Amistad National Recreation Area & Del Rio TX
In recent years – thanks largely to huge stringers being posted by tournament pros – Lake Amistad’s big bass potential has become nationally known. By now, virtually every bass angler in the nation knows this sprawling impoundment straddling the Texas/Mexico border near the town of Del Rio is capable of producing fish of immense proportions. What is not as commonly known, however, is that Lake Amistad and the surrounding area offer a wide array of non-fishing diversions for anglers and their families.
The first thing ambitious anglers need to understand is the remoteness of Amistad. The lake is a fairly good distance from anywhere. In fact, San Antonio, a little over 2 hours away, is by far the closest major population center. As a result, ‘day trips’ to the lake are rare for most fishermen. Therefore, finding a place to stay should rank high on the to-do list for the majority of anglers heading to this South Texas bass factory.
Del Rio, TX
Del Rio, located just minutes from the lake’s southern end, offers a variety of reasonably priced hotel rooms. However, anglers wishing to stay on the water can quite literally do just that by renting a houseboat. In fact, long before Amistad became famous for spitting out lunker largemouths, it was a popular house boating locale. These days, many visitors combine the two activities, according to Ron Sanders of Forever Resorts.
“A lot of our customers will use the houseboat as a base of sorts, but tow a smaller boat behind them for fishing and exploring the lake,” Sanders said. “We do rent smaller boats as well, but most bass fishermen bring their own. If that’s the case, we’re only a five-minute boat ride from a ramp.
“From spring through fall, we see a lot of families come down and rent houseboats. A lot of those folks are fishing. But, there’s plenty of other stuff to do as well. Swimming is really popular – and our boats have a slide that lets you go right into the water. The water here is so clear, diving is also popular. And, there’s a lot of sightseeing. Going up into the rivers (the Rio Grande and Devil’s) to look at the pictographs is a really neat thing to do.”
Peering at pictographs and other archeological remains is, in fact, nearly as popular as bass fishing on Lake Amistad. Overall, the region contains 325 documented pictograph sites. Parida Cave (once known as Painted Caves Station) is one of the most extensive and popular sites along the lakeshore. With 300 feet of designated trails, interpretive signs, and a boat dock, Parida Cave is an easy-to-access side attraction for bass anglers.
Panther Cave is perhaps the most famous pictograph site in the area. The hundreds of pictographs that cover Panther Cave’s rear wall form an uninterrupted 80-foot-long panel.
Like Parida Cave, Panther Cave is accessible to boaters via an onsite boat dock. Visitors do need to ascend a 60-foot steel staircase to get a view of the cave, but most agree the view is well worth the climb.
Amistad National Recreational Area
Thanks to the vastness of the Amistad National Recreational Area, which encompasses practically the entire U.S. portion of the lake, there are plenty of other shoreside options for visitors. Covering over 58,000 acres, the ANRA is vast enough to ensure a truly ‘natural’ experience for visitors.
The generally bare, limestone shoreline which rings Amistad is the perfect perch for shorebound anglers, as well as birdwatchers, swimmers, stargazers, and picnickers. And, with well over 500 miles of shoreline within the ANRA’s boundaries, it is easy enough for visitors to find a secluded stretch.
The ANRA also features numerous boat ramps and ample areas for hiking and nature walks. Additionally, paddlesport enthusiasts have plenty of suitable shorelines from which to launch canoes and kayaks.
The ANRA also has a number of campgrounds and RV sites. The RV sites do not offer hookups, but those staying in the Recreation Area have quick and easy access to boat ramps and many of the sites offer breathtaking views of the lake.
Of course, not all of the area’s activities are confined to the lake. Those willing and able to drive a short distance from Amistad’s fabled waters will have a number of attractions and activities from which to choose.
“I would encourage visitors to enjoy our three museums,” said Donna Langford, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director for the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, referring to the Laughlin Aviation Museum, George Paul Museum, and Whitehead Memorial Museum. “Or, taste the fine wines from Val Verde Winery, the oldest bonded winery in Texas.”
Langford also notes that a variety of boutiques and restaurants are located in downtown Del Rio, as are shops boasting an array of furniture and crafts from Mexico. Those wishing to shop in Mexico should consider visiting Del Rio’s sister city, Cd. Acuna, Mexico. According to Langford, the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce can assist in making arrangements for tours of Cd. Acuna for groups of 10 or more.
Boating and Fishing
Got a boat or want to try some fishing? Amistad National Recreation Area offers excellent opportunities for both. Anglers will find plenty of game including bass, catfish, crappie, and more. Boaters can explore the lake along the many coves and inlets, or go tubing, skiing and wakeboarding. Before setting out on the lake, be sure to check out our safety guidelines here.
Native American Rock Art
The Amistad area features over 4,000-year-old prehistoric pictographs created by native peoples. Visitors can enjoy these beautiful works of art by taking one of the guided tours offered by the Rock Art Foundation or by going out on their own by boat or on foot. Panther Cave and Seminole Canyon State Park are two of the most popular sites to visit.
Swimming is a great way to escape the desert heat at Amistad. Water temperatures range from 54°F in winter months to 86°F in late summer, making it perfect for a refreshing dip. There are several unsupervised swim areas around the lake, but make sure to take safety precautions when venturing into the water. Remember: Life vests are recommended for small children and non-swimmers; never start the engine while swimmers are overboard.
Gather your friends and family and take advantage of one of Amistad’s eight picnic areas located lakeside. Each spot is equipped with tables, grills and shelters so you can settle in and stay awhile. Best of all – picnicking is free!
If you’re looking for a longer stay, Amistad operates five primitive campgrounds available on a first-come-first-served basis. For larger groups, there are also three group campsites that require reservations no more than 180 days in advance.
Nature lovers will appreciate the established hiking trails in the Diablo East area. The Sunrise Trail begins at 9685 Hwy 90 West and stretches to Spur 454, while the Figueroa Trail spans the old Figueroa Ranch with rolling trails and views of the lake (closed during hunting season).
Birdwatching & Nature Photography
The transition zone between eastern, western, northern, and southern avifauna makes Amistad the perfect place for birdwatchers, as well as nature photographers looking for breathtaking desert landscapes, skies, and cacti flowers after a good rain.
For those certified in scuba diving, Amistad’s crystal clear waters offer plenty of swimming spots geared just for you. Make sure to follow proper safety protocols such as using your dive flag, never diving alone, and knowing your limits.
If hunting is your passion, Amistad National Recreation Area provides designated hunt areas open during certain seasons. Be sure to read up on all regulations before heading out.
Seminole Canyon State Park
An hour’s drive west of Del Rio is Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. In addition to housing several dozen pictographs, including some of the oldest rock paintings in North America, Seminole Canyon boasts a picnic area, 8 miles of hike-and-bike trails, and an interpretive museum.
Seminole Canyon State Park is a scenic beauty that overlooks the Rio Grande River. It is located in Brewster County between the cities of Comstock and Langtry, Texas, and is home to many fascinating natural wonders. This park features ancient rock shelters containing an astonishing array of over five thousand-year-old pictographs, providing viewers with unique insights into the cultures of the Native Americans who had inhabited this area. Furthermore, its surrounding cliffs and canyons highlight hundreds of dramatic views and landscapes, making it an ideal spot for camping, hiking, and sightseeing. The numerous trails within Seminole Canyon provide plenty of opportunities for exploring and adventure that will deck your vacation or day trip with memories that last a lifetime!
White Shaman Preserve
Just a short distance from Seminole Canyon the Rock Art Foundation operates the White Shaman Preserve, which is dedicated to preserving the area’s ancient rock art. Tours of the White Shaman Preserve are offered each Saturday from September through May.
Regardless of which activities are chosen, the bottom line is a trip to Lake Amistad should be viewed as much more than ‘just another fishing trip.’ With a little advance planning, the Amistad area offers anglers an opportunity to wrap the first-class vacation around world-class fishing.
Amistad National Recreation Area
4121 Veterans Blvd
Del Rio, TX 78840