perhaps you should be going somewhere different. In over 20 years of guiding I have never felt that a gun would make the situation better and see no reason to carry one on trips.

These are all the new changes that we have noted. Even if you are a veteran of the Rio Grande, it is worth reviewing the River use Rules and Regulation from time to time just to stay current and make sure there are no surprises when you arrive for your trip and find out there are new requirements to get your permit. We keep ourselves in the loop with the folks at the park and will continue to pass along any further changes.

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