AUSTIN – The Devils River is one of the premier paddling and fishing destinations in Texas, drawing outdoor enthusiasts each year to enjoy the preserved natural beauty, excellent sport fishery, and native wildlife along its clear waters. But the river is not for the faint of heart.
“Due to the remote location of the Devils River, safe, reliable, and legal camp sites on the river are in short supply,” said Joe Joplin, Devils River State Natural Area superintendent. “The average paddler doesn’t make 15 miles in a day, and if they do, it’s not enjoyable.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), along with local partners, aims to change that. To help create safe conditions for the recreational use of the Devils River and help minimize trespassing issues, the TPWD River Access and Conservation Area Program (RACA) will open two paddle-up-only camp sites March 1.
According to Timothy Birdsong, Habitat Conservation Chief for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, the new pack-in, pack-out camp sites aren’t designed to add more paddlers to the river, but rather to provide safe and legal stopping points for the daily limit of TPWD permitted paddlers.
“The reaches of river between Baker’s Crossing, and the Del Norte and Dan A. Hughes Units of our Devils River State Natural Area are relatively long distances, so we strategically added these camp sites roughly mid-distance to create a more safe and enjoyable experience for paddlers,” Birdsong said.
TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said by adding the two new paddle-up only campsites, the organization is setting the conditions to ensure permitted paddlers can explore the river safely and maintain the high standards of river stewardship that will preserve its unique beauty for generations to come.
“I’m proud of what the TPWD River Access Conservation Area Program and our Devils River State Natural Area have been able to do to address the desires and concerns of both local landowners and devoted Devils River paddlers,” Smith said. “This is a win-win deal for everyone who appreciates and respects this iconic Texas river.”
To help promote river use etiquette and river stewardship by paddlers, TPWD is partnering with the Devils River Conservancy (DRC), a nonprofit organization made up of landowners and conservationists whose mission is to preserve and protect the Devils River and the lands within its watershed. Through this partnership, both organizations will be collaborating on an educational video and Devils River Paddler Manual that will be distributed among local guides and vendors to prepare paddlers for overnight trips on the Devils River and help address issues encountered on the water.
“The Devils River is a precious and delicate resource; it cannot sustain unmanaged human pressure without degradation,” the DRC said in a statement provided to TPWD. “The Devils River Conservancy is happy to partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in engaging landowners in the active management of recreation on the Devils River.”
“We hope that the implementation of the designated campsites will decrease the overall impact of human pressure on the river while honoring the private property rights of its land stewards,” the statement continued. “Moving forward, this partnership aims to cultivate the ‘leave no trace’ ethos for the protection for this wild and beloved Texas River for generations to come.”
These new paddle-up-only camp sites are the newest additions to TPWD’s statewide network of 19 River Access and Conservation Areas, which offer improved angler and paddler access to more than 100 miles of Texas rivers. The program is funded through federal grants provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and through philanthropy efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
A Devils River Access Permit is required for all trips on the Devils River that access the two units of the Devils River State Natural Area or these two new paddle-up-only camp sites. Visit the Devils River State Natural Area websitefor reservations, maps, permits and other information.