About the trip
Our trip was from April 18th, 2015 – April 21, 2015. The CFS of the river was extremely low (22CFS and 2.15ft stage according to Texas Parks and Wildlife). In fact, the Texas Parks and Wildlife site for Devils River posted an advisory the night before we were to put in stating that any trips to the river should be re-scheduled do to low water levels. Our group had come from as far as Dallas for the trip and since we were already in Del Rio we elected to move forward with the paddle.
We were comprised of 6 people with 5 being kayakers one 1 on a canoe. All of the kayaks were rented, the canoe was not. Our outfitter was Amistad Expeditions and they were great.
Day one overview
We launched from Bakers Crossing at around 9:30 am. Our goal was to make it to San Pedro Point Paddlers Camp that day which is about 15 miles from Bakers Crossing (roughly half of the total trip). Our outfitter told us this would leave little to no time for fishing and we still may not make it, he was correct. Water levels were so low that I would guess that we ended up dragging the boats (5 kayaks and 1 canoe) about 3 miles total. This was exhausting and not much fun.
The scenery along the way to camp was beautiful and aside from one other group that put in at Bakers at the same time we did, we were completely secluded. The waster was crystal clear in most places and the only bit of trash we came across was a canoe paddle that was stuck in a tree. We picked up the paddle and hauled it to the camp with us.
San Pedro Padlers Camp
San Pedro is a primitive camp sight but it does have an outhouse. We reached the camp just before dark (about 7:45pm). The sign identifying the camp is pretty hard to see from the water. There is a chance that we would have missed it had I not been paying attention to our GPS unit.
If you end up staying at the camp fight the urge to take your boats out of the water at the first spot that seems like it would be good to do so. There is a nice ramp leading to the camping area about 10 yards further down and the take out will be much easier. We took out at the wrong spot and moved our boats after finding the ramp.
The park police were informed by our outfitter that we would be shooting for the camp on day one and they swung by to check on us. Even thought the bugs were pretty bad, the park ranger stayed for about 45 minutes giving us tips on where to stay the next night and how to deal with land owners who may get upset with us camping near them. His advice was to make sure we stay within gradient boundary (10 inches form the top of the water) and try and stay at an area that is out of sight of any homes even if it was legal to camp there. This would prove to be useful advice the next day. We were missing a few kayak paddles and had been using our backup paddles all day and the outfitter swung by the camp to drop off the missing paddles and to check on us.
Raccoons are terrible at this campsite. You will need to secure you food and belongings in a lock box (that you bring) or put them in your tent. Our group was hit about 10 minutes after dark and the Raccoons went so far as to chew through a dry bag to find out what was inside. Moving my food and gear into the tent seemed to fix this however they did damage a few bags and got into the trash which required cleanup in the morning. You may be able to get away with securing your stuff in the hull of your kayak and then flipping it over to ensure they cannot open the hatch but given the resourcefulness of the raccoons, I would advice against this and just put your stuff in the tent. Everyone was exhausted and we turned in around 10:15pm.
Day one fishing:
I did manage one large mouth early in the day but total fishing time was less than a half hour due to time constraints and trying to make camp before dark.
Day two overview
Our group began to wake up around 8:15am and started the day by taking an inventory of what damage the Raccoons had done along with anything that may have been damaged or lost from the previous day of paddling. All in all we had one dry bag damaged by the Raccoons, they got into the trash and 2 poles were broken from the day before. One of our paddlers was also missing the spinning reel off his pole! We don’t know if it fell off while paddling or a Raccoon decided to take up fishing.
While cooking breakfast we had another outfitter drop off 3 small groups at the campsite to put in. Everyone was very nice and while talking to the outfitter I learned that they were going to originally put in at Bakers like we did. I verified that doing this would not be much fun especially since they were trying to fish.
Because day 1 was nothing but paddling and dragging we were all looking forward to fishing on day 2. We planned on doing about 7 miles today and the ranger told us that we would do much less dragging.
We had to portage Dolan falls about 1 1/2 hours after launching. This was really no problem at all, we ended up going river right and spent some time taking pictures of the falls. The pictures I have seen of the falls online do them no justice, seeing them in person was great.
We were able to run (rather than drag) several sets of rapids today. There was still a fair amount of portage areas however it was nothing compared to day one. The only set of rapids that gave our group trouble during this trip was Three Tier Rapids. The flow was very low so we had to walk several sections of this rapid. Four of the six boats capsized and I lost control of my kayak and it ran over me while I was in the rapids. Total damage other than scrapes and bruises was one broken pole (from the guy that lost his reel the day before) and my Leatherman, which was ripped off my belt when my boat ran me over. We spent about 20 minutes looking for everything and recovered the broken pole but the Leatherman was claimed by the river.
Finding a campsite for night two was difficult. There are several areas within the gradient boundary however most of them are well within view of a house and in some cases, directly in front of the house. We knew this was legal camping ground however we also wanted to take the rangers advice from the evening before so we kept moving until we came across something that was not in view of a home. We ended up camping on a flat piece of rock right after Dry Devils Rapids. It’s a shame that the lack of camping options forced us to camp in what is basically a floodplain but things worked out nice and I had fried fish and a Shiner before we turned in around 10pm.
Day two Fishing
We caught several small mouth and a few large mouth bass today. I ended up keeping a large mouth to eat that night. I don’t usually eat bass however this was a rare opportunity to enjoy fresh fried fish on the most remote river in Texas so I took it. If you plan on keeping fish make sure to pay attention to the slot limits on the river. The limits change at Dolan falls so be mindful of this.
Day Three Overview
We woke up much earlier because the day before had been a pretty easy paddle. After breakfast we hit the water and spent most of the day fishing. There were some giant bluffs and stone formations which were amazing to see and we even stopped for lunch on one that was surrounded by water (and thus, considered an island and not private property).
The paddle for today was uneventful and we made it to 29 mile camp by 5pm. It was nice to setup camp and have time in the evening to hangout before dark. We had someone drop out of this trip 2 weeks before we launched and he had bought us steaks to cook as an “I’m sorry” so we had some great cuts of meat for dinner.
Day Three Fishing
We spent more time fishing today than any other day of the trip however the bite was slow. It seems that the river is at a point where it’s so low that many of the fish may be trapped up stream or just not feeing even at normal times. We did get into a few schools of small mouths off some rock formations however, they were all pretty small. One member of the group did manage a nice small mouth while wade fishing in the grass at the devil’s back takeout point.
Not much to speak of for day four. We had made it to 29 mile camp and our outfitter picked us up at 12:30pm. Our original plan was to stay at 29 mile camp until 4pm but there is not much to do there and everyone was worn out so we used the satellite phone to call them and asked to be picked up a little early.
Trip overview / Tips and tricks
- Check the flow rate of the river and adjust where you are being put in if it’s low. You will not have a good time if you try to make it from Bakers to San Pedro while the river is very low.
- Try to find camping accommodations ahead of time. This is difficult because many of the land owners do not want paddlers staying near them but some groups have had success making arrangements. It can be stressful when the sun is going down, you are wet and hungry and don’t have anywhere to camp.
- If you can swing it, rent a satellite phone for the trip. We only used it to check in with our wives and reach the outfitter for an early pickup but it was a nice security measure just incase someone was injured.
- Wear closed toe shoes and if possible, make sure they cover your ankles. The devils is rough and it will eat some of your skin if you let it.
- Accept the fact that if you do not put something in a dry bag it will get wet. This is a wet trip and you will more than likely flip your boat. Be ready for this.
- If the water flow is low (and even if it’s not) I found this to be a challenging trip so make sure you plan for it. It’s not overly difficult but it’s not something I would recommend planing over a few hours and hitting the water just because you are in Del Rio.
- You will most likely break stuff on this trip. I still took my nice rods and reels and ended up not losing / breaking them but they do have some new scratches on them.
- If you want to keep stuff cold, dry ice is your friend. I got a new cooler for this trip (this one) and used dry ice on top of a towel at the bottom of the cooler then covered that with regular ice and it was still cold on day 4.
All in all our group had a blast and we would certainly run the Devils again. The only thing I would change is our put in point, I would move it to San Pedro if the flow is too low at Bakers. This would make the trip more enjoyable and allow much more time for fishing.
Pictures from the trip: