Del Norte is a special place for the “primitive at heart.” A remote 20,000 acre preserve awaits the visitor to what has been referred to by most Texans as the Devils River State Natural Area. This park provides kayakers and canoers flowing downstream towards Canyon Marina at Lake Amistad with a key camping stop. The adventure however, is not only for those paddling down the cool and crystal clear river. The park also provides day use and primitive camping for mountain bikers, hikers, and swimmers that wish to explore an area that has been home to humans for at least 11,000 years.
The park is located 22 miles west of State Highway 277, on Dolan Creek Road. Dolan Creek Road will take visitors along a gravel route without giving a hint of the oasis that lies ahead. Due to the remote location and limited staff available on-site, the park is open for day use and drive in camping from Friday to Monday.
Kayaking and Canoeing
This is a challenging three day kayak or canoe adventure. Since the journey downstream meanders through private land, there are no public take out points along the 47 mile journey between Baker’s Crossing and Lake Amistad. Adequate preparation and planning is essential for safety along this epic journey.
A 12 mile intermediate loop provides scenic riding along rugged terrain in the middle of nowhere. The ride consists of a combination of wide park roads and double track (jeep roads) that reach the highest and lowest points in the park. The ride is exposed to the sun so packing accordingly is essential, especially due to the remote nature of the park.
Hiking along this wilderness area is a contemplative experience. The terrain is the result of three ecological areas converging in one spot—the Chihuahauan Desert to the west, the Edwards Plateau to the east, and the Tamaulipan brushlands of Northern Mexico to the south. As if the latter is not enticing enough, pictographs along the way provide a vivid reminder that this is a place of deep meaning and human history.
The Devils River is a paradox because this is a place of saving grace, and an example to the rest of Texas for how clean water can be. After a long hike and bike ride, how does a swim in this oasis sound?
Know Before You Go
This is truly a wild place, with little human habitation nearby. Four wheel drive or high clearance vehicles are essential for this terrain, especially when crossing creeks. Day use is free and reservations are required for primitive camping. Pets must be on a six foot leash at all times and are not allowed in buildings.