Wednesday, March 11, 2015

San Antonio and the Amazing Riverwalk

We visited San Antonio once before (see San Antonio October, 2011, if interested) and liked the city so much we decided to stop again.  Our RV park is in the Mission District which is the south side of San Antonio.  This area is the older part of town with great diversity in homes, businesses, and cultures but has many daily visitors touring the remains of the old Catholic missions.

When we were last here the River Walk on the San Antonio River was not completed and they were working on the section that came alongside our RV park.   Today, the River Walk is complete and has over 15 linear miles of continuous trail along the river from the north side of San Antonio to the Mission district in the south.  In 1921, a disastrous flood along the San Antonio River caused death and destruction prompting plans for some type of flood control along the river.  At first they were going to build a dam and bypass a prominent bend of the river in the downtown area, then pave over the bend and create a storm sewer.  Luckily, the San Antonio Conservation Society protested the paved sewer option and in 1929 plans were submitted that would become the River Walk.

Originally the River Walk was only 2.5 miles long encompassing the downtown area.

Today it stretches for miles and is a haven for all types of wildlife.

What is so unique about the River Walk is not only the easy access to downtown San Antonio but also the diversity of the walk itself.

Different sections continually offer new designs.  There are picnic tables all along the trail and city parks with easy access to the water.

The River Walk trail crosses over the San Antonio River every few miles with small waterfalls and places to sit or enter into the water.

You will also find design changes all along the trail. 

In places, plant and animal etchings are cut into the pavement.

Other sections used painted decorations.

There are areas along the River Walk for boaters to enter with kayaks and canoes.

The trail looks very rugged outside the downtown area allowing for natural wildlife to abound. 

Turtles could be seen everywhere but most slid into the water as we walked past.  But not this big guy!  It had been cold and dreary the past few days and this big boy was bound and determined to get the sun vibes while he could.

One of the cooler days we spent in San Antonio but still a great walk.

The pups loved the water, too.

Trying to sneak up on some of the birds, to no avail.

It was a great place to exercise them and after a 3-5 mile hike each day they were ready to take afternoon naps. What was so neat was that we were able to walk right outside our RV park and onto the River Walk.  And that is probably why the park we stayed at is the most popular in San Antonio.

Desi exploring all new things.

Who is that hulk of a man..........why it's the Captain, of course!

Although major streets crossed over the walkway it didn't seem to interfere with the natural areas.

Large parks were scattered along the River Walk with festivities going on during the weekends.

This is the remains of the Hot Wells Hotel. Hot sulphur water was discovered in 1892 when an artesian well was drilled for a local hospital.  Because the water's temperature and odor made it unsuitable for the hospital, it eventually became a grand hotel offering mineral baths, bowling, tennis, baseball, horseback riding, and ostrich races.

After a series of owners and fires it fell into disrepair.  Project plans are now being made to restore the Hot Wells property into a major attraction.

Landscaped areas along the trail.

This park alongside the trail was closed off while they completed renovations.  The lighter blue color is tape used to cover the concrete while stone is added to create a water flow pattern.  

While in San Antonio we stopped at a restaurant called BJ's which advertises a Chicago style pizza which is one of our favorites.

It was okay but not even close to the Chicago style pizza we have enjoyed at Buddyz in Algonquin, Illinois.

Okay, this is all pretty neat but we still haven't gotten to the downtown area.  The bike ride from our park to downtown is 5 miles along the River Walk.  There is also a bus that stops right in front of our RV park and will get you downtown in 20 minutes.  Since the weather was iffy we decided to take the bus on our first trip downtown.

As we entered the downtown area we saw this building that is the Consulado General de Mexico.  

There was a dog show going on downtown and we saw these spiffy poodles walking around.

The downtown River Walk is below street level in San Antonio and is 2.5 miles long.

Tourists can take boat rides on the River Walk or opt to get 'bus' tickets where you can get on and off  as needed.

The downtown River Walk is full of restaurants, hotels, and some shoppes although not as many as I had hoped for :)  These Mallard geese were nestled by a tree right alongside an outdoor eating area hoping for some morsels of food.  They, along with many other birds, were very tame.  

A waterfall flowing into the River Walk.  In one of the hotels we actually saw a waterfall that went through the middle of the main lobby and flowed outside into the river.

They also had some neat bars.

Two of the boats were being set up for dinner cruises.

After walking around for several hours we decided to stop at the Esquire Tavern.  It is the oldest bar on the River Walk and boasts the longest wooden top bar in Texas.  '"Over 100 feet of beer soaked wood rubbed smooth by the elbows of a zillion tipplers".

The bar's mascot.

Sitting upstairs on the balcony overlooking the River Walk.  Remember we were taking the bus home!

Later in the week when the weather was nicer we decided to bike 4 miles up the River Walk to an area called King William which is San Antonio's historic district.  Along our bike ride we came across this interesting water feature and stopped to learn about it.

Flooding along the San Antonio River was managed by dams and changes to the river channel until 1997 when construction of an underground flood bypass tunnel was completed.  The excavation project used a boring machine that was lowered in pieces through a shaft at this site and then reassembled deep below the surface.  This structure is the outlet that moves the water back into the San Antonio River.  It can also use the water for drought management in drier months.  

Called the 'mole',  the equipment dug northward 3 miles and was removed through another shaft.

In times of flooding, river water flows to the inlet at the upper end, drops 150 feet through a shaft into the twenty-four foot diameter tunnel and travels to the outlet at Lone Star Boulevard. The tunnel was completed only 10 months before a devastating flood in 1998 and is credited with saving the downtown area from extensive damage.

Many of the historic homes nestled along the River Walk are in the King William district.

In this part of town the River Walk is very lush and manicured.

Huge block walls protect the homes from water damage.

Just a few of the King William mansions.

Some of the homes around the King William district that were for sale started at around $700k.  I didn't bother taking pictures of any of those homes!

This area is also the home of Blue Star Brewing Company so we decided to check it out.

While there we decided to share a fleet of their beers.  Most were quite good except for  Raspberry Geyser which is a 2 year aged sour beer blended with organic raspberries and Close Encounter, a 2 year aged sour blend with hints of tamarind and prune.  Those two were definitely an acquired taste.  Very sour and they didn't taste anything like beer!

As we checked out the beautiful historical homes we saw these two antique automobiles tooling around the neighborhood.

While in San Antonio we also decided to take in a San Antonio Spurs game at the AT&T Center.

The place was hopping with a large crowd in attendance.

There was definitely an Hispanic theme throughout the center.

With food vendors everywhere you could choose any kind of food or drink you would want.

The Spurs souvenir shops were jammed.  People couldn't get enough of their sportswear.

Dancing groups entertained as you walked along the concourse.

Even Henry (or is it Richard) was there to help guests with their tax problems.

Large sitting areas gave you a high level view of the city.

Before the game and throughout it there were all kinds of events with the audience.

The game begins.  We were in the nosebleed section, actually at the very top of the stadium.

It was a great place to sit because the whole floor was easy to see.

HEB (based in San Antonio) is a large private food store in Texas and Mexico that is one of the bigger sponsors of the Spurs.

A mariachi band played during a timeout.  Much of the entertainment was in Spanish so we couldn't understand what was being said.

The San Antonio mascot, Coyote, was ever present.

He was quite the ham!

Coyote changed costumes several times during the game.

He used a small trampoline to make a basket during another break.

The San Antonio Spurs cheerleaders, the Silver Dancers, also performed.
San Antonio is a great city to visit.  The population is over 1.3 million so the traffic can be intense but there are so many things to see and do.  I'm sure we will probably be back again.  The day before we left it started to rain again and continued through the next day.  One of the things we noticed at each entrance to the River Walk is a sign with the park rules.  The number one item is to stay off the trails if the water is over the walkway.  That seemed bizarre because the walkway is so high up from the actual water but as the rains continued we noticed the water starting to rise.  And it reminded us that although the River Walk is a great place to exercise and have fun, it is still the San Antonio River and can be dangerous as well as wonderful.  Peace!

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