San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established to preserve and interpret the chain of Spanish missions that were built along the San Antonio River in the 18th century. This river contains a vital natural resource element - water. The existence of water dictated where a mission was established. Water from the river was diverted into eighteenth century acequias (irrigation ditches, still in operation) to serve the mission communities. Today, just south of downtown San Antonio (where most of the park is located), is a wide, straight river channel built where the once serpentine, flood-prone waters of the San Antonio River had run. Remnants of the old river channel still remain.
Now, as then, water plays an important role in the park and community. It flows in the acequias and is used in a historic grist mill to grind grain. It is also vital to park natural resources. The park is partnering with local agencies that manage water in the San Antonio River in an effort to improve water quality.
Streamside (riparian) areas along the San Antonio River and the acequias are oases of unique vegetation that provide excellent wildlife habitat. Fish, amphibians, and many species of birds depend of these habitats. Other vegetation communities in the park besides riparian include scrubland, upland woodland, and old fields (grasslands in various stages of succession).
The park is very active in managing and protecting these natural resources. Current projects include:
Come visit San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and experience the natural, as well as the cultural, history of this park!