If you’re looking for a day trip packed with museums, restaurants, and shopping, then stay away from the Devils River. However, if you’re looking for an adventure surrounded by nothing but God’s green earth that’s totally off the grid, then a paddling trip down the Devils River might be exactly what you need. Below is a step by step guide of how to prepare for your trip and what you'll find.
First, some tips!
This wild, West Texas river snakes its way through some of the roughest country in Texas, starting in the middle of the desert, and eventually winding its way into Lake Amistad along the Rio Grande and very close to the city of Del Rio. The water is an amazing turquoise blue, but don’t let its beauty deceive you — behind its alluring façade is a myriad of toils and travails. Waterfalls, rapids, snakes, scorpions, and flash floods – not to mention VERY protective land owners that would rather not have you paddling through their giant backyard. Just make sure you know the rules and come prepared to face anything the river may throw at you. Start your trip by contacting Texas Parks and Wildlife to get a list of the rules and a permit. The rules are too long to list here, but the most important one is that you stay within the riverbed and respect private property. You don’t want to anger the land owners that keep this river so pristine.
Next, I recommend finding an outfitter. There are a number of fishing guides that can set you up on a very nice trip. For for the DIY types, I HIGHLY recommend Amistad Expeditions. They can not only rent you a boat, but also give you a shuttle and valuable insight into the river. Check TPWD’s website for a list of other recommended guides.
Choose your paddling route
You’ll then need to figure out what part of the river you want to paddle. The most popular runs are (1) from Baker’s Crossing to the State Park’s South “Big Satan” unit or (2) the shorter run from the State Park’s North “Del Norte” unit down to “Big Satan.” Be warned that the stretch from Baker’s to Del Norte can be super low, meaning you’ll be dragging your boat a lot. Until water levels rise, I’d stick to option 2. Also be advised that the “Big Satan” unit is closed to the public, but open to approved guides taking paddlers off the river. This is another reason you’ll want to stick with one of the guides on TPWD’s website. Paddling below “Big Satan” is tough as the river widens going into the lake and the strong canyon headwinds can be brutal.
As you paddle down the river, there are a number of amazing sites and things to do. The fishing on Devils River is epic, especially for largemouth and small mouth bass, so make sure you have a license and a fishing pole. Also, the Dolan Falls waterfall is an amazing natural wonder and super-cool swimming hole. Just be careful — it’s owned by the Nature Conservancy, so enjoy, but be respectful too. Finally, don’t miss the prehistoric pictographs on some of the cave walls. The best one that can be appreciated from the riverbed is on Turkey Bluff and depicts a coyote chasing a turkey…a storyline that predates Wylie Coyote by some 4,000 years.
The most important thing you must remember is that the Devils River is the most pristine river in Texas for a reason. It is heavily guarded by both the public and private entities that watch over its water. Rivers are meant for public enjoyment, but everyone must be respectful of the land and water. After all, it’s the river’s beauty that draws you out here, so don’t mess it up now.