The headwaters of the San Antonio River are found at the “Blue Hole”, a natural spring on the University of the Incarnate Word campus north of downtown San Antonio.
The Blue Hole is an artesian spring at approximately 670 feet above sea level fed by the Edwards Aquifer.
The San Antonio River flows 240 miles through Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, Goliad and Refugio counties, converging with the Guadalupe River before finally flowing into San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.
Common mammals seen along the San Antonio River Basin riparian corridor include the common raccoon, Eastern Fox squirrels, Virginia opossums, White-tail deer, Nine-banded armadillos, Eastern Cottontail rabbits and feral hogs.
The San Antonio River carries surface water from 2,500-foot elevations within the Texas Hill Country of Bandera and Kerr counties to less than 100-foot elevations in Refugio County.
The San Antonio River watershed includes parts of Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Dewitt, Goliad, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Medina, Refugio, Victoria and Wilson Counties.
The San Antonio River Basin is one of 23 major basins in Texas and drains over 4,194 square miles.
San Antonio River Basin contains over 8,800 miles of streams.
The Museum Reach Urban Segment, from Lexington Avenue north to Josephine Street, is approximately 1.33 miles long.
The river is approximately 3 feet deep at the bulkheads, with the exception of the area immediately upstream from the lock and dam complex, which is approximately 12 feet deep.
The project features more than 100 plant species, mostly native grasses, shrubs and trees, with a few select non-natives such as palm trees (a unifying feature from the original River Walk).
The Grotto near the intersection of Camden and Newell is a cave-like structure created by San Antonio artist Carlos Cortes, who employs the faux bois art style. A companion piece to the Grotto is a palapa tree at street level.
The Hugman Dam, near Lexington Avenue, is a historical feature named after River Walk architect Robert H.H. Hugman.
The Alamo Mills Dam was discovered during construction near VFW Post 76 just downstream of Jones Avenue. The dam was built in the 1870s and was partially dismantled in the early 1900s.
The river bottom is made of large cobble (approximately 6-inch diameter rocks) to provide a more natural environment for aquatic life.
The overall project design is broken down into three historical themes moving from south to north: The Hugman theme, the San Antonio Museum of Art theme and the Pearl theme.
The Mission Reach is an 8-mile stretch of the San Antonio River that extends from Lone Star Boulevard south to Mission Espada.
Four Spanish colonial missions were built in close proximity to the river in the 1700s: Conception, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada.
In the 1960s and 1970s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized this section of the river for flood control purposes.
The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project will restore this channelized system to a more natural state with the planting of more than 60 native grass and wildflower species.
20,000 native trees are going to be planted in the Mission Reach when they are very small to allow them to grow and adapt to the harsh environment adjacent to the river.
During construction, more than 3 million cubic yards of material will be removed from the project site to give the river a more natural appearance and function.
More than 15 miles of hike and bike trails are included in the Mission Reach for recreational purposes.
Other recreational features include: 137 picnic tables, 89 park benches, nine water edge landings, eight street connections, six footbridges, five overlooks with shade structures and four park pavilions.
The Mission Reach was built in three phases. The entire project was completed and open to the public in October 2013.
The San Antonio River Oversight Committee (SAROC), a 22-member citizen committee, was appointed in 1998 to guide the planning and implementation of the project. SAROC continues to actively guide the project’s implementation.
Bexar County will contribute approximately $207.7 million from the county’s flood tax (specifically for flood control and ecosystem restoration elements of the project) and from Venue Tax funding from the May 2008 voter-approved proposition supporting the funding of SARIP.
The City of San Antonio’s contribution is anticipated to be approximately $78.7 million over the life of the project, derived from the city’s capital improvements fund for amenities and recreation elements. The USACE could contribute approximately $51.9 million to support the ecosystem restoration and recreation elements in the Mission Reach and $2.6 million toward construction in the Eagleland segment on the southern edge of downtown San Antonio.
The San Antonio River Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the San Antonio River by raising money through the private sector to bring artistic, recreational, environmental and educational enhancements to the San Antonio River.
SARA provides project and technical management as well as overall project coordination between the project partners. SARA will also be responsible for operations and maintenance (O&M) activities on the San Antonio River Improvements Project. The O&M funding from SARA offset future city O&M costs and provided the city additional funding capacity to issue debt to cover a portion of the city’s funding for construction of the Museum Reach-Urban Segment. SARA’s O&M responsibilities include the Museum Reach-Urban, Eagleland and Mission Reach Segments.
German immigrants established many breweries in San Antonio in the mid-1800s. Several were located along the San Antonio River. The quality of the Edwards Aquifer water is among the best in the nation and was pumped to make beer.
William Menger created Texas’ first commercial brewery in San Antonio.
Towards the south, as the river approaches the sea, it meanders through flat coastal prairies and marshes, where the air is laden with moisture and the growing season is long.
In the late 1700s, rich land in Karnes County and the San Antonio River’s reliable water source led to the establishment of big ranchos, which became targets for raiding Comanches.
The San Antonio River, along with fertile soil and open range, attracted settlers from Nueva Espana in the 1700s, followed by settlers coming west from the United States in the early 1800s.
Outside urban Bexar County, the basin remains a largely rural region dedicated to farming, ranching, mining, oil and gas production and tourism. It continues to play a major role in the economy and culture of the basin counties.
The first organized Polish settlement in the United States was Panna Maria in Karnes County.