Amistad Reservoir

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 25, 2021

Amistad Reservoir is located in the Rio Grande basin in southern Val Verde County, Texas, and Coahuila, Mexico, twelve miles northwest of Del Rio (at 29°27' N, 101°03' W). The lake is surrounded by massive limestone and wash deposits on flat terrain surfaced by dark, calcareous, stony clays and clay loams that support grasses and water-tolerant hardwoods and conifers.

Many limestone caves and rockshelters along the banks of the Rio Grande and Devils River, which feed into the lake, were inhabited by prehistoric American Indians, who left their art on the walls of the caves. When Amistad Lake was filled after the fall of 1969, the paintings were inundated. In the fall of 1848 the expedition of Col. John Coffee Hays passed over the lower San Pedro River, where part of the lake is now located. Hays and his explorers renamed the stream the Devils River. In 1853 Julius Froebel came through the area of the lake and wrote of its beauty.

Construction on Amistad Dam and Reservoir began in December 1964 and was completed in November 1969. The dam is an earthfill and concrete structure. The lake and dam are owned by the United States and Mexico and operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission. The lake surface covers 89,000 acres, and its capacity is 5,658,600 acre-feet. Amistad Lake was built for flood control, conservation, irrigation, power, and recreation. In honor of the cooperation and goodwill exhibited by both counties in the project, the dam and reservoir were named the Spanish word meaning "friendship."

C. L. Dowell, Dams and Reservoirs in Texas: History and Descriptive Information (Texas Water Commission Bulletin 6408 [Austin, 1964]). C. L. Dowell and R. G. Petty, Engineering Data on Dams and Reservoirs in Texas (Texas Water Development Board Report 126 [3 pts., Austin, 1971–74]). Roy L. Swift and Leavitt Corning, Jr., Three Roads to Chihuahua (Austin: Eakin Press, 1988).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Amistad Reservoir,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 25, 2021