History of the Riverwalk in San Antonio

san antonio river walk

Among all touristic attractions San Antonio offers, there is one that emerges as the most visited and most interesting to both tourists and local population. That is San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk. This breath-taking walkway has long history that reaches back to 1536, when a man named Alvaro Nunez was trapped by the Indians. He was the first to describe the San Antonio River. There was an initiative to preserve the natural beauty of the area and to keep the native trees. However, the history of Riverwalk itself began in 1921. That was the year when this area was flooded, and the flood took 50 lives. This flood forced Jack White, who was a mayor in that period, to make plans for protection of floods.

The initial plan, which included building Olmos Dam, was stopped because the San Antonio Conservation Society did not let the construction to start. They had organized protests that were successful at the end. That was the year 1926, and until 1929 there was not any plan to build a flood protection, until architect Robert Hugman proposed a plan that would create todays Riverwalk. Despite the fact that this new plan proposed some different ideas, that were considered to be better than the ones before, Hugman had hard time to carry out his plan.

1939 was the year when the plan received financial support and about 3.2 miles of walkways were constructed, as well as about 20 bridges. 1946 was the important year for architect Hugman, because his plan was tested with new flood, but Olmos Dam reduced the damage to very low level. Year 1946 is also important because of opening the first Riverwalk restaurant, Casa Rio. That was the period when the tourists started to recognize beauty and everything else Riverwalk has to offer. After Casa Rio, many other restaurants and shops were opened, and today, some of the best and most pleasant restaurants of San Antonio are placed at Riverwalk. In 1956, first botanic garden, which included philodendron and palm trees, opened at Riverwalk.

The report about economic potential of the Riverwalk was made by Marco Engineering Company, and it proposed that all the building at Riverwalk should be constructed in old Mexican style. In the decades to come, Riverwalk extended and the network was getting bigger over time. The first big extension was in 1968. Hilton Palacio del Rio was built in 1968, as the first hotel of San Antonio downtown. The latest expansion happened in 2011, when the Riverwalk was expanded from Downtown to Mission Espanda. Today, in 21st century, there are so many restaurants placed at Riverwalk that there is a plan to limit their number in years to come. Also, there are plans on cleaning the water, but that is a very difficult task because of the mud on the bottom on the river.

Riverwalk in San Antonio has a long history of development and extensions. The Riverwalk was an inspiration for Riverwalk-like projects in other towns, but none of them has never reached the beauty and size of San Antonio Riverwalk.