About four hours west of San Antonio and five from Austin, Devils River State Natural Area is not the easiest place to get to, which is exactly what makes it so special. Clear, spring-fed water runs practically untouched through limestone canyons and untamed wilderness—earning its reputation as one of the most pristine rivers in Texas.
With three different stream conditions—deep pools, shallow waters, and wild rapids—this remote Rio Grande tributary, and the nearby Amistad Reservoir, are ripe for adventure. So, whether you’re an avid paddler looking for the experience of a lifetime, or a water lover ready to unplug (cell service is spotty at best), there’s no better place to soak in pure, wild Texas.
Plan a one- or multi-day excursion on the Devils River that fits your experience level with Amistad Expeditions. The outfitter supplies kayaks and equipment, and will shuttle you to and from the river. Or, if you’re really looking to test your skills, embark on a four-day, 15-mile guided tour down challenging rapids and over rough terrain with Angell Expeditions.
Guided or not, make sure you’re prepared for an extended trip down the Devils River. From securing a permit and reserving campsites, to bringing WAG bags and Leaving No Trace, discover everything you need to know with this planning guide from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
For a more relaxed paddle adventure, head downstream to the calmer waters of the Amistad Reservoir. Rent a recreational kayak for the day through Amistad TCS (Tours, Charters, and Shuttles) and explore the wide-open waters. Or, paddle one of the seven trails that wind through steep-walled canyons to reveal hidden coves, natural springs that flow out of the hillside, and cave walls marked with 4,000-year-old Native American rock art. And don’t forget your binoculars: there’s lots of wildlife in the sky and the brush.
Another great way to experience these turquoise waters is to dive right in. A day paddle trip from Del Norte on the Devils River will bring you to Dolan Falls, a powerful 10-foot-tall waterfall with a clear blue swimming hole that is entirely worth the effort it requires to get there. Jump from the cliff walls, but stay off the surrounding land; it’s all private property.
With unlimited places to swim off the shores of the Amistad Reservoir, you almost can’t go wrong. Take a dip, relax, and picnic at the Governors Landing campground. Or, head over to the Diablo East boat ramp to soak in sweeping views of the lake. The area also has a buoyed dive cove to keep out boats and depths of over 100 feet for some of the best freshwater scuba diving in Texas.
If you’re paddling downriver, make a reservation ahead of time and set up camp at one of four paddle-in campsites. At night, look up for some of the best stargazing in the state. Measured by the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, stargazing quality is rated Class 1 to 9—Class 1 being the darkest skies on Earth and Class 2 being the Devils River Natural Area.
To stay in the Amistad National Recreation Area, claim a spot at one of the five, first-come, first-served campgrounds. Or, if you haven’t had enough of the reservoir's indigo waters yet, pitch a tent right on the shoreline. Backcountry camping is allowed throughout the area as long as you’re a quarter mile away from any campground, launch ramp, or other developed area.