Amistad Reservoir has plenty of wide-open water along with steep-walled canyons, making it a great place for paddling your canoe or kayak. The park boundary extends 74 miles up the Rio Grande, 25 miles up the Devil's River and 14 miles up the Pecos River. Protected coves provide superb fishing and ideal camping spots. The lake is an international reservoir. The United States-Mexico border is marked by buoys that follow the historic channel of the Rio Grande. Amistad NRA does not require a lake use permit for non-motorized craft under 14 feet in length.
For current Mexico boat permit and fishing license information, go to www.conapescasandiego.org or call (619)233-4324.
Information on Mexican permits can also be obtained at:
Amistad Marine (Ranger boat dealer on Hwy 90 West across from Spur 454), (830)775-0878, or
Fisherman's Headquarters (Chevron gas station at the intersection of Hwy 90 W & Hwy 277 N) (830)774-5670.
Val Verde Paddle Sports www.VVPaddleSports.com
Kathleen Burgess (830)313-2977
The following routes are suggestions only; they are not marked on shore or in the water.
Wind conditions are an important consideration when choosing an area to paddle. Winds typically average 15-20 mph, but 20-30 mph winds are not uncommon. Mostly, winds are from the south or southeast. However, north winds can occur, especially in the fall and winter, but usually do not last more than a day or so.
Important: For all of these trips, be sure to bring plenty of drinking water, a large brimmed hat for shade, sunglasses, a long sleeved shirt and pants. Please be environmentally conscientious and pack out all of your trash. Do not use glass containers. Remember that all things living and nonliving are protected under federal law. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
Remember- Cell phone coverage is very limited, and if you get stranded on the Mexican side of the reservoir Park Rangers cannot respond for assistance.
See for current water levels and river flow links.
Paddle Route #1
Spur 454: This area is an excellent trip for one day. Depart water’s edge at Spur 454. Head east. There are numerous coves where you can explore, picnic, or swim.
Paddle Route #2.
Spur 406: This area is an excellent day trip, especially when strong south or southeast winds are present. Drive across the lake heading west on Hwy. 90. Spur 406 will be on your right. This area offers excellent birding and is much like Spur 454. If you care to cross the lake, Spur 406 and Spur 454 routes combined can make for a great day trip.
Paddle Route #3.
Box Canyon/Cow Creek: This is a nice day trip and offers excellent overnight camping. Take Hwy 90 West to the Box Canyon Road. At road's end, launch at the Box Canyon Ramp and head upstream. It’s about 2.5 miles to Cow Creek. This area offers unique scenery with vertical cliffs. You can enjoy excellent fishing. There are great spots for primitive camping.
Paddle Route #4.
NOTE: Due to the rising lake levels, the springs and good camping sites are underwater. It is still a very scenic and beautiful day trip.
Indian Springs: 16 miles roundtrip with frequent strong head winds for the return, so best enjoyed as an overnight trip. Take Hwy 277 north to R2. From the Rough Canyon boat ramp head upstream 8 miles to Indian Springs. There are excellent camping sites on the east side before you get to the springs and also on the west side of the river under the trees. The springs come right out of the rock just beyond the Indian Springs Creek. The water is clear and cold and millions of gallons cascade down the rocky cliffs into pools before they reach the lake.
Paddle Route #5
Parida Cave: This trip is short but provides a good opportunity to experience both scenic canyons and 4,000 year-old Native American rock art. Launch at the Pecos boat ramp and head down river to the confluence at the Rio Grande. Go down stream (left) on the Rio Grande until you see a large rock shelter with a courtesy boat dock. Another landmark is across from the shelter there's a large canyon (Parida Canyon) on the Mexico side.
Paddle Route #6
Panther Cave: is downstream beyond Parida Cave (Paddle Route #5) and about 8 miles from the Pecos boat ramp. Panther Cave is one of the best preserved Lower Pecos River style rock art sites. Due to the distance required, lack of good campsites, and frequent strong winds funneling through the canyons, this trip is recommended only for experienced, strong paddlers. Remember- cell phone coverage is very limited, and if you get stranded on the Mexican side Park Rangers cannot respond for assistance.
Paddle Route #7
Pecos Railroad Bridge: Located approximately 6 miles up river from the Pecos boat launch is the Pecos railroad bridge , also known as the "High Bridge." Paddling this part of the Pecos River is an excellent day trip. The tall, scenic limestone cliffs surround you, while offering side canyons to explore and wildlife watching opportunities. Birding is especially good all seasons.
Stop underneath the High Bridge and wait for trains to go overhead. This can be an exciting highlight of this trip. Next, paddle a short way up river from the bridge and look to the right for remnants of an old pump house. Here water was pumped up from the river to a water tank used by the old steam engines during the late 1800s. You might be able to see the concrete pilings of the old, rickety steel bridge of the 1890s on either side of the river near the pump house.
If you want to make the trip longer and camp out, the Pecos offers breathtaking scenery up river to Dead Mans Canyon and ultimately to Shumla Bend at the end of the park boundary 14 miles from the confluence of the Rio Grande. It can be done in one day (if you are an experienced paddler), but is best enjoyed when you have several days to explore the beauty the Pecos River offers. The fishing is good, too.