Playing Tourists at the River Walk in San Antonio

At the top of our list when we were brand new to Texas was The Alamo and the nearby River Walk. I don’t think we’re in the vast Mojave anymore, Toto. The River Walk starts around 4 miles north of the city center, where E. Hildbrand Avenue crosses the River. It finishes to the south of the city, near Mission Espada. River Walk is 15 miles long!

Natural springs provides the majority of the water for the San Antonio River, which flows from San Antonio to the Gulf of Mexico. The green water at River Walk may look shallow but the depth varies from 2 to 24 feet. You may have heard Texans love tubing in local rivers but this is not that place. Swimming is strictly prohibited due to bacterial contamination.

There is a lot of trash in the San Antonio River which is actually drained and refilled every two years for about 36 hours. People are often curious about what the riverbed reveals during cleaning and most are not disappointed about unusual things found.

Bass, catfish, crappie and bluegill are just some of the fish being caught in the San Antonio River both north and south of downtown. Many public parks offer scenic settings with outdoor activities and fishing. A valid fishing license with a freshwater stamp endorsement is required to take fish or other aquatic life from the public waters in Texas.

Despite flash floods that occur occasionally in the Texas Hill Country, San Antonio’s River Walk generally has remained safe from the river overflowing. The San Antonio River flood control system is an engineering marvel, which has since been imitated by other cities.

The San Antonio River flows 240 miles from Bexar County into the Guadalupe River in Refugio County, from where it eventually drains into the San Antonio Bay and Gulf of Mexico. The San Antonio River is formed by about one hundred large springs in a scenic valley four miles above the city and merge in San Antonio. Incidentally, for the not-Texans who may wonder, Bexar is pronounced “Bear.”

In 2021, a 50-year-old man drowned after being pushed into the water while walking along the River Walk. In that instance, the two suspects were taken into police custody not far from the attack. Update: Another lifeless body was pulled from the river on June 20, 2022.

Many find strolling the River Walk romantic. This scenic location is a popular wedding venue and hosts an average of 225 wedding ceremonies per year.

The movie Selena filmed in 1997 starring Jennifer Lopez, featured several scenes shot along the River Walk. A romantic scene was filmed on an arched stone bridge, located between N. Saint Mary’s Street and Navarro Street.

The River Walk is famous for its waterfront cafes, fine dining restaurants and cute shops. It is also treasured for hosting river parades throughout the year. Parades welcome people to the River Walk while decorated barges glide along the river. We didn’t have time to take a boat tour the day we visited but we heard it is a fun way to take in the sights.

On May 25, 2017, Esperanza Andrade, a former Texas secretary of state, and Lisa Wong, her business partner in the company Go Rio San Antonio, prevailed in a 10-1 vote from the San Antonio City Council for the $100 million contract to operate the barges on the River Walk.

Bald Cypress trees typically thrive along waterways and can live to be thousands of years old. We visited in late winter after Snowmegeddon struck in February, so the trees were still leafless and frankly, still a little in shock. Ducks and other waterfowl added to the natural ambience of this urban attraction. The River Walk’s annual Christmas display features nearly 2 million colorful lights and draws fans from near and far. There’s no doubt we’ll return before then.

Caveat Emptor: As going to any city or unfamiliar location, using caution is highly encouraged. Criminals often prey on tourists in public settings and using your common sense at all times is recommended. We spotted a few street-type opportunists watching unwary people. And by all means, please watch your step when close to the water, as there are no guardrails or curbs.

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  • Never heard of it. Looks interesting and a nice place to go for a stroll. The barges look sweet. I’m original from the US so I know that you have to always keep your guard up.

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