Places We Protect

Dolan Falls Preserve


Turquoise water rushes over large boulders, creating a tumbling waterfall.
Dolan Falls This 4,788-acre preserve protects the pristine waters of the Devils River and Dolan Creek. © Ian Shive

Fed by powerful freshwater springs, the Devils River and Dolan Creek comprise what many consider to be Texas’ most pristine river.

Devils River: The Wildest Waters in Texas

Devils River: The Wildest Waters in Texas (4:35) The ruggedly beautiful Devils River is the wildest, cleanest river in Texas. This remote waterway is home to the endangered Devils River minnow and countless fish and wildlife species and sustains the area’s ecosystem.



On the arid western border of the Texas Hill Country, halfway between Del Rio and Sonora in Val Verde County, lies Dolan Falls Preserve. Here the rough-hewn landscape gives way to the turquoise and jade waters of the Devils River. Fed by powerful freshwater springs that emerge from the bases of towering limestone cliffs, the Devils River and its tributary, Dolan Creek, comprise what many consider the most pristine river in Texas; they also feed Dolan Falls, one of the state’s largest continuously flowing waterfalls.

To protect this exceptional piece of Texas' natural heritage, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) established the 4,788-acre Dolan Falls Preserve, which is bolstered by an additional 135,000 acres that TNC has permanently protected along roughly 25 miles of the Devils River. As the Devils flows through the preserve's canyons, it supports stands of oaks and sycamore bounded by steep cliffs dotted with scrub juniper and mesquite. This and other riparian corridors in the region serve as important migration paths for birds and monarch butterflies traversing the dry west. Rare and endangered species such as Texas snowbell and Mexican white oak are also found here.




Val Verde County, Texas

Map with marker: Dolan Falls Preserve features what many conside to be one of the prettiest —and most pristine⁠—rivers in all of Texas.


Devils River, monarch butterflies, rare salamanders and fish


4,788 acres

Explore our work in Texas

A bird with a black head and yellow and black feathers.
DIVERSE LANDSCAPE TNC's Dolan Falls Preserve is located at the intersection of three biological regions, giving life to a unique landscape and many species, like the black-capped vireo. © Rich Kostecke

Why This Place Matters

Dolan Falls Preserve is located at the intersection of three biological regions: the Edwards Plateau, Chihuahuan Desert and Rio Grande Plain brushland. This combination of terrain creates a landscape of outstanding beauty and diversity supported by the pure waters of Dolan Springs, Dolan Creek and the Devils River.

The river and its associated springs house rare salamanders and fish, many of which are unique to the Chihuahuan Desert region. They include the Devils River minnow, as well as the Texas hornshell mussel. Another focus is the black-capped vireo, a rare songbird under threat due to habitat loss. Nesting pairs of this vireo return to the preserve each spring.

Photos from Dolan Falls Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this spring-fed, pristine river preserve.

Clear waters tumble over brown rocks to create a waterfall.
A branch with green, oval shaped leaves and round berry-like fruit hanging down.
Dense, green aquatic plants grow around a bubbling spring flowing out of the ground.
A woman holds a large measuring stick in thick brush while a man busily writes down findings on a piece of paper.
Clear waters pour over a limestone shelf in a riverbed.
At least eight butterflies with orange, black and white wings huddle together on a branch.
An owl with brown, grey and tan colored feathers stares intently.
Clear waters flow over stacked rocky shelves, creating limestone waterfalls.
A gravel road with sign reading The Nature Conservancy cuts through arid brushland.
Bright blue waters fall over towering limestone rocks covered in moss.
Boulders dot clear blue waters, creating water falls.
A PRISTINE RIVER TNC has protected nearly 25 miles of Devils River frontage, considered by many to be Texas’ most pristine river. © Ian Shive

What TNC Is Doing

The preserve's aquatic systems depend on freshwater spring flows for their life-giving waters. Spring-fed Dolan Creek contributes more than 6,000 gallons of water each minute to the Devils River alone. These unique features, and the habitats they support, initially sparked TNC’s interest in the Devils River Basin more than two decades ago.

TNC began to acquire the original 18,500-acre ranch in 1991. A $1 million endowment was established to ensure the long-term management of the preserve. In 1995, John Eddie Williams facilitated the acquisition of the site by purchasing 13,000 acres of the land and then dedicating a conservation easement on those acres to TNC.

Ultimately, TNC's primary goal is the perpetual protection of the land, especially the river frontage. To that end, we've facilitated important scientific research to better understand the Devils River system, the springs that sustain it and the ecosystems and species that rely on these waters. Research facilities are used at Dolan Falls to conduct extensive habitat and wildlife inventories, and special programs are in place for protecting certain species threatened with extinction. For example, Texas snowbells, an endangered plant species, are monitored for health and reproductive success rate.