The San Antonio River's Mission Reach stretched from Blue Star Arts Complex to Mission Espada. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio River Authority

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Suddenly, Coco the Chihuahua was a Viking warrior…

At least to his owner Kevin as they both donned respectively sized Scandinavian-style horned helmets and set off to conquer a far-away land where the San Antonio River flowed – just down the block.

One of the San Antonio River Foundation’s goals is to create opportunities for our community to have vibrant experiences on our river. One way to do so is by inviting both human and animal community members like Kevin and Coco to the Mission Reach for a marvelous day of river-side fun.

On Saturday, April 21, anyone can join the Viking pair at the third annual Mission Reach Flotilla Festival’s water parade and costume contest. Members of the community, some of whom will be joined by their cute pooches, will paddle down the San Antonio River as they compete for the title of “Best Dressed.”

Flotilla Festival is an official Tricentennial event and Fiesta San Antonio partner event, which means it could not be complete without the vibrant traditions of Fiesta: live local music, including a Selena tribute artist; favorite “on-a-stick” food vendors; a craft mercado; face-painting, and more. This family-friendly Fiesta festival is perfect for those trying to party on a budget as both the event and parking are free.

In its entirety, the San Antonio River is more than 240 miles long and flows from the Blue Hole, the recognized headwaters, to the Bay of San Antonio in the Gulf of Mexico. However, when San Antonians refer to “the River,” they are most likely referring to the longest linear park in the country – the River Walk. The river’s southern 8 miles – from Blue Star Arts Complex to Mission Espada – is the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project. Though the name is long, the goal is simple: restore our river into a thriving riparian habitat and create opportunities for us to enjoy it.

The project was one of the most monumental efforts in the region and impactful to the entire watershed. Traveling 10 minutes south of downtown, still in view of the iconic Tower of Americas, is like stepping into the wilderness. The glistening, unhurried river widens with each bank carpeted in wildflowers and grasses that billow and shush each other. An almost startling amount of birdsong paired with earthy aromas completes the sensory symphony of the Mission Reach.

People who visit are almost ubiquitously baffled at how long they have lived in the city without experiencing the southern reach of the river. The project contains 8 miles of hike and bike trails, grand pavilions and overlooks, new water-edge landings for paddle watercraft, and other outdoor recreation amenities on San Antonio’s Southside which encourage wellness, environmental stewardship, and a general enthusiasm about nature.

The San Antonio River Foundation and San Antonio River Authority invite the whole community to witness this spectacular floating costume contest and festival after-party on the first Saturday of Fiesta from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Mission County Park pavilions.

Those who come may just see Coco and Kevin in Scandinavian-esque armor made of old T-shirts and cardboard at the third annual Mission Reach Flotilla Festival, ready for a fierce competition of cuteness as they paddle down the river.

Kelley Phillips serves as director of programs and outreach for the San Antonio River Foundation, where she ensures that others can feel the same sense of wonder and joy through the Foundation’s mission...