Master Plan
NPS Logo



The Amistad Reservoir Project, now in its fifth year of construction by the International Boundary and Water Commission of the United States and Mexico, is a major impoundment on the Rio Grande in southwestern Texas and northern Coahuila. The principal direct benefits accruing from its construction will be water conservation, flood control, generation of hydroelectric energy, an increase in fishery resources, and significant opportunities for outdoor recreation.

In December 1957 the Southwest Regional Office of the National Park Service prepared a reconnaissance report on the recreation potential of the area for the United States Section of the Commission. That analysis is included as Appendix I-B in the Section's feasibility report (Senate Document 65, 86th Congress, 1st session). In 1962 it became necessary to re-evaluate the recreation aspects of the project because of the greatly increased demand in the Southwest for water-oriented facilities and due to new liberalized Federal policies emphasizing the importance of recreation in multipurpose water projects.

In March 1963 the President's Recreation Advisory Council declared in its milestone Policy Circular No. 1 that greater effort must be made by Federal, State, and local governmental and private interests to fulfill adequately the steeply mounting outdoor recreation demands of the people of this country. Further, the Council stated that although the Federal Government should provide leadership and stimulus to this effort, it does not have sole or primary responsibility for providing recreation opportunities to the American people. The Council concluded that Federal programs should be augmented by a system of national recreation areas comprised of a limited number of units in regions where the recreation demand is not being met through other programs.

Interest generated by local citizens, by the International Boundary and Water Commission, and the present national emphasis on recreational areas adequate to meet present and future needs resulted in giving consideration to Federal administration of public use on the United States portion of Amistad Reservoir. Accordingly, an additional field investigation was made by a National Park Service team in April 1963 to assess the recreational and other values of the area, adjudge its significance, and gather information regarding its potential for national recreation area status. The team concluded that the United States sector of the project appeared definitely of national significance and that it held promise of qualifying for national recreation area designation. The Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments endorsed this proposal at its November 1963 meeting.

Expanding on the earlier studies, a September 1965 revision of the report analyzed the economic impact of Amistad's recreation potential, particularly as this first-magnitude impoundment would be enhanced by accessory shoreline development. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation subsequently found that the proposal satisfies the criteria for national recreation areas established by the Recreation Advisory Council in its Policy Circular No. 1.

The National Park Service is now administering the United States portion of the reservoir area pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement dated November 11, 1965 between the Service and the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

Completion of Amistad Dam is scheduled for March 1969, but controlled impoundment of water began in July 1968.

Bills to establish the Amistad National Recreation Area were introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives in the 89th Congress, 1st session, but received no action. Similar bills were again introduced early in the 90th Congress. To provide the required planning data, a master plan field study was conducted by the Service's Office of Resource Planning, San Francisco Planning and Service Center, in October-November 1967. The following report is the result of that study.


The purpose of the proposed Amistad National Recreation Area is to provide for the fullest public outdoor recreational use and enjoyment of the area's land and water resources, and to conserve its scenic, scientific, historic, and other values contributing to this experience.

Management Category: Recreational


To achieve recreation area purposes, the National Park Service establishes the following objectives:


Develop a broad range of recreational facilities and services to serve all categories of interests and economic levels of visitors.


Conserve the recreational, scenic, scientific, and historic resources of the area through sound management programs based on, and supported by, well-conceived research studies.


Develop informational and interpretive programs which will enable the visitor to better use and enjoy the full range of the area's resources. The interpretive theme will be primarily oriented to enhancement of outdoor recreation through appreciation of related natural and historical values. Special museum and on-site treatment will be given Amistad's highly significant archeology, with the scope of collections restricted to local features and cultural materials, and limited to materials used in the interpretive program. Cooperative aspects of the international approach to water conservation, as exemplified by the Amistad Project, will also be covered.


The architectural theme will be guided by the special functionalism of structures needed for water-based recreation. At least the visitor center should reflect the cooperative spirit of the project's two sponsoring nations. In all buildings a respect for the stark landforms of this semiarid region should be maintained, unless striking conceptual departures can be justified. Except for greater emphasis on bright and colorful elements for the recreational facilities, an indigenous, harmonizing style is preferred. The aboriginal peoples were not builders and thus no motif was established.


Consistent with the recognition of outdoor recreation as the dominant resource objective, cooperate with other Federal, State, and local agencies in coordinated management of the area's other resources for such uses as are compatible with fulfilling the recreation mission.


Develop a climate of cooperation within which we shall work with appropriate authorities of the Mexican Government toward coordinating planning and operation of the reservoir and surrounding land administered by Mexico and the United States.


Create and maintain fishery resources at levels which will provide maximum opportunities for recreational fishing.


The proposed Amistad National Recreation Area comprises nearly 63,000 acres of land and water possessing outstanding potential for diversified outdoor recreation. There are no other resources in this region of such quality, capacity, and access to heavily populated centers, and Amistad has the additional attributes of international appeal and opportunity for serving the citizens of both the United States and Mexico.

Outdoor recreation is the dominant resource purpose, enhanced by distinguished archeological values of importance to science and to visitor enjoyment.

This plan provides for effective management and development of the recreation potential through a comprehensive program of facilities and services for public use and enjoyment. With primary responsibility for administering the area, the National Park Service will coordinate resource management with the functions of other concerned Federal and State agencies.

The plan requires the enactment of authorizing legislation.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 26-Mar-2007