A Fun Houseboating Trip on Lake Amistad

Houseboat on Lake AmistadAs part of a two week trip exploring West Texas with a couple good friends in early November, and we understand Lake Amistad Marina is closed. If you have never been on a houseboat vacation, you need to consider one for your next vacation or just for a fun long weekend. It is a a fantastic and memorable way to enjoy some good times on the lake with friends and family. We have rented several houseboats on a variety of lakes including: Lake Shasta in Northern California, Lake Powell in Utah/Arizona; Lake Quachita in Arkansas, and Table Rock on the Arkansas/Missouri border and each still remains as one of our best vacations. Our kids and friends still talk about what great times we had and are always asking when are we going again.

Lake Amistad shorelineLake AmistadLake Amistad is well suited to houseboating because of the large number of coves, over 500 miles of shoreline, and some great scenery and archeological sites to explore. The lake surrounded by a landscape rich in prehistoric rock art, a vibrant border culture, along with a wide variety of plant and animal life. Amistad was created as a joint project between the United States and Mexico - the middle of the lake is actually the border between Mexico and the United States.

Amistad is known for it's excellent year round water based recreation including houseboating, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, and kayaking. The lake is fed by the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Devils Rivers and the water is some of the clearest and cleanest in Texas. The terrain is rocky and arid desert with rolling hills and sheer cliffs.

One of the houseboat bedroomsThe Amistad NRA area is home to dramatic 4,000 year-old rock art. These mysterious paintings adorn rock shelter walls in the upper reaches of Amistad Reservoir. Boaters can usually access Panther and Parida Caves (depending on lake level), and hikers can go on a guided tour at nearby Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Park. Read our review of Lake Amistad to learn more about the lake.

We arrived at Lake Amistad Resort and Marina Thursday night and immediately started unloading the motorhome and loading up the boat. We had taken advantage of Forever Resorts pre board/sleep aboard which allows you to board your boat the night before your departure date. This is a great way to go - for about the price of a hotel room, you can board, unpack and store all your gear, and get a good nights sleep on the boat. And you're ready to go first thing in the morning.

Our 50' houseboat was well equipped with linens, all the kitchen stuff you need to fix a gourmet meal, TV/DVD and radio, beds for 8, heating and AC, upper deck, slide, front deck with chairs, and two outboard engines. We were very impressed with the service and attention to detail received from Forever Resorts. In the past when we've rented houseboats, the boat never seems to be ready, something is always missing, or you can't find someone to help you with one thing or another - not the case with Forever Resorts. The paperwork process was simple and easy, the boat was clean and stocked, and staff was available to help as needed.

Back of the houseboatForever Resort's Houseboats waiting for rentersOur houseboat living room

Our group ready to go explore Lake AmistadThe rest of our party which included our two daughters and their family of 3 kids and my brother arrived late Thursday night and after a few cold ones and some competitive and fun card games we hit the sack anxious to get going the next morning. After a thorough orientation of the boat equipment and gear and how to drive and park, we headed out on a beautiful morning to explore the lake. As I was heading up the lake, the girls cooked a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns; my daughters got the sound system working (nothing better than cruising up the river, with a boat full of friends, on a beautiful day, enjoying majestic scenery, while listening to some great tunes!); and the boys rigged the fishing poles with what they were sure would catch the biggest fish. The bets on who would catch the first and biggest fish were already in place, so there was a rush to be the first to get the line in the water.

Meanwhile, the grandchildren had broken out the games and kept jumping between the front deck, the living room, back deck, and upper deck. Our best friend had secured a comfortable chair on the upper deck, had his feet on the rail, and his book and binoculars in hand - anxiously awaiting to make that experience better with a cold beer or the frozen drink special and appetizer of the day! It don't get much better than that! And it was only 10:00 in the morning - we still had four days of cruising the lake, enjoying the sights, eating and drinking, fishing, swimming, hiking, and playing games into the wee hours of the morning! That's what houseboating is all about!

Over the next few days here is just a sampling of some of the highlights:

  • we caught some huge catfish, skinned em, and cooked them three different ways for a fantastic dinner - each chef had to present his dish with a short hilarious dissertation on how it was prepared, why we would like it, and more
  • had a great hike to the top of a one of the rocky cliffs for a panoramic view and then spent a few hours picking cactus spurs out of various body parts - the terrain is rocky and covered with prickly bushes and cactus
  • awarded the Pina Coladas made with ice cream the "Favorite Drink of the Week", Queso with sausage the "Appetizer of the Week," King Kahuna the "Liveliest Game of the Week," wheat thin crusted catfish sauteed in a lemon butter garlic sauce the "Dinner of the Week," and the double back flip off the top deck and the rollover off the water slide the "Trick of the Week"

Hiking with the 3 year old and dogOne of many catfish - good eatingClimb to the top of a cliff - outstanding viewSkipping rocks

  • took bets on how quickly the mommy goat would find and scold her wandering baby - it only took her 21 minutes to coax her back up the cliff to safety
  • played a variety of games in the morning, afternoon, and well into the early morning
  • found some great sites to tie up and spend the night
  • gave the rookie docking man at one of the marinas a real thrill as we came in a little fast for an ice and candy stop and then found out he neglected to secure the rear of the boat, which swung out and nearly took out a sailboat in one of the slips
  • found out that the best of our rock skippers could only get up to 12 skips

Sunset over Lake AmistadGames on the front deckIs this a dog or a wolfReady for a bath or a swim

  • saw some majestic scenery - clear smooth blue water against a backdrop of bluffs and cliffs
  • enjoyed the cool clear refreshing water each day for a swim, fast ride down the slide, and a bath - a tab bit chilly, but it was November
  • discovered that as much as we love our beer, we still couldn't pick it out of a sampling of 5 different beers and the winner only got 2 out of 4 right
  • enjoyed the beautiful sunrises with a hot cup of coffee, the magnificent sunsets from the top deck, and the shooting stars and beautiful star lit nights
  • saw some unusual rock voted the "guard dog" as one of the best geological features

Smooth water - excellent for skiing or boardingCan you see the Man in the RockBlue water and tall bluffs of Lake AmistadBluffs and rock formations abound up Devils Arm of Lake Amistad

All too soon it was time to head back and put an end to a fun four day houseboating trip.

Here are a few things to see and do on Lake Amistad:

  • If you're into diving there is a dive cove located at Diablo East - locals claim on a good day the visibility is up to 85 feet and fish are abundant.
  • There are springs on the lake that release over 1 million gallons of water a day and if the water level is a bit below normal, they are visible - one is Indian Springs up the Devils River.
  • The lake is rich with rock art and archeological sites which are over 4000 years old, two of which you can get to by boat (check with Lake Amistad Resort and Marina about visiting by houseboat):
    • Panter Cave is the most famous pictograph site and the rear wall of the shelter is covered from floor to ceiling with hundreds of individual motifs collectively forming an uninterrupted panel more than 80 feet in length. The cave's namesake is a 9 foot mountain lion. You climb a 60 foot steel staircase up to the rock shelter.
    • Parida Cave offers an amazing array of pictographs and a spectacular view of the Rio Grande

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