The good thing about Texas is that there are plenty of rivers to paddle. The bad thing about Texas is that there are plenty of rivers to paddle. That’s not a contradiction. There are so many good fishing rivers within two hours of Fort Worth, that it’s become easy to paddle nearby rivers like the Brazos or the Trinity, and that can eat away at the resources needed to paddle more remote waterways, like the Devils River.
Dan was lucky, though, and able to sneak away for a few days recently to paddle the Devils River in Val Verde County where he captured some nice photos of the remote river. He went with Ryan, who put the trip together to kick off his summer and invited Dan to accompany him along with two others. You may remember Ryan from our Pecos flood trip…yeah, same guy.
The group paddled a 15-mile stretch spanning the 37,000 acre Devils River State Natural Area—putting in at the DRSNA’s northern unit, known as Del Norte, and paddling down to the southern unit known as Big Satan where they spent one final night.
Although the four paddlers got rained on some during the four-day trip, the water didn’t turn too muddy on them, and they were able to land lots of fish. No trophy-sided fish were caught, but there’s nothing wrong with catching lots of buck bass while floating down a remote Texas river.
One of the highlights of the trip was a chance encounter with some land owners on the third day of the trip. Most landowners in that part of the river don’t take kindly to paddlers, but this group greeted the group warmly and offered them a cold beer, which went down nicely after three days on the river without so much as an ice cube.
The Devils River was originally named the San Pedro (Saint Peter) by early Spanish explorers, but legend has it that a captain in the Texas Rangers named Jack Hays, after having spent days exploring the rugged canyon lined river, declared that it reminded him more of the Devil’s river than Saint Peter’s.
For Dan to experience a trip like this would not have been possible without the generosity of Mountain Sports in Arlington. They outfitted us with kayaks after the Pecos flood and continue to support us; without them, it would have taken us much longer to get back to paddling rivers…even longer for a river like the Devils.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to ensure paddlers know of the hardships and dangers before going to the Devils, and you need not look any further than their DRSNA website for proof of that. One page warns that the river can be “difficult and challenging to plan, exhausting to navigate, and life-threatening if not prepared, even for the most seasoned paddlers. Since there are currently no public take-out sites accessible by private vehicle between Baker’s Crossing and Lake Amistad, it is critical for paddlers to plan and prepare well in advance for a physically demanding, remote river trip…”
As I went through Dan’s photos, I was reminded of my favorite Devils river quote, from Texas Monthly author S.C.Gwynne, who wrote of the river’s unique topography:
“The Devils River is as close as you can get, in Texas, to the middle of nowhere. That is saying something, considering that much of the western part of the state is devoid of human life. In the Big Bend country there are at least familiar landmarks. In the Panhandle there are cities and towns. Here, there is pretty much nothing. The river originates in a series of creeks near the towns of Ozona and Sonora that merge near the ghost town of Juno. Thus formed, the Devils tumbles roughly a hundred miles southward through a gigantic swath of mesquite-dotted emptiness until it dumps into Lake Amistad, north of Del Rio. Because there is hardly any civilization anywhere in its four-thousand-square-mile watershed—there isn’t even much livestock—there is little pollution of any kind. Ecologically speaking, the land is a one-of-a-kind hybrid, a collision of Hill Country limestone river bottoms, Chihuahuan Desert uplands, and what botanists refer to as Tamaulipan thornscrub, basically Mexican brushlands. To me it just looks like John Wayne country—immense cactus- and mesquite-covered mesas cut by twisting, rock-toothed canyons.”
Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish