Primitive Camping in South Texas

Primitive Camping in South Texas
Southern Texas offers a variety of primitive camping that includes the rugged mountains of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park to the isolation of Matagorda Island. Most of the camping exists in national and state parks, featuring the gems Texas has to offer. Southern Texas offers a unique freedom to campers, with open beaches and mountains to explore, hike and camp on with little restrictions.

Big Bend National Park

There are three frontcountry primitive campgrounds in the Big Bend National Park with 191 campsites that include the Rio Grande Village, the Cottonwood and the Chisos Basin campgrounds. The Rio Grande Village is the only campground that has public restrooms, laundry facilities and store. There are also more than 100 primitive backcountry camping in the Chisos Mountains. Four-wheel drive vehicles, horses or backpacking is the recommended method of getting into the backcountry sites. The unpaved roads in the park are generally unsuitable for other vehicles and trailers. Permits are required for camping in the backcountry, obtainable at the park visitor center.

Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
432-477-2251 Headquarters
877-444-6777 Reservations

Padre Island National Seashore

Five campgrounds offer primitive camping on Padre Island. Bird Island Basin is known for windsurfing and is located on the Laguna Madre, four miles from the visitor's center. The Malaquite campground has 50 campsites located less than a mile from the visitor's center and less than 100 feet from the beach. Malaquite has rinse showers, picnic tables and toilets. The North Beach campground is free with camping available from the park's northern boundary to the one-mile marker.

South Beach is a free camping area from the end of Park Road 22 and extends 60 miles south. All driving is on the beach. The beaches beyond the five mile marker is only open to four-wheel drive vehicles. Yarborough Pass is located in Laguna Madre, 15 miles south of the visitor's center. Access to this area is only through the four-wheel drive area of South Beach. There is a 15-mile marker on South Beach that marks the turn for Yarborough Pass. Camping in all areas of Padre Island, regardless of camping costs, require a camping permit that can be obtained at any of the entrances.

Padre Island National Seashore
Corpus Christi, TX 78480

Choke Canyon State Park

Choke Canyon is located 12 miles west of Three Rivers, Texas and offers primitive camping in the Calliham campground. The campground has facilities, such as restrooms with showers, picnic tables and fire rings. The park has a 75-acre lake, two miles of hiking trails, and as part of a joint project with the Bureau of Reclamation and the American Birding Association there is a birding trail and wildlife education center. Choke Canyon sees large numbers and varieties of birds making this park one of "Texas' finest places to watch birds" according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Choke Canyon State Park
Calliham, TX 78007

Goose Island State Park

Goose Island State Park is located on Aransas Bay, north of Rockport, Texas and offers year-around primitive camping. There are restrooms with showers in the camping area. Although near the water, there is no swimming from the state park. Camping, birding and fishing are the most popular activities at Goose Island. There are guided nature hikes year-around and birding tours January through April.

Goose Island State Park
202 S. Palmetto Street
Rockport, TX 78382

Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area

Matagorda Island is a 38-mile long barrier island off the coast of Texas, 11 miles from Port O'Connor. There is no ferry service to the island. The only access to the island is by private or charter boat. Motorized vehicles are not authorized on the island. The only camping on the island is primitive camping. There are 13 campsites available near the dock area with barbeque pits. Camping is also authorized on the gulf front beaches.

Matagorda Island WMA
Bay City, TX 77414

Article Written By Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan is a military veteran and a professional in the safety, travel and aviation industries. Duncan has been writing since 2002 for magazines, newspapers, local business literature and on such websites as He has earned his Bachelor of Science in professional aeronautics and his Master of Business Administration.

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