dumashellion big bend, texas devil's river, texas cowee creek, alaska costa rica rio costilla oneonta fish pics pics more pics


november 2003




Getting there: The time is now. For months I had researched this river. The Devil’s River flows for a 100 miles before dumping into Lake Amistad. It’s famous for disgruntled landowners and smallmouth bass. We had done epic trips in the past. Big Bend, Alaska, the Deschutes… but never a wild Texas river in a kayak. A river that sees about 300 people per year. What kind of experience were we in for?

I monitor the temperature monitor in my GMC… 66, 65, 64… 55 in just 8 minutes as we tool down highway 90. You could see the edge of the cold front. "Cousin, it’s going to get cold tonight"


We need butane for the camping stoves. It was on the list. Why didn’t I buy it or have my brother procure it on one of his numerous trips to REI and Bass Pro Shops. "Cousin, we won’t be able to find butane in this town (Del Rio) on a Sunday. Let’s go to Walmart and buy a propane camping stove".

We left Walmart/ Murphy USA with a ‘duel fuel’ camping stove and a full tank of gas. I thought it would be worth the extra time, miles, to show my cousin the bridge over the Pecos. If this trip goes well, maybe next year we can do the Pecos. A legendary river. The north wind cuts through my blue jean jacket as we witness the magnificent river flowing through canyon walls.

163 is a highway without friends. It plots its course through a rugged country. Minus an occasional buzzard, this road is desolate. What have I gotten us into? Tomorrow, two brothers, a cousin, and I will paddle a river seldom seen. Seldom heard of. We have got no river experience, just kayaks and the desire to chase a waterfall. Dolan Falls.



Early in our Big Bend experiences we conquered the 2nd tallest peak in Texas (Emory). A couple years later we moved farther west and conquered the tallest peak in Texas. The next year, after learning that the tallest waterfall in Texas resided near the Rio Grande, we conquered it (Madrid Falls).

Northbound 163, we crossed the Devil’s. A quick right found us at Baker’s Crossing. My brothers had already set up camp. Fried porkchops and grilled corn on the cob is going to taste good tonight. After dinner the warmth from our campfire took the bite out of the cold wind. We asked ourselves… are we prepared? The cold front brought freezing temperatures and made me nervous.

Day 1: After the frost went away, we had coffee and sausage and egg breakfast tacos. By the time we got on the river, the day was warmer. However, the wind had shifted and was now out of the southeast. D



My initial thoughts of the Devil’s River. WOW! Isolated. Flowing free and clean. No people. Just ducks. An occasional deer. Push harder. Camp is 10 miles away. The thought of mean landowners crept into my head again. What’s up with these whitecaps… it would be easier to paddle upstream.

GPS informed us we were way behind schedule averaging 1.5 miles per hour. Push. Paddle harder. Drink water. Eat granola bar. This is God's country.

Life is good, but my arms are tiring out. My back hurts. There’s the low water crossing. Our campsite is close. Feels good to get out of the boat. Shaking from the cold. I pee in my wetsuit pants. The warmth fades all to quickly.

The island never shows itself. I can’t go any further. "Hey fellas, let’s camp here". Against their better judgement, they agree.



Our ‘illegal’ camp is a rock bed adjacent to the water. The wind blows. We’re cold. Let’s get these tents up. Cook some soup. Eat tortillas and cheese. Cousin motions. You can here the wind, moving the brush and more across the river. Louder and louder. I see motion. Wetback? Nope. Young couple. "Are you deer hunters?" This is trouble. "You are trespassing, you’ll have to move on down the river!"

Moving on down the river was not an option. My brother told her the sheriff could meet us at the take out.

In bed by 7PM is a rarity for me. Last time I did it, I had just scaled Guadulupe Peak, without sleeping the night before. The wind howls. My legs are cold. Feet too. Can’t sleep. Won’t be long before the law shows up. My brother next to me has cold feet. He bitches. My other brother and cousin, twenty feet from the tent, drink wine in the cold wind. They tell lies.



Today was a bitch. 11+ miles in 30+ mile an hour wind gusts! I hear footsteps. Still can’t sleep. Again more footsteps. Deer? Hog? I hear my brother begin to snore… I can rest now, wild animals will not get any closer.

Day 2: The sun rises. It’s cold. Damn cold. What am I doing here? Brother yells, ‘get your ass out of bed!’. One of the reasons I couldn’t sleep was the thought of putting my ‘wet’ paddling pants back on. And those cold kayaking shoes. Jerry Jeff song crept through my head – ‘don’t it make you wanna dance… when your down down down on the (Devil’s) you can sing awhile’.

No time for singing. It’s that all to familiar sound in the brush across the river. ‘the bitch is back’. But now she’s a he wearing a felt hat, badge… carrying a pistol.

"Can you fellas paddle over here?" My worst nightmare coming down. Never in my life have I trespassed. And now I’ve got to pay the fiddler… another song crept in my head, "he was in a bind, way behind… ready to make a deal".



It appears to be warming up. Pool and drop. Watch the current. Follow the sound. I’m tired of this life jacket. Proud of my big brother for carrying approximately 500 pounds, including his weight, on his boat. Holly shit. A canoe never would of made that last run!? In the next run, we witness a big 8 point splashing through the waves. Fifty yards from the bow of my boat. Incredible.

Pool and drop. The Devil’s. What a river. Glad I came! Why is this place not on the map? I’ll tell you why. Paddle harder! Don’t let a few whitecaps stop the damn pilgrimage! Paddle. Paddle.

Cousin is out of his boat. Could it be Dolan Falls! Sweet Jesus cousin! Let go of that boat! My brother nods. It is Dolan. Portage river right. Thank goodness cousin is safe.


In less than 24 hours, we went from some rude woman telling us to move on down the river... the sound of the rushing water allowed me to dream of big smallies on the fly.

Day 3: Incredible weather. I paddled in a t-shirt, until I dumped for the first time on the trip. Creeks and springs were responsible for more flow, more waves. A beaver swam under my kayak. I dumped again at the bottom of a long run of Class II waves. It didn’t matter. The sun was warm. We had paid our dues on the Devil’s, and were due this fine day on a river that very few people ever experience. I was content… and glad that I had gotten down and dirty on the Devil’s.



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