Devils River State Natural Area, Texas

Birds, and butterflies, and bats – oh, my!

The Texas Hill Country, the Chihuahuan Desert, and Brush Country all display their unique habitats at the Devils River State

Black-capped vireo, photo by Francesco Veronesi via Wikimedia Commons

Natural Area, creating exceptional biodiversity found few other places on the continent. Add the pristine, ecologically intact water system of Devils River, and you have the perfect environment for rare birds, migrating monarch butterflies, and a maternity cavern for millions of bats.


Within the park boundaries is a 12-mile hiking loop and a one-mile trail to the river. The best birding is usually in the stands of trees at the river’s edge; grasslands on the ridges; and around the springs and seeps. Insider tip: The southern section of the long trail hugs and crosses Dolan Creek. Follow this all the way to the river and San Pedro Point.

Black-throated sparrow, photo by Elizabeth Materna/USFWS


  • Black-capped vireo (a Texas specialty)
  • Black-throated sparrow
  • Bell’s vireo
  • Painted bunting
  • Golden-cheeked warbler (a Texas specialty)
  • Rufous-capped warbler (an occasional visitor from Mexico)
  • Canyon towhee
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Horned lark
  • Northern bobwhite
  • Greater roadrunner
  • Great horned owl
Pyrrhuloxia, photo by Andy Morffew via Wikimedia Commons

There are two official field checklists based on the rich intersection of habitats in this region: Birds of the Trans-Pecos and Birds of the Edwards Plateau. Both of these Texas Parks and Wildlife documents contain geographic occurrence information for each species; useful for being at the right place during the most opportune season.

Painted bunting, photo by Doug Janson via Wikimedia Commons


The Nature Conservancy’s Dolan Falls Preserve (approximately 135,000 protected acres to the south of Devils River SNA) is not open to the public, but focuses on the health of surface- and groundwater, associated aquifers and springs feeding the area’s rivers, and the surrounding diverse land habitats. The challenges include excessive water removal, degraded rangeland health, and the introduction of invasive non-native species.


Mexican free-tailed bats, photo by Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Don’t miss the new Devils River SNA – Del Norte headquarters. This is the place to start for guided tours to Fern Cave and Native American pictographs. From May to October, millions of Mexican free-tailed bats swirl skyward out of Fern Cave (their breeding home) for their evening meals. And, the area’s 5,000-year-old rock paintings are fine specimens.


Devils River has a range of overnight facilities with restrictions necessary to keep the area pristine. For a more comfortable stay, consider the Group Barracks. This a single building of five bedrooms/two beds each with electricity, bathroom accommodations,

Greater roadrunner, photo by Anne Toal via Wikimedia Commons

and picnic tables. Campsites are either primitive or accessed via river paddling. There are seven drive-in primitive sites with a bit of shade under a small structure and no water, electricity, or restrooms. The two hike-in sites are similarly situated, and reached via walking or biking one to two miles. For those who want to paddle, the area offers four Paddler Camps (16 spots each) at various mile markers along the river, with one-night maximum stays. There are clear rules for safety, restrictions, and other information HERE for making happy memories on the river.

All campsites have strict trash and waste disposal/carry-out rules, along with differing regulations about fire use. Each facility at Devils River requires one-day-in-advance reservations and pre-payment.


Devils River State Natural Area, Texas