Devils River State Natural Area

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Critical Paddler Information

Important information for a safe and enjoyable paddling trip on the Devils River.

Download the Paddler Map (PDF) (the information below is on the back of the map).

Things You Should Know Before Paddling the Devils River

Despite the beautiful setting, a trip down any stretch of the Devils River from SH 163 at Baker's Crossing to the Rough Canyon Marina at Lake Amistad can be difficult and challenging to plan, exhausting to navigate, and life-threatening if not prepared, even for the most seasoned paddlers.
It is critical for paddlers to plan and prepare well in advance for a physically demanding, remote river trip, and to make arrangements for take-out with a private outfitter or private property owner if needed. A Devils River Access Permit is required if accessing any TPWD managed lands during a river trip.

Designated public camping is presently allowed, with applicable reservations, at Baker’s Crossing, San Pedro Point – Del Norte (river mile 15), Mile 12 Paddler camp, Mile 20 Paddler camp, Mile 29 Paddler Camp – Dan A. Hughes; and at Amistad National Recreation Area. All other campsites along the river bank must be within the gradient boundary in order to avoid trespassing on adjacent private properties. Legal campsites within the gradient boundary are limited in number. All paddlers on the Devils River should familiarize themselves with gradient boundary determination and plan trip accordingly to ensure all campsites selected are legal. Camping on islands within the river, while legal, can be extremely dangerous if the river rises. Know the weather forecast prior to launch.

  • Do not attempt to paddle the Devils River unless you are an experienced paddler in good physical condition with wilderness paddling experience; are well prepared; and fully understand the river challenges, hazards, and river-use etiquette.
  • The Devils River can flash-flood from rains that fall within its watershed from over 100 miles away and can become dangerous and life threatening VERY QUICKLY.
  • While the river water clarity and quality is excellent, take proper water treatment precautions before drinking.
  • Severe sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion are common hazards on the Devils River. Wide brimmed hats, long sleeve shirts, long pants, quality sunglasses and environmentally safe sunscreen provide needed protection from direct sunlight reflection and exposure in general.
  • Strong headwinds are common and can be challenging even to the fit and experienced paddler.
  • In the winter, cold fronts can cause temperatures to drop 40-plus degrees in minutes, prepare accordingly.
  • Be aware that venomous insects and snakes may be encountered, along with numerous plants with spikes, thorns and spines.
  • There are many obstacles in the river that can be dangerous if not navigated properly. This map notes the location of some of the common river hazards, however, others maybe encountered. Running Dolan falls is not recommended at any water level.
  • Wear tough, closed-toe water shoes. Aqua socks or open sandals are not adequate.
  • Carry a first-aid kit that contains items to treat serious injuries in an isolated environment, where rescue is likely hours away.
  • Cell phones don’t work in the Devils River corridor. If you climb hills attempting to get cell service you will likely be trespassing on private property. For safety, consider satellite communications ... BUT BE PREPARED FOR A LONG WAIT!!
  • If you are doing a one-day trip, plan at least for overnight, with food/water/emergency ration supply for an extra day or two.
  • Packing light will make your trip more enjoyable. A common mistake is overloading boats with extra coolers carrying non-essentials. These coolers often spill their contents into the river.
  • Secure all gear within your craft so that WHEN your canoe or kayak floods or is upside down in the river nothing will float away.

River Etiquette

  • Human waste negatively impacts environmental and water quality and is ultimately a hazard to the river ecosystem. Utilization of a WAG Bag (Waste Alleviation and Gelling Bag) to contain and remove human waste from the river corridor is a permit requirement.
  • Pick up litter, even if it is not yours. Strive to leave no visible evidence of human presence.
  • If camping at one of the TPWD managed sites, a camp reservation is required in addition to a permit.
  • Carry heavy-duty dry bags/containers for trash. Stow your trash bag inside your vessel so that it will not get ripped, snagged, or cut, causing you to lose your trash into the river. Plastic bags alone do not make adequate trash bags.
  • No glass. Broken glass creates a serious health hazard.
  • Noise travels a long way on water. Please respect others and enjoy the sounds of nature.
  • Be prepared to take care of yourself and do not become someone else’s problem. Rescue could be days away! Expect to pay for emergency extraction.
  • Secure food items and trash from critters at night. Raccoons are common and can get into many receptacles.
  • Fires are always prohibited along the State Natural Area river front and illegal elsewhere during a county burn ban.

Recommended gear list

Recommended gear list, in addition to your usual camp gear and food (While this list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of needed items, the following items should be included):

  1. Portable toilet/WAG bag for human waste (Permit requirement)
  2. River map showing mileage
  3. Insect repellent - depending on time of the year, consider mosquito netting
  4. Sunscreen, Broad-brimmed hat, and other protective clothing from the sun
  5. Sunglasses (might consider taking two pairs)
  6. Rope/line - at least 20 feet for dragging kayak/canoe, plus rope/straps/line to secure items in vessel
  7. Life jacket / PFD (personal flotation device)
  8. Food and water
  9. Water purification capability
  10. Watertight / heavy-duty bags (dry bags) for gear and trash
  11. Pocket knife
  12. Bail bucket/sponge (you will get a lot of water in your craft)
  13. Duct tape for boat repairs
  14. At least two headlamps or flashlights
  15. One extra paddle per two boats

For more information about how to plan your river trip, visit Preparing for a Devils River Trip.

For general park information, call (512) 389-8901.

In case of emergency while on the river, contact the Val Verde County Sheriff’s Office: (830) 774-7513