Living in San Antonio, a city that is filled with historic destinations like The River Walk and World Heritage sites like the Missions, it’s easy to forget that the city is filled with lesser-known historic sites, such as El Camino Real de los Tejas, that truly connect residents and visitors with San Antonio culture today.
El Camino Real de los Tejas is a series of routes that extends more than 2,000 miles along the Rio Grande, connects travelers with sites and cities including San Antonio’s Missions, and ends at Natchitoches (present-day Louisiana).
Thanks to the combined efforts of City Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10), National Park Service and several state departments, visitors and residents in the Northeast side of San Antonio can learn about their connections to El Camino’s history through the 23 new signs that lead to Comanche Lookout Park.
City and project officials gathered with area residents at Comanche Lookout Park on Friday morning to celebrate the 23 newly installed signs, marking seven miles of El Camino’s original route.
“When we found out that El Camino Real trail ran right through our district, we knew that it was something that definitely deserved recognition,” Gallagher told the crowd. “From the amount of support and enthusiasm that it has received, it’s clear that a lot of people agree.”
The routes were developed by early Spanish explorers, who used Native American guides and traveled along their established trails. For more than 300 years, El Camino has been used by Texas settlers and historic figures like Davy Crockett and General Santa Anna, who led the Mexican Army at the Battle of the Alamo.
“We wouldn’t be calling it Texas without (El Camino Real) today,” said Steven Gonzales, executive director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Trails Association. “(The route signs) are important because there’s probably millions of people who have traveled these roads over the years, but this will give them a better context of the history along the way.”
Public places like Comanche Lookout are ideal sites for drivers to park, walk and learn more about El Camino’s routes, which continues to serve as a platform for cultural exchange and appreciation.
The Trails Association developed similar wayfinding improvements for other hiking trails in Medina Greenway and Floresville in 2014, and they are looking to expand signage and education resources to other historic areas of San Antonio through various partnerships.
“All these people worked together, to make the trail visible along this stretch which is really incredible; this is not a National Parks event, it’s a City event,” NPS Deputy Superintendent John Cannella said, adding that he hopes to continue working with city officials and local groups and extend the Camino Real way finding efforts throughout San Antonio.
“Comanche Lookout Park at Nacogdoches is identified as one of the highest potential sites along the trail,” Cannella said. “Maybe there’s potential for this site to (become) a destination itself.”
*Top Image: City officials including City Manager Sheryl Sculley and Shanon Shea Miller, director of the office of historic preservation, joined residents to celebrate the 23 new signs for El Camino Real. Photo by Lea Thompson.