Section Baker’s Crossing, Texas Highway 163 to Blue Sage subdivision, near Del Rio
Length and duration 23 miles, 2–3 days
Resources Gerald Bailey’s shuttle and guide service, Devils River Outfitters, 830-395-2266.
Camping at Devils River State Natural Area, 830-395-2133 (reservations required; 512-389-8900)
Guidebook The Devils River , by Louis F. Aulbach
Reward yourself Get a good night’s sleep at the low-key Who Cares B&B, in Del Rio.
Canoeing/Kayaking, Rapids, Overnight Camping
If the Devils River were a woman, Willie would have married her twice and we would be crying into our beer as he lamented her wicked ways. You might be tempted to dismiss it as the Pecos lite, but the Devils packs a bigger punch into less than one hundred miles. It’s another pool-and-drop river that runs through rugged terrain similar to the Pecos, but the thirty miles or so that separates these two makes for noticeable differences in topography and vegetation. The gray-blue water is more blue than gray (the remote, hostile environment has successfully safeguarded the pristine water quality), the rocky hills are a little greener, and the banks are lined with trees. Though the dam on the Rio Grande that created Amistad Reservoir backs up the flow in the Devils’ lower reaches, this is the one river in Texas that’s never been dammed itself, and every blade of grass and snatch of birdsong resonates with unfettered exuberance.
But boy, getting down the Devils is hard work. They call it a “wet” river, which means that you’ll be in and out of your boat as you pull it through endless shallows and down rapids, all the time hanging on to that webbing for dear life while yelling at your partner. (Think twice before taking your significant other. The Devils is a jealous river.) The rapids are fast and pugnacious and come up on you quickly, so expect to simultaneously try to find the best line of approach and the right channel through the dense canebrakes before you are swept into a rock wall. If you go the wrong way, you can be lost in the cane jungles for half an hour. (We’re having fun, right?) In addition, the landowners along the Devils have a reputation for antipathy to boaters, so the first safe and legal campsite is at the Devils River