Friday, December 12, 2014

Cruising on the San Antonio River Part 1

We plan our garden club outings well in advance and most of the time our weather is quite nice even in the winter.  Every once in a while it turns out to be a very cold day combined with an outdoor event that can't be cancelled.  That's how we ended up going for a cruise on the San Antonio River with the temperatures down in the 40's and a brisk wind making it feel even colder.

The hardy among us bundled up and boarded the barge (the boats are technically barges) on the north end of the river at The Pearl.

Yes, it was that cold!

Lee Marlowe, Natural Resources Management Specialist for the San Antonio River Authority, and Cara, our driver, narrated the tour.  Lee provided plant lists along with a narrative on the restoration project which included 70,000 plants.  This newer section of the River Walk was opened in 2009.

Off we go along the Museum Reach section where there is plenty of construction underway.  I've covered this section on foot several times.  To see my walking tours of the Museum Reach go here and here.

The trailing rosemary and lantana planted nearly five years ago when this section was opened have matured to soften the concrete river bank.

Milkweed visible along the bank is part of a large butterfly garden planted along this section to help Monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico.  They planted this patch along the river so passengers on the barges could have a look at the butterfly activity.

Recycled water keeps the river flowing and plants irrigated.  Sometimes the neutral water presents issues for alkaline-loving native plants.  The native pink muhly takes it all in stride.

The cold doesn't keep the bike patrol guy from making sure things are going okay along the walkway.

This swath of Salvia leucantha is stunning.

The "barrel" bridge crosses at Newell Street where the finished barrels from the Pearl Brewery were rolled across to a storage building.  It's open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The original main building for the Pearl Brewery is now the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Native landscaping enhances the museum river front.

Across from the museum is a pretty little park with a water feature.  This now provides access to the apartments and condos under construction in this fast growing area of the city.

One of the many nice spots to sit along the River Walk.

Carlos Cortes' fanciful grotto appears

One of his faux bois benches on the other side of the river.

The VFW Post makes an architectural statement around the bend

A crew of maintenance workers along the shore.  See, even these tough guys are cold.

Despite a recent freeze, the bananas and cannas are still in good shape.

There are so many new buildings along the Museum Reach stretch which was pretty well run down before the river restoration.  Inland Sea Oats on this slope showing their tawny brown for fall and winter.

Another new office building, this one being an architect's office.

More of the pink muhly which looks so good in the late fall.

Under the I-35 overpass Longear Sunfish sculptures appear, which light up at night.  The sunfish is found naturally in the San Antonio River.

The best photos I've made of the fish after several tries.

Turk's cap turns out to be the best plant to grow in the deep shade of the overpass.  I'm moving mine to more shade in the spring as they struggled in the August heat this year.

The Lady Eco is specially designed to clean the river by extending the arms out from the sides to sweep up plastic bottles and other debris.

A pretty limestone water feature adds a natural look to the aquatic habitat.

White Mexican Olive blooms appear in late summer and fall.  I must find a place for this tree with its pretty form and blooms.

The arches under this walkway are especially nice and evoke symbols from the history of San Antonio.

Blue plumbago overflowing seems unfazed by the recycled water.  I like how all the plants soften what would be very stark concrete banks.

Another softening effect from Mexican Feather Grass and trailing Rosemary line the bank approaching the locks.

Entering the locks at Brooklyn Avenue at this point the water goes from an average of three feet deep to a  12 foot depth.  The elevation change requires a drop down.

The workers are installing lights in a Christmas tree shape for the River of Lights which I posted here.  Riders will look up at the tree when completed.

In the locks now.  Going down!  Look how far we've dropped.  Probably about five feet, I couldn't find specific info on the drop.  The locks function with gravity and no pumps are used.

The doors open to reveal the next phase of our river tour.

And off we go ....

We'll stop here for this post and I'll cover more of the sights from the river soon.


  1. What a wonderful feature for the city. It seems like it adds so much, and your photos capture it beautifully.

    1. It is a great place to walk and enjoy our city away from the usual tourist bustle.

  2. I always enjoy your posts about the river walk and this one from the river itself is especially nice. Thank you for braving the cold and wind to bring us this great tour.

    1. Years in some very cold places like the upper midwest and New England made this seem relatively mild but I am getting more and more acclimated to our mild winters.

  3. I'm always impressed when I see photos of the San Antonio River Walk. I wish LA had something like this - it has got to be a point of civic pride and I'd lay odds that pride encourages social and environmental responsibility of a kind that's often hard to find in urban areas.

    1. Three centuries of civic pride that doesn't need much encouragement, it's just there like no other place I've lived. The most generous community I've seen also.

  4. Thank you! That Salvia leucantha looks ghostly!!! And, I like the bench!

    1. Ghostly, I could see that with the gray days and the color slightly faded. Carlos Cortes is an amazing artist and he has a studio south of downtown. I should visit to show you.

  5. I'm sorry you had to get out in the cold to enjoy the tour but it certainly is wonderful viewing these photos on this nice cozy day with a cup of coffee in hand. I had not seen the sunfish sculptures before - (your photos are great!) - and I have added the Riverwalk barges to my list of "must do again- soon!".

    1. The tour has changed quite a bit with the extensions of the River Walk. Be sure to take the Rio Taxi and not the Paseo del Rio tour.

  6. This is one of the most beautiful rivers I have ever seen...

    1. It's beautiful and fun and one of the top tourist destinations in the nation. Wait until you see the tourist part.


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