Lake Amistad, Mexico & Texas USA

Lake Locations:

Mexico - North Mexico - USA - Southwest - Texas - Hill Country -

Also known as:  International Amistad Reservoir

The Spanish word “Amistad” translates to “Friendship” in English … little wonder, then, that west Texas’ Lake Amistad is one of the Lone Star State’s most inviting water resources. Indeed, its reputation for recreation makes this 65,000-acre reservoir the crown jewel of the Amistad National Recreation Area. Construction of the Amistad Dam and Reservoir took five years to complete, from 1964 to 1969. The lake was built jointly by the American and Mexican governments for flood control, water conservation, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation at the confluence of the Rio Grande, Devils and Pecos Rivers. It was in this spirit of cooperation and goodwill that the project was named Amistad. Lake Amistad is also referred to as the International Amistad Reservoir. The International Boundary and Water Commission operates the dam.

As part of the U.S. National Park Service system, the amenities of the Amistad National Recreation Area are plentiful. Nestled along the shoreline of the three rivers, the recreation area lies 12 miles northwest of the city of Del Rio and constitutes the U.S. portion of the International Amistad Reservoir. The reservoir’s shoreline spans an impressive 851 miles, of which 547 miles belong to Texas. Visitors may enter Mexico via the official port of entry along the Amistad Dam. This international lake is easily accessible via U.S. Highways 90, 277 and 377 … though its tranquility belies its convenience. Lake Amistad water levels fluctuate on average 5 to 10 feet a year. However, water levels dropped more than 50 feet during the decade long drought from 1993-2003.

Here, amidst striking limestone cliffs set under a serene blue sky, it’s easy to see why generations of Texas Indians called this breathtaking land home. The convergence of the Pecos, Devil, and Rio Grande Rivers meld fluidly to provide the perfect backdrop for the 4,000 year-old Native American rock art that adorns the shelter walls of the lake’s upper reaches. These amazing and mythical drawings –inspired, no doubt, by the lake’s stunning scenery– are accessible via boat or land and lend insight into pre-colonial, pre-military Texas history. Pictograph tours culminating at the pristine Panther or Parida Caves are available, as are hiking expeditions through the nationally-renowned Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. Local guides are typically on hand to offer beginner and advanced level treks through any of these prehistoric locales, or the countless others that dot the landscape of the Amistad National Recreation Area. Awe-inspiring flora, ancient Indian campsites, and carefully preserved artifacts abound.

Art history aside, Lake Amistad’s most visible and popular attraction is its crystalline surface and the abundant fish populations below the surface. Fishing is a passion at Lake Amistad, particularly for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, and yellow catfish. Anglers on shore cast their lines for channel and blue catfish, crappie, and sunfish species. The ESPN national cable network established an annual elite level professional televised competition aptly deemed the “Battle on the Border.” Since its 2006 debut, this tournament has attracted many of America’s best anglers. Clearly, this contest combined with the bountiful bass supply has sealed Lake Amistad’s status as a national fishing hotspot. Leisure and pro anglers alike are always welcome, provided they possess proper Texas or Mexican permits.

Not surprisingly, water sports reign supreme on Lake Amistad, and the area’s mild climate ensures that houseboat and campground rentals are available year-round. Boaters, kayakers, swimmers, and jet skiers travel here to experience the expansive smooth waters. Scuba diving in the lake’s clear water is popular for exploring underwater caves and rock formations. The Amistad National Recreation Area operates boat launch ramps at many shoreline locations; the main ramps are located at Diablo East, Rough Canyon, Box Canyon, and Southwinds (LAFB) Marina. The recreation area also provides four primitive campgrounds without RV hookups, available on a first-come-first-served basis. RV parks with full services are available in the Del Rio area.

Hunting and bird watching enthusiasts also descend upon Lake Amistad in droves, no doubt driven by the myriad of species in this bountiful nature-rich preserve. More than 200 native and migratory bird species have been documented in the Amistad National Recreation Area, including the endangered Interior Least Tern that breeds in the area in late spring. Monarch butterflies migrate through the recreation area in the fall, offering a colorful display as they roost in the trees by the thousands. And although residential and commercial development in the lake area is flourishing, the vast majority of the Texas shoreline remains beautifully unspoiled, making this reservoir an all-person, all-seasons kind of place!

The perfect getaway, Lake Amistad is a bona fide original Texas treasure. Much like an old friend, this stunning retreat beckons with scenic panoramas, sunlit art, sports contests, and aquamarine ripples.

Things to do at Lake Amistad

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Park

Fish species found at Lake Amistad

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Blue Catfish
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish

Lake Amistad Photo Gallery

Lake Amistad Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: International Boundary and Water Commission

Surface Area: 65,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 851 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,117 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,058 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,144 feet

Average Depth: 45 feet

Maximum Depth: 200 feet

Water Volume: 3,159,270 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1969

Water Residence Time: 21 months

Lake Area-Population: 36,491

Drainage Area: 126,423 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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