Amistad may be one of the most unique travel destinations in the United States. Outside of the historical confines of Del Rio, Texas, the Lake Amistad National Recreation Area offers much more than the quality fishing that has captured the atten- tion of anglers across the country. With 67,000 acres of water along 540 miles of U.S. shoreline, Amistad is one of the largest, clearest lakes in Texas! Amistad is Spanish for friendship; in this case, an affinity marked between two neighboring countries. The Mexican and American border is marked with buoys up the Rio Grande Chan- nel. Amistad NRA is the United States portion of International Amistad reservoir. Considered by many to be Del Rio’s biggest draw, Amistad is known for excellent water-based recreation, camping and is surrounded by a landscape rich in ancient rock art, a strong border culture, along with a wide variety of plant and animal life. The lake is the confluence of the Pecos, Rio Grande, and Devil’s River; limestone deposits and solid earth lend the water an extraordinary clarity and deep turquoise qual- ity. By lake standards, Amistad really isn’t that old. A coopera- tive effort, symbolized by the two bronze stars at the center of the dam, it was built in 1960. With the floods of 1954 still in the minds of many, the dam was built, primarily for recreational and hydroelectric use. This flooding hurried the process of building a dam on the middle Rio Grande. In July 1960, US President
Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Amistad legislation appropri- ating the first monies for the dam project and on October 24, he and Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos met in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. A local annual celebration called Fiesta de Amis- tad commemorates this presidential meeting. While the fishing has become the reason most visit this bor- der jewel, historically there’s so much more to see. The Amistad NRA area is home to dramatic 4,000 year-old rock art. These mysterious paintings adorn rock shelter walls in the upper reach- es of Amistad Reservoir. Boaters can usually access Panther and Parida Caves (depending on lake level), and hikers can go on a guided tour at nearby Seminole Canyon State Park. A closer look at the modern landscape of Lake Amistad can tell a person much more about the history of the area than they might at first expect. That history of the region is very much similar to that of the Grand Canyon. The first ‘visitors’ to the area followed herds of large ice mammals that grazed on the grassy plateaus and ventured into the canyons for winter. While these first inhabitants may be gone the artifacts and paintings left behind on the canyon walls tell stories of a strong indigenous people from years gone by. The petroglyphs found here are some of the best ever examples of Native American art. They show a people who hunted and fished these canyons long before the days of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the distant US military outpost that arrived a mere couple hundred years ago.
by Dan Mathisen