Carved into the vast, rugged expanse of Val Verde County lie some of Texas’ most inviting waters, offering tempting recreational opportunities for those who crave a unique change of scenery.
Amistad Reservoir and Devils River allow anglers, kayakers, swimmers and divers to explore West Texas’ often intimidating landscape. The adjoining waters provide sister experiences to adventure seekers as towering canyons, diverse rock structures and the subtle green brush paint a dramatic backdrop.
Due to its remote location, Devils River is widely considered one of the most pristine rivers in Texas. The river is encapsulated by rugged, private ranch property and the beautifully preserved, unspoiled land of Devils River State Natural Area.
“It’s kind of like walking back in time,” said Devils River Conservancy Executive Director Julie Lewey. “The river and its watershed are today much like they were thousands of years ago. It’s a step back into the true wilderness of the Texas frontier.”
Many visitors to the natural area have their sights set on Dolan Falls, a set of cascades situated about a mile’s walk from the natural area’s parking lot. Waters produced by the Edwards and Trinity aquifers eventually run through Dolan Falls, the highest volume waterfall in Texas.
“You come across a really rugged landscape and suddenly you hear this enormously loud waterfall,” Lewey said. “The quantity of water is magnificent. It’s such a profound change in gradient on the river.”
The river is a popular avenue for experienced kayakers. According to Lewey, about 3,000 kayakers travel the river each year. Many enter the river at the conservancy while others start further upstream at Baker’s Crossing.
Devils River kayakers will wind their way through impressive canyons, viewing rare wildlife and ancient cave drawings, painted by the native Pecos people more than 3,000 years ago, along the way.
“You see wilderness events; interactions with nature that you can’t find anywhere else anymore,” Lewey said. “It’s a true submersion into wilderness. It’s one of the last places you can do that in Texas.”
Devils River joins Pecos River and Rio Grande at the U.S. Mexico Border and where they feed into Lake Amistad. With 851 miles of coastline, 547 on the U.S. side, Lake Amistad brims with recreational opportunities for adventure seekers of all varieties, says Park Superintendent Chris Ryan.
“Amistad encompasses ruggedly scenic canyonlands associated with the three rivers,” Ryan says. “My favorite area is the Rio Grande, with steep canyon walls both in Mexico and the United States.”
Lake Amistad is known in the angler community for its year-round fishability. The lake hosts about 200 tournaments each season and attracts more than one million visitors a year. (Photo left: Located on the U.S. Mexico border, about 177 miles east of San Antonio, Amistad Reservoir is home to several recreation activities, including boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking, birding, hunting and more. Courtesy Amistad National Recreation Area or National Park Service.)
“The recreation area is best known for outstanding water-based recreation activities, including some of the finest black bass fishing in the southwestern United States.” Ryan said.
Although most popular for bass fishing, anglers might also catch carp, crappe, and catfish. Paddle boarding, swimming and other water sports are other popular activities for lake-goers. Convenient spots include Governor’s Landing, Southwinds and Spur 545, but only when lake levels are low enough for access.
The land surrounding Devils River and Lake Amistad may appear outwardly intimidating, but with a little effort, recreationists will discover increasingly rare crystal-clear waters and the authentic, untouched beauty of southwest Texas.
Visit Del Rio
Amistad National Recreation Area Visitor Center
10477 Highway 90 West
Del Rio, TX 78840
Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sun.-Sat.
Devils River State Natural Area
21715 Dolan Creek Rd.
Del Rio, TX 78840
8 a.m. Friday to 5 p.m. on Monday