In my continuing effort to explore Lake Amistad by kayak, I set off today from the Box Canyon boat ramp and headed north to Cow Creek Canyon. The launch site is 8 miles down a caliche road off Highway 90. The road goes through several ranches with sheep and goats all over the place. The Park Service wants to pave the road, but the ranchers are putting up a fight. It�s easily passable, but is a long washboard!
The wind had already picked up when I launched at 11am but was manageable and the heat was in the mid 90�s-much better than the mid 100�s of my last trip in July. There are several coves along the way that are worth exploring. The land here is limestone with some small bluffs, mostly below 20�. The water is so clear here-you can see the bottom more than a paddle length below the boat. Paddling over the underwater ridges, you can see the variety of plants that grew here when they were out of the water. Until this fall, the lake was down over 50�, it has filled up and is now about 10� below capacity.
Cow Creek Canyon is about 3 miles from the launch and is a large canyon that has many fingers and coves to explore. I spent several hours exploring all of them and swimming in many. Sure is nice to have the cold water to cool off! The land here starts to rise and there are several tall limestone bluffs 3 miles back in. One of them has a large cave at the water level that is a great place to get out of the sun for a while. There are lots of caves in this bluff that would be fun to explore but the area offers no place to get in and out of a kayak. It might be possible to land somewhere nearby and hike to the bluff, but getting down from the top would be difficult without ropes.
As I rounded the corner in one of the coves, I saw a huge rental houseboat pulling a large deck boat pulling a ski boat! With the lake so large, that�s one way of enjoying it, but I like my way better. I had a little excitement here-I caught a group of people sunbathing au natural. They didn�t see or hear me coming, but being the gentleman that I am, I made a splashing noise as I got closer. Of course, it took me a while to do so! Turns out they were college kids out of Angelo State enjoying a few days vacation before heading home for the rest of the summer. I don�t know what this younger generation is coming to-these kids were buck-naked, talking to a stranger as if nothing was out of the ordinary! They asked me to join them, but since they have their whole life ahead of them, I didn�t want to give them nightmares for years to come! I paddled on and was soon out of binocular range, er, I mean sight.
Coming out of the canyon I headed across to the Mexican side to explore some of the large canyons on that side of the lake. First up were the twin canyons, Canyon del Zorro and Canyon del Tule. Canyon del Zorro is very large-5 miles long and a mile wide almost all the way back. The terrain is similar to the Texas side but the shore doesn�t rise as much here. I saw more bird in this canyon than any other I�ve explored at Amistad-lots of blue herons, some egrets, lots of ducks and even two deer getting water in a small cove.
Canyon del Tule is smaller, being only about 3 miles long and less than a mile wide. It looks much like the other canyon but fewer birds.
By now, it was getting late and I still had to head into the wind going back. Luckily there hadn�t been much wind in the canyons, so I wasn�t too tired. I still had the lake to myself, not a boat in sight. I followed the Mexican side until I was across Box Canyon and crossed-it�s only a short distance across open water there. I sure was glad to see the truck-this was my longest paddle yet, a little over 22 miles. The more I paddle these long trips, the more I realize I need a longer boat. I also need to lose weight and get in shape. Unfortunately, the boat will probably come first!
Lake Amistad is a large lake with clear, blue water. Paddling along the shore allows great views of underwater hilltops and plants. Watch out for the wind every afternoon from the south.
Boat ramp, store that was closed on Tuesday.
Head out Highway 90 west, cross the bridge over the lake and look for Box Canyon Marina road on the left. Follow this road for about 8 miles.
Map obtained from the National Park Service HQ on the way to the lake