When I hear the sentence, “We Will Not Be Tamed,” one place immediately springs to mind: Devils River State Natural Area.
Trust me, this is a mental picture that is earned. Devils River is the hardest park to reach in our state. Not only is it out in the middle of nowhere – the closest city of any size is 60 miles south in Del Rio – but getting to the park turn-off is only half the battle. From there, you need a high-clearance vehicle to circumnavigate the 22-mile, roller coaster ride that is Dolan Creek Road, which typically takes an hour to an hour and a half to clear. Reaching the headquarters (and the neighboring bunkhouses) means you’ve seen just about all there is to see in terms of buildings in the park. And after you go a couple more miles down the road to find a parking spot, you have to hike another mile just to get to the river.
My first trip to the Devils involved begging my colleague, Jon, to drive me. Jon has a Jeep, and my Prius won’t cut it on Dolan Creek Road. Fortunately, Jon is always game for an adventure. So he, myself and my dog, Lucy (the only dog to ever visit every state park in Texas), hopped in, took off the top and headed west.
It was early May a few years ago, so it wasn’t very hot just yet. (“Very” being an important distinction.) Taking the top off the Jeep was the first error we made. Remember, these memories are earned – and sometimes learned, as well. The Texas summer and an hour-plus journey down a dusty road isn’t the best combination. Yet, we made it.
After checking in, we drove to the main parking lot. Both of us (Lucy, too, I would assume) were shocked to see another car there. When you’re at the Devils, it truly does feel like you’re alone in the world. We hiked to the river and spent the majority of the day in the absolute beauty of the crystal clear, blue-green water. A while later, we finally spotted the people from the other car – two fishermen who appeared a bit perturbed to have others crash their peace and quiet. We gave them their space, which is easy to do at the Devils. There’s nothing but space. And peace. And quiet.
After a couple of hours, we decided it was time to go home. A Suburban, with four people inside, pulled into the parking lot as we were leaving. In multiple visits to the Devils, those four individuals and the two fishermen remain the only six visitors I’ve ever encountered there.
One thing you’ll quickly learn about visiting the Devils is to make sure you gas up every opportunity you have. That was error number two for me and Jon. Park headquarters graciously picked up a satellite phone to call the gas station several miles down on the main highway. First, they had to find out if it was even open. If so, there was still a decent chance they had no gas. Fortunately, they were, and they did. We cruised in on fumes about an hour and a half later, grimacing at the “CASH ONLY” marker on top of the $5.00 per gallon sign. (I can’t remember the exact price, but it was in that ballpark.) Jon and I gathered up every quarter and dime we could find in the floorboard and glove compartment. A couple dollars of gas helped us reach Rocksprings – and a gas pump that took credit cards. We filled up – and still laugh at our good fortune to this day.
It’s often said the Devils is the cleanest river in Texas. Once you visit, it’s easy to see why. Far from humans and development and protected by a 22-mile road most folks would rather not deal with.
Let’s keep it that way.
Watch Dale’s drone video, which was shot with the permission of, and in collaboration with, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Devils River State Natural Area. Please note that all but two Texas State Parks are “No Drone Zones.” Before flying a drone in a state park, you must first obtain permission with the park superintendent. Please allow up to two weeks for a response to your request.
About the Author:
Dale Blasingame is an outspoken advocate for Texas State Parks. He is the only person to ever visit every state park in one year, an experience he chronicled in the pages of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. Blasingame, along with his dog, Lucy, were featured on the Texas Highways magazine list of Extraordinary Texans in 2016. Blasingame is an assistant professor of practice in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University, where he leads a Study in America program that takes students to state and national parks to create content for various media partners. He is a proud member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.