San Angelo Filmmaker Premieres "Emilio"

COMSTOCK, TX — The lower Pecos River is elusive. From the air, its bluish-green color looks refreshingly cool, especially for a mid-afternoon swim on a hot August day. On the ground, however, everything that can harm you surrounds the otherwise inviting spectacle as witnessed from way above. There are poisonous snakes and other reptiles and spiders, every plant will prick your skin and draw blood, and the heat during the summer months is insufferable. Even the rocks are ragged.

This is the backdrop for why the lower Pecos River is an attraction for adventurers. That is, being locked in for traveling the river’s final 60-mile distance from a boat launch at an upstream outpost called Pandale.

From the Pandale crossing, you follow the river to the U.S. Mexico border, at the confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande. For those 60 miles, the banks are owned by private land owners. Once your canoe or kayak is launched into the Pecos at Pandale, you’re committed to several days living in dangerous remote west Texas. There are no campgrounds, park rangers, or restaurants. If injured, you’re still committed to the 60-mile journey for help unless you can get in touch with the Border Patrol. Cell phones don’t work well along most parts of the river trip.

Canoeing or kayaking down the lower Pecos requires logistics. For that, meet Emilio Hinojosa, 82, of Comstock, a small town known today mostly for its Border Patrol checkpoint and school where parents wary of the larger school district in Del Rio bus their children. There’s not much else in Comstock except this is the base of operations for Emilio’s river logistics operation. The confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande, the end of that 60-mile river trip, is a few miles west of Hinojosa’s home in Comstock.

Canoers and kayakers rely on Mr. Hinojosa to transport them and their gear from Comstock to Pandale and then to look out for their re-emergence from the wilderness four days to a week later at the boat dock just downstream of the Pecos High Bridge. He delivers the adventurers’ vehicle near the boat ramp, ready when they arrive.

Hinojosa is the only Pecos River shuttle service. If you are daring enough to attempt this trip, you meet Emilio at his house and he takes you, your boats, and your buddies all the way to Pandale..

“I’m not getting rich out of it, I enjoy the people that I get to meet,” Hinojosa said. People from all over the country and Canada arrive in Comstock to enjoy this river, and Emilio gets to know all of them. 

Without Hinojosa’s dedication to this job over the last couple of decades, a trip down the lower Pecos would be impossible.

The story about Hinojosa was produced by Hayden Hyde, an Austin filmmaker and my son. The film was commissioned by Chisos Boots, an Austin bootmaker. Chisos premiered Hinojosa’s story, “Emilio,” on Friday, May 8.

Hayden’s fascination with the Pecos began when he was 10 and we took one or two trips together down the Pecos. I wrote this piece about one of those trips here.

If you are considering a canoe or kayak trip down the lower Pecos River, this is a good guide written in 2019. Hinojosa’s Charter Service can be reached at (830) 317-0760.

Hayden, a 2014 graduate from Christoval High School and 2018 A&M graduate, founded Ocotillo Films with partner and fellow Aggie Garrett Robertson in 2019. Both young men sharpened their video production skills at A&M. Garrett was a video producer for the university and Hayden worked for A&M’s 12th Man Productions, the video crew that chronicles Texas A&M University athletics.

The Ocotillo guys have also led video projects for the H.E. Butt Foundation, USAA, Young Life, and last November, premiered the first of a series of video stories about West Texas Cowboys for Desert Door Sotol. See other work by Ocotillo Films here.

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