From its proximity to Lake Amistad to its ranches and rodeos, Del Rio has a captivating cowboy culture unlike any other city. With approximately 50,000 residents in Val Verde County, a thriving business community, a gorgeous lake amenity and the prestigious Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio is not your typical Texas town.
Del Rio Rodeos and Ranches
Newcomers are attracted to Del Rio’s Western cowboy culture. Every May, Del Rio’s Val Verde County Fairgrounds host the popular George Paul Memorial Bull Riding competition. A tradition for more than 30 years, it is the oldest continuous bull riding competition in the world. In addition to this bull riding event, there are rodeos featuring steer ropers, barrel racers and a daredevil motorcycle jump over the Bad Company Rodeo trailer.
Del Rio native Houston Hutto began roping calves as a child and went on to become a national champion. He has been competing professionally all over the United States and Canada for the last eight years, but Hutto has fond memories of his hometown.
“I lived in Del Rio until I was about 21, and I grew up on a ranch. My dad and granddad both rodeoed, so I didn’t really have a choice,” Hutto jokes. “Some of the best things about Del Rio are the lake and the hunting — they have big whitetail deer. Everybody is really friendly — there’s just good people down there.”
Sportsmen flock to area ranches such as Indianhead Ranch and Dead Man’s Pass Ranch, which specialize in hunting packages. Whitetail deer, rams, blue quail, Rio Grande turkeys and feral hogs are just of few of the animals popular with hunters in Del Rio.
Del Rio’s Ancient Rock Art
In recent years, Del Rio has received national attention for its ancient rock art, which dates back as far as 4,000 years. The rock art findings have attracted archeologists from around the world, and they are being studied at the Shumla School Inc., a nonprofit archeological research and education center in nearby Comstock.
“There are hundreds of rock art sites in the Del Rio area, and new ones are being discovered each year,” says Dr. Carolyn Boyd, executive director of the Shumla School. “The oldest rock art, called Pecos River style, contains images of human-like forms, animals and all kinds of enigmatic imagery. These rock art panels are sometimes over 100 feet long and over 20 feet tall. They are painted in an array of earth colors — red, yellow, black, orange and white. A lot of the panels required native peoples to construct ladders and scaffolding.”
The Shumla School records the rock art through photography, illustrations and 3-D laser mapping. Since 2009, Shumla has archived more than 10,000 photos and illustrated more than 1,500 images. The school is always in need of volunteers to help with recording the rock art.
“Numerous famous rock art experts have said the rock art here is second to none in the world,” Boyd says. “In my travels abroad, I am often surprised to find there seem to be more people overseas who know about our art than people in our own community. I was just interviewed by Discover magazine, and they are doing a feature about it in summer 2011. I think Del Rio will see a tremendous increase in tourism as a result of increased awareness about the art.”
Former professors at Texas A&M University, Boyd and her husband moved to Comstock in 2003 to run the Shumla School.
“We love it here. It really still has that Wild West feel,” she says. “The people are fabulous, the landscape is breathtaking and the history is remarkable. What more could a person ask for?”
Del Rio and Acuña
Located six miles away and just across the border from Del Rio is the Mexican city of Acuña. There is a strong relationship between the two cities that extends from government officials to residents who cross the border to both work and play.
“Del Rio is really nice for raising a family. We haven’t had any major negative incidents like other cities, and the lake benefits both sides of the border by bringing in tourists,” says Jorge Ramon, economic development director for the city of Acuña. “I actually live on both sides of the border, working in Mexico during the week and living in Del Rio on weekends. I have three kids, and the quality of life is really nice in Del Rio. We also like visiting my parents, who live in Del Rio.”
Local businesses such as Del Rio Feed & Supply and Plaza Del Sol Mall have benefited from being near the border, and Del Rio has been known to give support to Mexican towns. Del Rio and Acuña enjoy a great relationship and have partnered to help the region appeal to newcomers.
“The two mayors meet to discuss issues, and the two cities work together on prospects on both sides of the border,” Ramon says. “It’s a really nice relationship. We have international events together. And a lot of our population shops in Del Rio, which benefits their economy.”
A city of 160,000 people, Acuña is home to 70 industrial companies based in the United States. Roughly 2,500 of their 35,000 total employees live in Del Rio and work in Acuña, crossing the border every day to get to and from work.
“It only takes about five minutes to get across the border here, or 30 minutes if you’re in a large exporting truck,” Ramon says. “It’s fast and easy compared with other places along the border.”
Discover more on Del Rio's culture.