Lake Amistad and San Felipe Creek in the Del Rio, TX Area

By Amy Stumpfl on April 28, 2011 at 11:44 am EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Submitted by National Park Service

Whether it’s a relaxing afternoon of swimming and fishing at San Felipe Creek or exploring the scenic coves of Amistad National Recreation Area, the Del Rio area offers plenty of refreshing water recreation opportunities.

Amistad National Recreation Area

Situated along the U.S./Mexico border, Amistad National Recreation Area is a major draw for outdoor recreation, including everything from boating and fishing to camping and birding. The recreation area – which features a huge man-made reservoir and comprises more than 57,000 acres – welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors in 2009.

“The lake is an international reservoir, with a buoy line marking the U.S./Mexico border,” says Greg Garetz, the park’s chief of education and resource management. “The park’s boundaries extend up the Rio Grande, Devil’s and Pecos rivers, which makes it a great place for paddlers and overnight wilderness trips.”

Indeed, the park features a great mix of open water and secluded coves, and plays host to a unique mix of flora and fauna.

“Three major eco-regions come together here at Amistad – the Chihuahuan Desert, Edwards Plateau and Tamaulipan Shrubland,” he says. “People are often surprised after driving through miles of desert when they arrive at this clear, blue lake. Boaters come up the Pecos River and see these giant limestone cliffs – it’s just a perfect area for camping, birding and exploring.”

Garetz says the Amistad area also is home to the largest concentrations of rock art in North America, noting that the mysterious paintings date back roughly 4,000 years.

“There’s a lot of archaeology in the area, and depending on the water level, boaters can easily access the paintings in Panther and Parida Caves,” he says. “Hikers also can take a guided tour at Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site, which sits adjacent to Amistad.”
The park also attracts plenty of anglers, hosting a variety of fishing tournaments throughout the year.

“The tournaments provide a big boost to the local economy,” Garetz says. “They bring in about $30 million a year, generating business for local hotels and restaurants.”

San Felipe Creek

Residents also enjoy fishing and swimming in San Felipe Creek. Featuring the fourth-largest springs in Texas, the San Felipe Area provides the perfect backdrop for community gatherings and recreation.

“Starting around late March, when the weather starts warming up, people begin heading to the creek,” says Anthony Rodriguez, interim superintendent for the City of Del Rio parks, recreation and facilities department. “Two of the most popular areas are Blue Hole Park and the area behind the [Dr. Alfredo Gutierrez Jr.] Amphitheater. Here, people gather for cookouts, community celebrations and various holidays. And on Easter, people are even allowed to camp out at Blue Hole.”

Recognizing the tremendous value of this popular resource, the City of Del Rio has taken an active role in protecting San Felipe Creek.

“In January, we send out crews to collect litter from the creek, making it cleaner and safer for people to enjoy,” Rodriguez says. “Cane eradication is another important objective, helping make the creek more accessible to visitors while protecting the Devil’s River Minnow – an endangered species. The creek is a major attraction for our community. We want to do everything we can to protect it for future generations.”

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