Lake Amistad National Recreation Area

June has come and gone, and I didn’t make a single post. Let me apologize to my followers for this unusually long delay between posts.

Lake Amistad one morning as the full sun was hitting the banks.

June 2022 began with a four day road trip to Denver, Colorado to go visit a client that I have there that used to live in Utah. I had not seen her since she moved in October 2019. I was back home and working for a week, and then my wife and I left for a week to attend her Region Four Arabian Championship horse show up in Napa, Idaho. I was home 4 days, and then left for a week in Texas to visit my best friend from high school. And when I was home, I was swamped with work due to the lousy markets that we are having in the investment world this year.

This is definitely a desert landscape and a harsh land.

Actually, I have a pretty good amount of material now for several posts, and all I need is some time. Anyway, I thought I would make a quick post regarding my trip to Lake Amistad with my high school friend, David. David lives in San Antonio, which is where I flew into from Salt Lake City on Friday, July 1. The next day, David and I drove about 3 1/2 hours west to Lake Amistad near Del Rio, Texas. He has a small condominium there, and we spent a good part of that week at the lake while he was teaching me to fish for bass.

The Amistad Dam as seen from the US Air Force camping area on Lake Amistad.

Lake Amistad is a very large reservoir formed from the Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande River to the west of Del Rio. The lake actually encompasses the confluence of the Devils River as it flows into the Rio Grande River. The Amistad Dam is a jointly owned project between the United States and Mexico, and the lake is on the border between the two countries as well.

That bridge in the background is US 90 and a railroad bridge crossing part of the lake as viewed from the US Air Force boat launch, which is no longer usable due to the low lake levels.

The lake was formed after the dam was constructed back in 1963 and was dedicated in 1969. The Amistad Dam is about 6 miles long with most of it on the Mexican side of the border. The reservoir lake was developed primarily to provide water storage and irrigation for crops along both sides of the border and is the largest border dam between the United States and Mexico. In fact, amistad means friendship in Spanish, and that is where the lake gets its name.

Lake Amistad has become quite renowned for its bass fishing, and that is my friend’s passion. He is a retired United States Air Force colonel and was a dental pathologist during his service years. David is an absolute passionate fisherman, and he has a very nice bass boat.

David fishing from the bow chair of his bass boat.

His condominium sits about 1/2 mile from the boat launch in an area on Lake Amistad known as Rough Canyon on the Devils River portion of the lake. The terrain is mainly desert type vegetation with a lot of canyons and rugged, rocky ground. It was hot when we were there; somewhere between 100 and 105° every day except the first day.

One particularly interesting area of shoreline along the lake.

I have never been much of a fisherman. When I was a kid my parents used to fish on the Rio Grande River up in New Mexico primarily near a small reservoir called Caballo Lake. Back then fishing was simply throwing a worm on the hook and casting into the water. Then you just set around and hoped. Of course I would get bored out of my head within about the first hour or so. Then I would take to either collecting rocks or working on my rock skipping technique in the lake. Needless to say, my parents were not pleased with the rock skipping as it was definitely messing up their fishing.

The first morning on Lake Amistad as the sun was just rising.

On the first evening at the lake condo, David taught me a knot which is used to tie your bait hook onto the fishing line. The knot is called a San Diego Jam Knot, and I think he was really pleased that I became quite proficient with this that first evening. In fact, the next day out on the water, I was tying my own bait hook onto the fishing line in real time. I have never fished from a boat before in my life, and this was an entirely new experience for me. I’m not going to spend a lot of time getting into the fishing specifics here, but let me say this. David is a very accomplished fisherman, and fishing with him was absolutely nothing like any fishing I had ever done before. He taught me an incredible amount in the 3 days on the lake, and I was even changing baits as the fishing condition changed through the day.

This is David’s photo worthy largemouth bass. He would catch one and have it back in the water before I could grab my phone.

We we spent three days on the water in the boat fishing, and most of that time I was actually working at learning this new craft. Unfortunately, David had to spend a considerable amount of time, especially on the first day, untangling my line and retrieving my bait from numerous snags near the lake shore. 😮 I am happy to say that he is a much more patient person than am I, and that was a good thing on this trip. Somewhere near the rocky shoreline is a new hand-painted lure caught between some rocks just under the water. I bought David a few burgers for that. 😂

My photo worthy fish! It’s a smallmouth bass. The intense sun can really fry you out on the open water, so we are really covered up here for sun protection.

I I did manage to catch several fish, but there was only one that I really considered photo worthy. David caught more fish than I could count. He is a catch and release guy, so all of the fish went back in the water as soon as they were caught. And in fact, there is only one that had a bit of injury large enough to cause concern. On the third day, it was about 105°F by the time we got off the lake. David pointed to a small building across the parking area from the boat launch. He told me that if we had been keeping the fish, that we would both be out there in this heat for at least an hour or so cleaning the fish. The light clicked on for me at that moment, and now I know why he is a catch and release guy. Also, he’s not real fond of fish. Go figure; a fisherman who doesn’t really like to eat fish. 😂

This section of the lake is on the Devils River, and it is appropriately named. The dead trees and arid landscape make this place almost otherworldly.

The whole time I was fishing I was also thinking about the area and the many photographic opportunities that were coming up. So, several times during the day I would secure the pole in the boat for a few minutes and take some pictures. As I had flown to San Antonio, I wanted to keep my gear fairly light and simple. Therefore, I had just taken my phone to use as my camera for the trip. I was pretty pleased with most of the photographs, but I don’t think they’re all up to the same quality as my Nikon.

With the low lake level, caution is needed to avoid unexpected rocks that used to be deep underwater.

One thing that I noticed right away was the incredible effect that climate change has had on Lake Amistad as well as the weather that we experienced while we were there. I grew up in El Paso in west Texas up the Rio Grande River a few hundred miles to the northwest. Summers in El Paso were always hot, but 100° days were fairly rare and not all that frequent. That is not the case nowadays, however.

These limestone cliffs were quite interesting, and the fish seemed to like the area as well.

The southwestern United States and northern Mexico are in a very extreme drought. Some scientists are saying that we are in the worst drought that we have experienced in the last 1200 years. You can see from several of the photographs that the lake level has receded considerably over the last few years. I didn’t take any formal measurements, but it appears that Lake Amistad is probably down somewhere between 10 and 15 feet from its normal levels. It might even be lower than that. Not to get political here, but climate change is no longer a future threat. It is here now, and we are already dealing with its numerous effects.

These old trees were drowned long ago when the lake began to fill after 1969. But due to the severe drought, we are seeing their tops again for the first time in around 50 years.

Here are more photographs of my trip to Lake Amistad.

I took this from David’s boat while I was waiting for him to get back down the boat ramp with the truck and trailer. You can clearly see how low the lake is here as the east half of ramp no longer goes into the water.
I took this our first afternoon while I was waiting for David to get back with the boat trailer.
These old trees were really catching my eye in this portion of the Devils River.
Occasionally we got some 4 legged visitors while we fished.
The disadvantage of the phone camera. On the right center of the photo is a large great blue heron. My Samsung loses clarity when the phone zooms to more than about 2.5 times magnification. Sorry.
This was an absolutely beautiful morning to be fishing on Lake Amistad. The water was calm and the sky was perfect.
This was another craggy area with many hazards right under the boat.

I really hope that you enjoyed this post about Lake Amistad near Del Rio Texas. I’m pretty sure that when David sees all of these pictures he’s going to realize that may be one reason why you didn’t catch as many fish.

This was an incredibly fun experience to spend a week with my best friend from high school, especially being able to watch him work his craft and engage in his favorite pastime – bass fishing. We spent a lot of time together catching up on all those years since high school, but we both realize that nothing in our friendship had changed.

Now that I am back from my summer travels, I will be able to get time and put together several posts from all of these trips that I have taken over the last month. Thanks again for your patience with the delay in getting this post out.

Stay safe out there and keep smiling!

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