Monday, March 22 Through Thursday, March 25, 2021
Amistad National Recreation Area mostly consists of the shoreline and area flooded by Amistad Dam, a dam holding back Rio Grande River floodwaters. Since the Rio Grande River is the border between the USA and Mexico, the dam is in both countries. A series of buoys mark the USA/Mexico border in Amistad Reservoir.
The National Park Service operates five campgrounds in Amistad National Recreation Area (NRA). All campgrounds are primitive. Governors Landing Campground has fifteen sites. Campsites are first come, first served. No reservations. $10 per night or $5 per night for park pass holders.
Governors Landing is the only campground in Amistad NRA with potable water. In general, there is a water spigot for every two to three campsites. It looked like 200 feet of water hose would have been more than enough to reach our fresh water tank.
There were also bear proof garbage cans in the campground. A pair of garbage cans for every two or three campsites.
As luck would have it, the campsite furthest from US-90 was open. This campsite is probably the largest and best campsite in this campground. A tent pad bordered by 4 by 4 timber and filled with pea gravel makes for a relatively comfortable night sleeping on the ground in a tent. Previous campers had left large rocks which could have easily been moved. Other parts of the campsite were covered in gravel. This covering helped keep brush from growing into the campsite.
Many of the campsites provide two ways to park vehicles: A paved section like the one the Jeep is sitting on and gravel section like the one the truck is sitting on. This site is different in that there is room for two large trucks with trailers parked side by side on the gravel part.
Like most campsites, this site is not level. It was mostly level side to side but not front to back. Leveling blocks under both sets of rear tires were required. Many of the other campsites will make leveling more challenging for motorhomes and rigs like ours.
Campsites come with tent pad, shade shelter over a picnic table mounted on a cement pad, fire rings and BBQ grills. Ground fires are rarely permitted making fire rings not so useful.
It took some time to figure out why people were walking through our campground day and night. South and behind the campsite are trails leading down toward the water. These trails connect up to trails leading over to what appears to be a steep sidewalk leading down toward the water.
At the water’s edge, a floating dock juts out into a lagoon.
People use this area as a 24 by 7 day use area. There is hiking, fishing, swimming, drinking, and plain old hanging out going on. Day and night. Based on the midweek usage, it is fair to guess that weekends would be down right unnerving.
The trails down to water’s edge tend to be steep and slippery. Steady footing is hard to achieve as many of the rocks are loose and the slope can be as high as 60 degrees. Trails are ill defined and most people observed going down a trail toward the water came out at the road or our campsite in a different place. Typically they had odd surprised looks on their faces which could be read as “This is not where I expected to reach the top.”
AT&T mobile phone service was excellent in this campground. An iPhone 12 got 4 of 4 bars signal strength of 5G. Hotspot on AT&T delivered data rates supporting video. Phone service in other Amistad NRA campgrounds is spotty.
Over-the-air (OTA) broadcast television is available in the campground. Many of the local stations broadcast Spanish content.
US-90 passes next to the campground. The above campsite is not the closest to the Highway. A few campsites are even closer. One would expect that highway noise would be a problem. Highway noise was not a problem in our campsite. It could be in other campsites.
Train noise at night was a problem. On the other side of US-90 are train tracks. A train bridge runs parallel to the highway bridge. Large trains pulled by three, four or more engines labor westward to gain altitude from 1,200 to 4,000 feet in elevation by Marathon, Texas. The rumble is distinctive and loud. Especially loud at night when all else is quiet.
For campsites near US-90, a two lane highway adjacent to the campground, highway noise may or may not be a problem. For all campsites, trains are likely to disturb sleep.
A day use area can be reached easily from the campground by walking through the Amphitheater area. In the day use area, a decent and easy trail leads down to the reservoir under the US-90 bridge. This turned out to be a good place to walk the dog. Not many burs this time of year.
Late one night, a thunderstorm moved through the area delivering high winds, hail and a little rain. No damage but during the storm I was wishing I had paid attention to identifying potential storm shelters. The nearest sturdy buildings available to campers would have been one of the numerous open pit toilets. Ick.
The doors on the two nearest open pit toilets would not latch or close properly. They afforded ZERO privacy to potty goers. After the another broken door on the next nearest stinky outhouse, I only used the toilet in the camper.
Speaking of potties, there is a single dump station serving all of the Amistad NRA campgrounds. It can be found on the road to the Diablo East boat ramp.
For campers staying in campgrounds without potable water, a potable water filling station is adjacent to the dump station.
The Visitor Center is near the turn to the Diablo East boat ramp. At highway speeds, this is an easy visitor center to miss. The signage is completely inadequate. However, inside, the rangers are super helpful. They have lots of useful free material as well as books, maps and stickers for sale. Stop in. Get questions answered.
I like this campground. I didn’t expect to but there it is. I thought it would be noisy. It wasn’t. I thought it would be dusty. It wasn’t. I thought there wouldn’t be anything to see or do. Never bored.
I enjoyed my hikes and the breezes that keep things cool. The air always felt clean and fresh. We felt comfortable chasing the shade, moving our chairs around and generally just hanging out.
We will stay here again.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!