Lake Amistad Information

Lake Amistad straddles the Texas and Mexico Border 12 miles north of Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico. Lake Amistad covers 64,900 acres and has 850 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 217 feet and an average water fluctuation level of five to ten feet per year. The Rio Grande River at its confluence with Devil’s River, Pecos River, and Rio Conchos River feeds Lake Amistad. The Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas surrounds its shoreline. 

The United States and Mexico own Lake Amistad. The International Boundary and Water Commission operates Lake Amistad and its dam, which was designed to establish the boundary between the United States and Mexico from California to Texas. Massive limestone and wash deposits on flat terrain along with low cliffs, surfaced by dark, calcareous, stony clays and clay loams, make up the terrain of Lake Amistad, which supports grasses and water-tolerant hardwoods and conifers.

In Texas, Lake Amistad lies in Val Verde County. Its shoreline is mostly uninhabited, with few housing developments and few lake access points. Lake Amistad has three sections. A large northern section is in Texas, another section sits along the Rio Grande River channel, and a large southern section is in Mexico. Lake Amistad is characterized by clear blue and sometimes emerald green waters with visibility up to 50 feet. 


History of Lake Amistad

Texas and Mexico built Lake Amistad for flood control, conservation, irrigation, power, and recreation in 1969. To commemorate the cooperation and goodwill exhibited by both countries with the Lake Amistad project, the Lake Amistad Dam and Reservoir was named Lake Amistad for the Spanish word meaning "friendship". 

Indigenous people from 6,000 BC to 60 AD inhabited the region of Lake Amistad. They left pictographs and rock art carvings behind in caves and on the land from the Archaic Period. Scholars and archeologists have been studying these ancient relics since 1932. Archeologists have found 200 rock art sites in the Amistad National Recreation Area.

Although there are numerous cave paintings throughout the region, the most famous is Panther Cave. It is only accessible by boat or hike from the Rio Grande River north of Lake Amistad. Panther’s Cave’s stone canvas depicts dozens of surreal and distorted figures of humans, deer, rabbits, felines, and others called “enigmatics” because they are indefinable. 

One of the largest paintings in Panther Cave is that of a large wild cat that looks like a panther, aka mountain lion. That panther faces the other human and animal-like figures and includes a smaller panther whose pigments have faded. Another pictograph is of a large human-like male figure holding his atlatl (throwing stick) backwards, and on his wrist is a tattoo-like decoration. 

Panther Cave is one of the many sites featuring Lower Pecos pictograph styles in the Lake Amistad region. These pictographs and rock art carvings are considered world-renowned archaeological treasures. Jean Clottes, president of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations, from France once quoted, “Pecos rock art compares favorably with great rock art elsewhere on other continents”.


Fishing Lake Amistad (Texas and Mexico)

Predominant game species are largemouth, smallmouth, white, and striped bass, and blue and channel catfish. Other species include Guadalupe bass, carp, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. There are only five boat ramps and one marina on Lake Amistad. A free lake map of the Amistad National Recreation Area is available from the National Park Service's Amistad Visitor Information Center.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) frequently stocks and maintains the striped bass population because they do not successfully reproduce in Lake Amistad. Lake Amistad is rich in rock ledges, steep rocky drop offs, rocky points, and shorelines. Isolated flooded timber, flooded brush during water level increases, and areas of hydrilla provide additional fish cover. TWPD established a Christmas-tree fish attractor near the Governor's Landing camping area.

Current Texas state regulations for licenses and fish species on the Texas side of Lake Amistad apply. Mexico requires anglers to have a Mexico fishing license in Mexican waters. Mexico does not currently require boat permits. For more information on Mexico’s fishing regulations, visit the National Aquaculture and Fishing Commission (CONAPESCA) website. Plenty of Lake Amistad exceptional fishing guides will navigate you around this vast lake to secure your catch of the day. 

Find experienced local guides on our Lake Amistad Fishing Guides page.


Lake Amistad Boating (Texas and Mexico)

Lake Amistad is one of the ten largest lakes in Texas. Lake Amistad’s waters are clear with an average visibility of 40 to 50 feet, which scuba divers love. Lake Amistad boasts of beautiful low cliffs, ancient rock art, plenty of room for water skiing and personal watercraft, and spring fed waterfalls, depending on how much it rains.

Southwinds Marina is the only marina on Lake Amistad with slip rentals, dry storage, a towing service, boat, canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals, lodging, and camping. There are a few other boat rental services. Lake Amistad is plenty deep enough for large boats, and comes equipped with amazing scenery and views.

Only five boat ramps are available, and they are far apart in distance. The TPWD advises boaters to buy or download a lake map for boating of any kind on this deep lake at 217 feet. A free lake map of the Amistad National Recreation Area is available from the National Park Service's Amistad Visitor Information Center.

Bass fishing “rules” on Lake Amistad. During the almost weekly year round fishing tournaments, Lake Amistad may be busy with slow trolling or parked boats, but there is enough room for recreational boating on open waters on both the Texas and Mexico sides. Boaters do not need a boat license in Mexican waters; only anglers need a Mexico fishing license.  

The National Park Service (NPS) issued these advisories for Lake Amistad:

  • Safety First when Swimming!
  • Stay within reach of children.
  • Do not swim alone.
  • Diving from the cliffs is extremely dangerous and is not recommended.
  • If you swim from a boat, make sure the boat is anchored. Never start the engine while swimmers are overboard.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty; all swimming is at your own risk.
  • Small children and non-swimmers should wear Coast Guard approved life jackets; some areas in Amistad Reservoir have sudden drop offs.
  • Remember: Water activities and alcohol do not mix. Many drownings are alcohol-related and can be prevented by not drinking alcoholic beverages before or during water sports.

Find or sell a boat on our Lake Amistad Boats for Sale page. 


Lake Amistad Real Estate (Texas)

Lake Amistad’s shoreline is almost wholly owned by the Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas. There are very few homes and properties available for sale on Lake Amistad’s shorelines in Texas. The few housing communities center on businesses catering to boating and fishing enthusiasts. 

The population of Del Rio, Texas, is almost 36,000. Del Rio is the only city for miles around with a Walmart. There are no restaurants or nightlife on Lake Amistad on the Texas side. Del Rio has independent schools, not independent school districts, offering various options in education. The best bet to find a lake home on Lake Amistad is to consult with a Del Rio real estate professional. 

To find your dream lake home, explore our Lake Amistad Homes for Sale page. 


Lake Amistad Cabin Rentals (Texas)

It is slim pickings on Lake Amistad for vacation homes and cabins. Lake Amistad Rentals is one of three businesses that offer lakefront condos, mobile homes, cabins, cabana huts, RV sites, and boat storage rentals along the lake. There are a couple of off-lake RV parks. Ruthie’s Rentals has ten vacation homes. Southwinds Marina has cabins for rent. Be sure to book your rental in advance, because fishing tournaments happen weekly year round on Lake Amistad. 

Find the perfect vacation home on our Lake Amistad Cabins page. 


Lake Amistad Camping (Texas)

There are five designated campgrounds within the park: Governors Landing, Rough Canyon, San Pedro, Spur 406, and 277 North. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are no reservations. Campgrounds are open year round and rarely fill up, except on holiday weekends.

Campground fees range from $6 to $10 per site or with a 50% discount with an Interagency Senior Pass or Access Pass and are payable within 30 minutes of occupying a campsite. There is a self-pay fee station centrally located at each designated campground. Each site has a covered picnic table and fire grill. All campgrounds have vault toilets. Quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6 am. Checkout time is 11 am.

Most sites will accommodate RVs, but there are no hookups. An RV dump station with potable water is located along the road to the Diablo East boat ramp. A few RV parks in the Del Rio area offer full services. 

Site capacity is not to exceed eight persons and allow one recreational vehicle per camping unit and three vehicles in total per site. Vehicles must be parked in designated parking areas only and may not be driven off-road. Visitors can stay in a campground up to 14 consecutive nights with a limit of 60 nights in the park in a calendar year.

Three parks offer group camping, Rock Quarry at 35 people maximum, San Pedro at 75 people maximum, and 277 North at 35 people maximum. Group campgrounds are $30 a night for up to 15 people. If the group is over 15 people, it is $2 per person per night. 

Group campgrounds are available by reservation only. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance and no less than three days in advance. Make reservations at the Visitor Center.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Lake Amistad Camping page. 


Trails at Lake Amistad (Texas)

Amistad National Recreation Area offers hikers a number of trails to explore, whether you are interested in a short walk or a more skilled hike. Before you embark on a hike at Lake Amistad, remember that it is a desert region, and you must take safety precautions and federal laws seriously:

  • Always carry enough water for 1 gallon per person per day.
  • Hike during cooler hours of the day.
  • Always use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
  • The landscape is full of plants with thorns; wear heavy-soled hiking boots.
  • Watch out for venomous snakes. If you encounter a snake do not make any sudden movements. Stop, then slowly back away from it. Do not kill the snake. Snakes are protected by federal law, and play a very important part in the desert ecosystem.
  • If you plan to hike alone, always let somebody know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Take only pictures, leave only footprints. All things inside National Park Service boundaries, living and nonliving, are protected by federal law. The removal of plants, animals, artifacts, rocks, etc. is prohibited.
  • Be sure to have a copy of Amistad NRA's Official Map and Guide, which shows the park's boundaries, since hiking on adjacent private land is not permitted. Local landowners are not kind to trespassers.

Mountain Lions at Lake Amistad

Mountain lions, aka panthers, inhabit the area but are rarely seen. While an encounter is unlikely, it is always better to be prepared and know how to react in case you have an encounter with an aggressive mountain lion.

  • Maintain eye contact, and never turn away from the lion.
  • Stand up straight, with arms above your head in order to appear larger. If children are hiking with you, pick them up and hold them.
  • Back away very slowly in case the lion is guarding a kill or her den.
  • If the lion approaches, throw rocks or sticks and yell at the animal.
  • If the lion does attack, fight back.

Diablo East presents a short interpretive nature trail where you will learn about a variety of plants and enjoy sweeping views of Lake Amistad. 

The Sunrise Trail is 1.5 miles long and connects from 9685 Hwy 90 West to Spur 454. This trail is located on the old Brite Ranch. You will see a large variety of plants and birds while hiking. Benches are provided so that you can sit and enjoy the sweeping views of the lake. A copy of the Sunrise Trail Map is available online to print.

At the Pecos, you will find a short interpretive nature trail along the Pecos River. Hikers will enjoy views of the Pecos River, its cliffs, and a wide variety of plants.

The Figueroa Trail is a series of trails that comprise the longest section in the recreation area. It is located on the old Figueroa Ranch and features rolling hilly trails that will take you through desert and shrub-land plants, while providing views of the lake and the dam. A printable Figueroa Trail Map is available. The Figueroa Trail system is located within Hunt Area 1. Please use caution and wear hunter orange during hunting season from September 1 to February 28 on this trail.


Hunting Lake Amistad (Texas)

Public hunting opportunities are available at Amistad National Recreation Area at a nominal cost.

Five specific public hunting areas are available for archery and shotgun hunting at Amistad National Recreation Area during hunting season. White-tailed deer, javelina, turkey, rabbit, exotic mouflon sheep, exotic aoudad sheep, exotic blackbuck antelope, exotic axis deer, and feral hog can be hunted with compound, recurve, and longbows. Dove, quail, duck, and rabbit can be hunted with shotgun and birdshot. The use of rifles and handguns is prohibited at Amistad National Recreation Area.

To check for yearly hunting regulations at Amistad National Recreation Area, hunters can check for the regulations and where the hunting grounds are by calling the Amistad National Recreation Area office or going to the National Park Service website. 


Things to Do at Lake Amistad

Lake Amistad is the premier attraction at Lake Amistad. Its region is an outdoorsman’s paradise. There is no nightlife, and few eateries. This desert region is the ultimate in TexMex culture. Del Rio, Texas, is the only town nearby for miles and miles. 

Panther Cave north of Lake Amistad on the Rio Grande River is the main historical destination for visitors to Lake Amistad. This cave holds some of the best-preserved pictographs dating back to 6,000 BC left behind by ancient peoples. Panther cave is accessible only by boat or hike, but the hike is only for those highly skilled in desert survival skills. When Lake Amistad’s water levels are low, you cannot get there by boat. To visit Panther Cave, the best resource of how to do so is to contact the Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site.

Casa de la Cultura in Del Rio is a small community arts center that displays paintings, sculptures, and other works made by artists from around the state of Texas. It hosts art, music, and dance classes, and participates in Del Rio’s First Friday Artwalk. It is located at 302 Cantu Street, Del Rio, Texas.

Del Rio Council for the Arts at the Firehouse Gallery is an art center and exhibits local and regional artwork. Housed within one of Del Rio’s historic buildings, it was built in 1922 as Del Rio’s first firehouse, city hall, and jail. It is located at 302 Cantu St, Del Rio, Texas. 

The Laughlin Heritage Foundation Museum displays photographs, medals, and artifacts meant to tell the story of the individuals and units that once served at Laughlin Air Force Base. It is located at 309 S Main St, Del Rio, Texas.

The Lee Bunch Studio Gallery exhibits watercolor, oil, and pastel paintings, hand-painted china, and other works of art at its studio near downtown Del Rio. Visitors can browse the gallery Monday through Friday and on Saturday afternoons. It is located at 100 West Greenwood, Del Rio, Texas.

Visit Val Verde Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery in Texas. This winery was established in 1883, when Italian immigrant Frank Qualia immigrated to Del Rio and found Lenoir grapes thriving in the area. Today, the winery produces a wide range of wine using grapes grown in its vineyard on the southeastern side of Del Rio. Tours and tastings are available to the public Monday through Saturday. It is located at 100 Qualia Drive, Del Rio, Texas.

Plan your next trip on our What To Do At Lake Amistad page.


Lake Amistad Zip Codes

Val Verde County: 76943, 78837, 78840, 78841, 78842, 78843, 78847, 78871.


Lake Amistad Weather & Climate

Lake Amistad sees an average of 19 inches of rain, with no snow, and 227 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 37 degrees with a summer high in July of 96 degrees. March, April, and October are the most comfortable months for this region.

Keep eyes on the skies with our Lake Amistad Weather Forecast page.


Lake Amistad Flora and Fauna

Visitors to Lake Amistad commonly see white-tail deer, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, an occasional skunk or porcupine, and an extremely elusive panther, aka mountain lion, as depicted in Panther Cave. 

Many tropical species, especially birds, are at or near their northern limits. Great kiskadees, a flycatcher, olive sparrows, and two tropical kingfishers, the ringed and green, are for birders. Tropical butterfly sightings include the white peacock, ruddy daggerwing, common mestra, and the polydamas swallowtail, which are present in season.

The greatest wildlife phenomenon in the Amistad National Recreation Area is the fall migration of Monarch butterflies. In October, right after the first major autumn cold front, thousands of Monarchs pass through this part of Texas and Mexico on the way to their wintering grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. They roost in trees by the hundreds, while waiting for the northern winds to help them fly on their journey south.

Tall trees do not grow in the desert. Lake Amistad’s flora is characterized by the many species of acacia, including huisache, blackbrush, and guajillo, and cactus. Cenizo, mesquite, and retama are other species of this tropical flora.

Lake Amistad Email Updates


 

Lake Amistad Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.

 

Lake Amistad Weather Forecast

Tuesday

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 78

Tuesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 60

Wednesday

Sunny

Hi: 78

Wednesday Night

Clear

Lo: 57

Thursday

Sunny

Hi: 80

Thursday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 61

Friday

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 85

Friday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 63


Lake Amistad Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 11/21: 647.74 (-504.26)



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