The True Name

The Remarkable Past of the Devil’s River

Combining with the Rio Conchos and the Pecos to make up the Rio Grande, the Devil’s River is the most remote and pristine river in the state of Texas. Getting there requires a treacherous, high-clearance 4×4 creep through some of the most hardscrabble places in the Southwest. And this week, as the guy selling me a bottle of tequila in the dusty village of Sonora puts it, “It’s gonna be hot as two rats humping in a wool sock.”
Even if you can get to the Devil’s River, getting on it is another matter entirely. Located five hours southwest of Austin, access is severely limited and permits to float are a tough ticket. Most of the river is surrounded by huge ranches holding not much more than barbed wire, punishing scrub, rocks and the tenacious beasts who call the place home—turkeys, lizards, rabbits, vulture, deer and those lovable vectors of leprosy and other horrible diseases, armadillos. But then, in the middle of nowhere—and I mean nowhere—you spot the river bottom and begin to descend. Everything changes.

Springs begin to finger down the canyon. Green shoots sprout and hold tight. Down below are trees and the fecund whiff of herbaceous things and hot mud and cool water. Finally…

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