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My Life Outdoors

Devils River, Texas – Public Access is in Danger of Being Eliminated.

Bad news for Texas paddlers. TPWD is trying to move the Devils River State Natural Area 13 miles down river. This will eliminate public riverside campsites on the devils river and almost certainly make it impossible to make any downriver trip.

In Texas all rivers (that average 30 feet from the mouth to the point in question) are public property. The problem on the Devils is accessing this public property. Right now there are only 3 public access points along the Devils river. Bakers Crossing on Hwy 163. The current Devils River State Natural Area… and along Amisted Lake. These access points are few and far between and land owners along the river have a reputation of extreme hatred for paddles (with rumors of some landowners even shooting at paddlers on the river).

Right now if you put in at Bakers Crossing you do not come across a “public” campsite until you reach the State Natural area 15 miles downriver. If the TPWD proposal is approved there will not be any public campsites available for 28 miles. This makes it impossible to make any type of downriver trip on the Devils.

If anyone ever wants to make another paddle trip down the Devils River action is needed. I am late receiving this information but there is a Public Hearing today in Del Rio at 6:00 pm at the Del Rio Civic Center in the Mesquite Room on 1915 Veteran’s Blvd.

There will be another public hearing on Oct. 26th in San Antonio at 6:00 pm in the Central public Libaray at 600 Soledad.

You can also e-mail Ted Hollingsworth at [email protected] and let him know this is a bad idea.

TPWD claims moving the ranch will increase public access stating the new property has more river frontage. River Frontage is not the problem…this new property is along the headwaters of Lake Amisted. Lake Amisted already has great public access. Moving the park will eliminate all public river access. And there just aren’t anymore rivers in Texas with the quality of the Devils River.

TPWD also states they will be working with landowners, stakeholders, and PADDLERS to improve access to the Devils River….this will not happen for paddlers if the property is moved. As it is now the current state natural area has placed every obstacle to try and keep paddlers off the river including forbidding using the park as a take out point and forcing paddlers to carry their boats and gear by hand 1.5 miles to the river front. This proposal is a ploy to eliminate the existence of public paddlers on the Devils. If you ever want to see this Texas oasis take action now.

Recently a friend took a trip down the Devil’s camping overnight at the State Natural Area. That night he was issued 7 citations by one of the park rangers who acted very hostile toward the idea of paddlers. Having arrived one night earlier than expected my friend asked if he could camp there an extra night so as not to arrive at the take out a day early (and thus miss his shuttle appointment.) The ranger refused… forcing them to leave in the morning without knowing if they would have a shuttle available or not. The Ranger the proceeded to verbally curse Texas Monthly Magazine for “Publicizing” the natural beauty of the river and “inviting” people to paddle the last truly wild river in Texas. The Ranger insinuated that the Magazine was going to ruin their private oasis. Can you believe it? A park ranger?…Mad that people might come enjoy Public Land.

It seems to me that the Park is in on this deal. Here is a copy of the Letter sent out by TPWD

In 1993 John Hoyt made the fist public paddle down the Devils River after a court ruling that sateted land owners did NOT own the river bed. Here is what John has said (at Bigbendchat.com) regarding my post of this bad news.

Sounds like a disaster in the making. Some of you might remember that I posted my story of our 1993 canoe voyage from Baker’s Crossing all the way to Lake Amistad. That was the first “legal’ float following the court decision that the land owners did not own the river bed. I was assisted in the logistics of that float by Mary Baker Eddy, owner of Baker’s Crossing, friends with the Nature Conservancy, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and one of the “friendly” ranchers. Our group consisted of three couples, including Shelley and myself. Because of the expected controversy we were required to go all the way to the T P&W Devil’s River State Natural Area without making landfall. The only exceptions were “islands and bars” surrounded by water.

Dolan Falls – Photo Credit: John Hoyt

Along the way we were greeted by ranchers brandishing shotguns, daring us to make a mistake. Due to a crash along the way, and resulting recovery and repair of a canoe, we didn’t make it to the State Natural Area before nightfall, and were forced to clandestinely make camp in an inaccessible location. The next day we went on past the SNA after sending a message via some people at Dolan Falls to the SNA officials that we had past on down the river. We camped another night after portaging Dolan and S-Turn Falls & rapids, reaching our take out at Lake Amistad the following evening.

Portaging Dolan Falls – Photo Credit: John Hoyt

Photo Credit: John Hoyt

The Devil’s River is undoubtedly the most beautiful stream in Texas, and among the best in the West. It is know as one of America’s finest and most productive small mouth bass fisheries. Crystal clear, often cliff lined, with springs pouring out of the cliff all along the way. It’s beauty is beyond description, far beyond that of the Guadalupe and Frio, among others. It forms the western edge of the Edwards Plateau, an amazing environment. Cultural and archaeological sites abound.

Photo Credit: John Hoyt

I smell dirty deals and insider politics associated with this announcement. Some of you have already been contacted by me re a return trip to the Devil’s next spring. Looks like I might make the “first and last” float of this Texas jewel if the current information is correct, and I had better hurry at that!
“My Life Outdoors” is absolutely correct in his assessment that one cannot paddle 28 miles through rapids and waterfalls in one day, difficult in two.
The Nature Conservancy owns the adjoining property across the river at Dolan Falls. Perhaps Chris Pipes or John Karges might know something.

Photo Credit: John Hoyt

This is the greatest ripoff I have ever heard, far worse even than the Christmas Mountains and Chinati Peak fiascos. Next to Big Bend it our greatest Texas treasure! Buried in the politics must be a big money scam of monumental proportions. It’s like the de facto privatization of the river bed again, like it was before the court decision, and probably with the same ranchers in cahoots with TP&W and others to accomplish it.

John Hoyt (aka Quicksilver)

Take Action NOW to keep public access.

Go to one of the two meetings avalible.

  • 6:00 pm Today Oct. 20th at the Del Rio Civic Center, Mesquite Room, 1915 Veteran’s Blvd.., Del Rio, TX (830) 774-8641
  • 6:00 pm Tuesday, Oct. 26 at the Central Public Library, 600 Soledad, San Antonio, TX (210) 207-2500
  • or E-mail Ted Hollingsworth at [email protected]



  • dogdiet

    October 25, 2010

    I love this blog and frequently enjoy the adventures and fine photography, but must admit that something fishy is occurring at Devils river

  • Barb

    October 25, 2010

    Hello Steven,
    I hope the public turns out for these hearings.The only way public lands will stay as pubic access is if people care enough. From your photos, I can see it is a beautiful unspoiled area. Good Luck!

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