Preparing for a Devils River Trip
Don't become someone else's problem!
A trip on the Devil's River is suitable ONLY for experienced paddlers who are prepared to spend at least three days on the river.
Despite the beautiful setting, a trip down the 47.7-mile 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. 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 and/or make arrangements for take-out with a private outfitter or private property owner.
Public camping for paddlers only is presently allowed at Baker's Crossing, San Pedro Point - Del Norte (river mile 15), and 29 Mile Paddler Camp - Dan Allen Hughes Unit. Camping on islands within the river, while legal, can be extremely dangerous if the river rises. Any other camping along the river bank above the gradient boundary would be considered trespassing if the user doesn't have permission from the private landowner.
Most of the land along the Devils River is privately owned, so please respect private property by not trespassing or littering, and keep noise levels to a minimum.
Under Texas Penal Code (§30.05), criminal trespass occurs when one enters property after receiving notice not to enter. Notice includes verbal notice, a fence, sign(s), purple paint on posts or trees, or the visible presence of crops grown for human consumption. Additional information about river navigation laws can be found in the Texas River Guide.
Critical Paddler Information and Map
Planning Your Trip
Permits required: A Devils River State Natural Area Access Permit (DRSNAAP) is required for all river trips which access Devils River State Natural Area units. DRSNAAP costs $10 plus shipping and handling. Camping fees also apply at San Pedro Point - Del Norte, and 29 Mile Paddler Camp - Dan Allen Hughes Unit. These river campsites are open seven days a week for paddlers with advance permits to camp on their way downriver. Only one-night stays are allowed per party. Contact the TPWD Customer Service Center at (512) 389-8901 to obtain a DRSNAAP and camping permits, and to learn about commercial outfitters. Read an overview of the new Devils River State Natural Area Access Permit. An advance permit is also required to camp at Lake Amistad below the Weir Dam. Contact Amistad National Recreation Area at (830) 775-8779.
- Distance: Baker's Crossing to Lake Amistad (47.7 miles)
- Float time: Allow at least three full days
- Sanitation: Pack out what you bring in. Cat holes are not acceptable on the Devils River, since there is precious little diggable soil. WAG bags and small, RV flushable potty boxes are appropriate solutions for human waste and can be purchased online.
- All trash must be removed. No fires. Containerized fuel only.
Allow at least three full days to travel from Baker's Crossing to Rough Canyon Marina at Lake Amistad. The best times to go are spring and fall. Begin each day early to take advantage of valuable daylight!
SPECIAL NOTE: Loose items including coolers must be secured in the vessel to withstand swamping and rollovers. Trash bags are especially susceptible to ripping and polluting river waters. Everyone plays a role in keeping the river clean. Don't be an irresponsible paddler!
Adverse weather can have a strong, negative impact on a river trip, so it is critical to check the weather forecast and water levels prior to your trip. Water depth and flow rate levels at Pafford Crossing (33 miles downriver from Baker's Crossing) are available on the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Rio Grande Flow Conditions website.
The Devils River can flash flood and become dangerous very quickly. Check the latest weather forecast before going on your trip. Low water levels may cause canoes/kayaks to drag, or paddlers may need to portage around shallow waters. Check water flows and levels before going.
Coming from the north, Baker's Crossing is 62 miles south of Ozona on SH 163, or 70 miles southwest of Sonora. Coming from Del Rio, Baker's Crossing is 21 miles north of Comstock on SH 163. A Devils River State Natural Area Access Permit (DRSNAAP) is required for all river trips which access TPWD-managed lands. The cost of a DRSNAAP is $10. Drop-off is recommended, as overnight parking at the Baker's Crossing overnight launch campsite is not recommended.
Public access site for put-in:
SH 163 at Baker's Crossing bridge: (DD) 29.96628755 / -101.1491288
Public access site for river camping:
Devils River State Natural Area, North Unit: (DD) 29.929326 / -100.942938
Reservations: (800) 792-1112
Park information: (830) 395-2133
Note: There is no put-in or take-out at Devils River SNA that is accessible to public vehicles. Paddlers should make prior arrangements with an outfitter.
Public access site for take-out:
Rough Canyon Marina, Lake Amistad National Recreation Area: (DD) 29.57717 / -100.97788
Phone: (830) 775-8779.
Visit the National Park Service website for more information on Amistad National Recreation Area and the Rough Canyon Marina.
Take-out at Rough Canyon Marina at Lake Amistad is on the left (east) side. Be prepared for strong headwinds; some paddlers hire a water taxi to tow them across the lake.
Distance to Baker's Crossing from nearest cities:
- Sonora: 70 miles
- Ozona: 62 miles
- Comstock: 21 miles
- Del Rio: 55 miles
- San Antonio: 200 miles
- Austin: 280 miles
- Houston: 397 miles
- Dallas: 400 miles
Generally speaking, the river offers a mix of slow-moving pools and brief Class I to Class II rapids, with several larger rapids that could be considered Class III when water levels are high.
Hazardous conditions may exist at any location along the river. Changing water levels will affect conditions. Use extreme caution when traveling near shorelines with overhanging vegetation.
Old Baker's Crossing Bridge - There are several notable obstacles along the way. The first is the "old" Baker's Crossing Bridge, about 0.4 miles downriver from the Baker's Crossing put-in. If the water is low enough, you can usually duck and go under the bridge. There is no easy take-out on either side. When water is high, paddlers should get out at least 50 yards upstream and portage around.
Jarrett's Crossing - Portage is required across Jarrett's Crossing, a low-water bridge about 9 miles downstream from Baker's Crossing.
Game Warden Rock (also known as Sycamore Chute) - About 13.3 miles downstream from Baker's Crossing, there is a large rock in the middle of the main river right channel. Portage is not necessary, but use caution; position your boat on the left side of the main chute to move through the four-foot drop. Beware of low-hanging trees on river right, below the rapid.
Dolan Falls - Portage is required around Dolan Falls, a 10-foot Class IV waterfall about 16.4 miles downstream from Baker's Crossing. A large warning sign is posted on a boulder on river left as you approach. Take out early above the falls, and portage on river left or right. The river banks next to the falls are privately owned.
Three-Tier Waterfall (also known as The Cascades) - Located about 20.4 miles below the put-in, this Class II to III waterfall requires careful negotiation. Scout prior to running if possible, and approach from river right.
Wildlife and Ecology
The spring-fed Devils River is considered to be one of the most pristine rivers in the state and is well-known for exceptional water clarity. The land surrounding the Devils River is an important area of natural biodiversity and ecological integrity. Located at the confluence of Chihuahuan Desert from the west, Edwards Plateau to the north, and Tamaulipan shrub land to the south and east, the region is a biologically diverse hotspot containing many endemic species. The Devils River watershed has several federally listed threatened or endangered species including Devils River minnow, Texas snowbells, Black-capped vireo and several state listed species including Rio Grande darter, Conchos pupfish, and proserpine shiner. The river also supports populations of unique genotypes of headwater catfish and largemouth bass.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has established a guide service agreement with the following outfitters to provide shuttle and guide services for paddling and fishing trips that launch and/or take-out on the Devils River State Natural Area units.
- Amistad Expeditions - (830) 703-0127: Shuttle service, and river guide service
- Expedition Outfitters - (210) 602-9284: Guided fly fishing trips
- Reel Fly - (830) 964-4823: Guided fly fishing trips, shuttle service, and boat rentals.
Where to stay in the area:
- Southwest Paddler website: Additional information about planning a trip, and potential river hazards