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The San Antonio River literally kept our city alive | Texas Outdoors

Had it not been for the San Antonio River, there might not have been a San Antonio at all!

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — "The San Antonio River, what they call the “Yanaguana," was a huge part of their life!" That's what National Park Service's Chantelle Ruidant-Hansen says about the native people who lived in the San Antonio area, when the Spanish began to settle here.

The native people went to the river for water, and to use the water for other things, but the Spanish stole an idea from the Romans to bring the water to them. They enlisted the native people to dig the Acequias'.

Building a dam along a portion of the river, now next to Mission Park South funeral home, the water was diverted into a roughly four foot wide by three foot deep ditch. Then, using the terrain and elevation, re-directed it to water their crops.

Ruidant-Hansen says, "All the water still flows from the dam, all the way down to Mission Espada, and what is really cool is some of this irrigation ditch still goes through peoples yards and homes…and they actually get to use that."

It is watering gardens, crops and trees the same way it did when it was completed around 1745. For the original European and Canary Island settlers, it was critical to their survival.

The Acequias are now part of the World Heritage Site, along with the Missions. The NPS has an agreement with the San Antonio Food Bank allowing them to grow produce, to help fill the Food Bank as long as it is period appropriate produce and only watered using the Acequias.

You can also walk a trail along the Acequias to see how it really works. If you're interested in learning more, or perhaps taking that walk, here's a link to the National Park Service's website.

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