The San Antonio River Authority hosted a photo contest to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River Walk. The public submitted photos taken along the Mission Reach to showcase the project’s beauty, recreational amenities and ecosystem restoration efforts. A judging panel selected the top photo from each category and the public voted to help us select the People’s Choice winner! View the winning photos below!
San Antonio River Authority Celebrates the 5th anniversary of the Mission Reach
The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project successfully restored the ecosystem of a nine-mile stretch of the San Antonio River south of downtown previously channelized for flood control purposes. This unique project restores riverine features and riparian woodlands, reintroduces native plants, enhances aquatic habitat, and reconnects cultural and historical features.
Construction of the project was completed in October 2013. The restored ecosystem consists of 113 acres of aquatic habitat, 334 acres of riparian woodland, 31 riffle structures, 13 acres of embayment habitat, and two river remnants.
Where we are today:
The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project has increased the quality, quantity and diversity of plants and animals (flora and fauna) along the nine miles of the San Antonio River Mission Reach area.
The project looks much different than the historic San Antonio River Walk and the Museum Reach area of the river north of downtown. The native landscape looks wild rather than manicured. Grasses and wildflowers are allowed to grow to their natural heights rather than mowed. Boat traffic on the river is limited to canoes and kayaks rather than barges. The result is a serene, natural landscape where visitors can enjoy the inherent beauty of the river.
It will take many years for the trees and vegetation to fully mature. So much of the landscape is still in its infancy. It will take approximately 50 years for the entire ecosystem restoration process to be completed..
Since prehistoric times, the San Antonio River has been a vital resource to the inhabitants of the San Antonio River basin and has greatly contributed to the rich history of our area. Archaeological excavations have produced evidence that the first human habitation along the San Antonio River occurred as long as 10,000 years ago. In recent centuries, hunting and gathering groups, known collectively by historians as Coahuiltecans, lived along the river and named it Yanaguana. The first documented arrival of Spanish explorers at the river did not occur until the end of the 1600s. On June 13, 1691, members of a Spanish expedition celebrated Mass on the banks of the river, during which Franciscan priest Damien Massanet renamed the waterway San Antonio because it was the Feast Day of Saint Anthony. Throughout the 1700s, development of what is now the City of San Antonio occurred alongside five Spanish Colonial missions established near the river.
The Mission Reach project has restored the natural ecosystem of the river and reconnected the river to the historic Missions that relied on it hundreds of years ago by creating Mission Portals and restoring river remnants.
Mission Portals connect San Antonio’s four historic missions – Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada – to the San Antonio River. These connections feature historic and artistic interpretations of the story of the missions and highlight their social and cultural importance to the area. This reinforces the importance of the river to the missions and encourages visitors to circulate between the Mission Reach and the river. Project planners worked closely with the National Park Service San Antonio Missions National Historic Park to ensure that there is a seamless transition between the Mission Reach and the historic missions. Bexar County provided funding for the portals, with additional private funding provided by the San Antonio River Foundation.
Restoring River Remnants
Before the river was channelized in the 1950-60’s, it meandered through the city, passing near San Antonio’s historic missions. Today, you can still faintly see where the old course of the river used to flow. The Mission Reach project has restored two historic remnants of the river, increasing the sinuosity of the river and highlighting the relationship of the river and the Missions.
Click here to learn more about recreational opportunities along the Mission Reach section of the Riverwalk.
The project was primarily funded by Bexar County, with additional funding from the City of San Antonio, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the San Antonio River Foundation. The San Antonio River Authority was the project manager during construction and currently oversees operations, maintenance and concessions.