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Plan a Kayak Backpacking Trip on Texas’ “Devils River”

devils river state natural area

The vast expanse of the state of Texas boasts just about every geological feature and type of city that you could dream up. Texas does have it all, from charming coastal towns on the Gulf to piney woods in the east to the dusty panhandle to the rolling Hill Country to the Chihuahuan Desert on the way out west.

Spanning 37,000 acres and three diverse ecosystems in the southwestern area of Texas 66 miles north of Del Rio, the Devils River State Natural Area presents an incredible oasis of unique outdoor enjoyment. Here’s why you should make it the centerpiece of your next kayaking adventure.

Devils River State Natural Area

Spanning 37,000 acres and three diverse ecosystems in the southwestern area of Texas 66 miles north of Del Rio, the Devils River State Natural Area presents an incredible oasis of unique outdoor enjoyment.

This Val Verde County Natural Area is managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). It contains one of the most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the state. Crystal clear waters, towering canyons, and brushy river banks create this natural wonderland that is a paddler’s paradise.

About the Land

This illustrious land is home to the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Jumanos, Kónits??íí gokíyaa (Cúelcahén Ndé – Lipan Apache), and Coahuiltecan Native tribes. The modern-lay land is approximately 4 hours from Austin and San Antonio in a glorious pocket of southwest Texas. Not a State Park but a State Natural Area, Devils River offers pristine rivers, primitive camping, and epic river-trip adventures.

The three ecosystems that make up the Devils River SNA are the Chihuahuan Desert, the Tamaulipan Mezquital, and the Edwards Plateau. As opposed to a State Park, the State Natural Area aims to protect the unique places and species of the region. The Natural Area, the Del Norte Unit, and the Dan A. Hughes Unit are connected by the Natural Area.

How to Visit

Visiting this remote natural area requires more planning and organizing than a typical weekend getaway. This ecologically intact river system with its precious springs and protected wildlife means most visitors need a permit and must adhere to strictly enforced Leave No Trace principles.

If you plan on paddling, this river trip can be strenuous, exhausting, but oh-so-worth-it! Paddlers who plan to make this adventure need to obtain a Devils River Access Permit (DRAP) to stay at the paddler camps for anything longer than a day-use excursion.

Paddling the River

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Those looking to kayak the river are encouraged to have three days worth of supplies and have extensive paddling experience. There is a 1-mile trek to the river access from the parking area, so you must carry all your gear (so pack lightly!). To snag a DRAP pass and reserve your campsites, call (512) 389-8901. Be sure to read the overview of the Devils River Access Permit to make sure you are prepared.

The full-distance paddle from Baker’s Crossing to Lake Amistad (almost 50 miles total) takes at least four days to finish. You must remove all of your trash and pack out what you bring in. Campfires are prohibited in the Devils River SNA or any of the TPWD paddler camps. Fire is only permitted within the gradient boundaries of the river when Val Verde County is NOT on a burn ban.

Other Activities at DRSNA

Besides paddling, the Devil’s River State Natural Area is home to 20 miles of trails that offer wildlife watching, mountain biking, and primitive sites for campers.

Dolan Falls Preserve

Halfway between Del Rio and Sonora lies another jewel of southwest Texas: Dolan Falls Preserve. This area presents 4,788 acres along the Devils River, with an additional 129,521 acres owned or under contract with The Nature Conservancy. The terrain is composed of the immaculate waters of Dolan Springs, Dolan Creek, and the Devils River.

Important Information

Visitors can find devils River at 21715 Dolan Creek Rd., Del Rio, TX 78840. For a day trip, the area is open from 8 a.m. Friday to 5 p.m. on Monday and closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Entry fees are $5 for people 13 years and older. The phone number for the office is (830) 395-2133, and you can make reservations online or by phone at (512) 389-8901.

The nearest towns include Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Visit the Amistad National Recreation Area, Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site, and Kickapoo Cavern State Park.

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