Devils River

Devils River (Texas)

The Devils River is a pristine, whitewater river in southwestern Texas, USA. From its headwaters (30°20' N, 100°57' W) in northwest Sutton County, it flows southwest for 94 miles through Val Verde County and empties into the northeastern shore (29°28' N, 101°04' W) of the Amistad Reservoir in Del Rio, Texas on the Texas/Mexico border.

The Devils River is one of the most unspoiled rivers in the United States due to several factors, including its remote location in a hostile environment which inhibits pollution from human and animal populations and due to its path underground for part of its journey. As it passes underground, the gravel, sand and limestone scrub it clean before it re-emerges some twenty miles later. It is one of the cleanest water sources in the world for this reason.

Although it is a popular kayaking and canoeing venue, it is difficult to traverse because the majority of the river is bounded by private property. Luckily much of the river is protected through conservation easements on both sides of the river. The Nature Conservancy is working to protect this river through the Devils River Project. As of now the project has protected 87,000 acres (350 km²) along the river. Along with the Devil's River State Park the protected land along the river totals 110,000 acres.

Traversing the river

The river itself is some ninety miles long, however much of the top half of the river is not suitable for canoeing or kayaking due to the shallow water. The best part of the river for recreation is about forty miles long and runs from Bakers Crossing to the last drop off of the river into lake Amistad. The most common point of entry into the river is Bakers Crossing on U.S. Highway 163. The highway is frequently closed more than half the year due to small amounts of water over the road. Many locals ignore the road closings as it is rarely dangerous to cross these low water crossings. Camping sites are available and you can also leave you're vehicle at Bakers Crossing. Most of the river is fairly calm with mostly class two rapids and small class three rapids, however the river can raise and fall greatly with rainfall, even if the rain is not in the direct area of the river. Dolan Falls is a waterfall about fifteen feet tall and is located at about 16.9 miles and must be avoided. Past Dolan Falls at about 19 miles is three tier rapids, a class four rapid most of the year, but when the river swells, can be a short class 5 and should be attempted by the more experienced only. The river is characterized by long, deep pools with reed covered rapids near the end of these pools. A map is strongly suggested as both Dolan Falls and Three Tier rapids are not able to be seen until you are right on top of them. After Three Tier, there are no more large (over class III) rapids and the river is fairly smooth. Some boulder and fields do occur past Three Tier but are generally small in size. The river finally empties into Lake Amistad after traveling some 40 miles from Bakers Crossing. From this point it is another 12 mile trip on the lake to the last take out at Rough Canyon Marina. The journey for the lake section of the trip can be very strenuous on a person kayaking or canoeing due to the strong south headwind.

The experience

Part of the appeal of the river is its remote location, the very rugged and rough terrain, and lack of human presence. There are only five visible houses in the first twenty miles of river. At about twenty five miles the Dry Devils River flows into the Devils, and is considered by many to be the halfway point. There are many homes in this point of the river and is called the Blue Ridge Subdivision. A simple low water crossing connects both sides of the river. You can leave the river at this point but it is fourteen miles to a paved road. In the past, locals have sometimes been hostile to people camping on private land. However, Texas law states that any navigable waterway and the river bottom are public property.It is suggested you stay within the confines of the river bottom.


  • Devils River, The Nature Conservancy.

External links

  • Bird, Darin and Marc W. McCord. Devils River, Southwest Paddler.
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