Amistad National Recreation Area

Amistad National Recreation Area by Jerry Brooks
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The word “Amistad” means friendship in Spanish. Amistad National Recreation Area offers worldwide visitors and locals from two countries an opportunity to enjoy a water paradise nestled within the desert.  “At conservation pool capacities, Amistad Reservoir is the second largest lake in Texas” (National Park Service). Maintaining a friendship among nations will be essential in preserving this desert oasis for future generations. In addition to water-based recreation Amistad also offers camping, hiking, and rock art viewing.

Amistad National Recreation Area is located on the U.S. and Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas. The area offers five primitive campgrounds and camping is allowed by boat on undeveloped shorelines. Considering the geographical location and size of the lake, visitors will rarely find crowds. However, with mild temperatures during the winter season, higher activity in and around the lake is expected.


Kayaking and Canoeing

Amistad Reservoir offers visitors miles of scenic paddling opportunities. The park boundary gives paddlers upstream access to the Rio Grande (74 miles), Devil’s River (25 miles), and the Pecos River (14 miles). Protected coves provide kayaks and canoes with several key fishing and camping spots.


Swimming in crystal clear waters amidst the desert, what a dream! Swimmers and scuba divers can enjoy any part of the lake except in coves with boat ramps. Governors Landing and Diablo East offer unsupervised swim areas. During late summer the water temperature will reach 84 degrees.


Water related activities rule at Amistad NRA but there are opportunities to hike along the miles of shoreline. A popular hiking trail is located by the Visitor Information Center. Parida Cave and Panther Cave contain ancient pictographs and receive travelers from all over the world. Visitors who do not wish to paddle the long trek from Amistad NRA to the caves can visit Seminole Canyon State Park for a guided tour.

Know Before You Go

Amistad National Recreation Area does not charge a day fee and supervised dogs are allowed. A lake use permit is not required for non-motorized craft under 14 feet in length. Summers are very hot and winds out of the south and southeast can reach 30 miles per hour. Adequate planning for any adventure is essential; paddlers must check lake levels and keep in mind that cell phone reception is limited on the water.

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