City of San Antonio employee Robert Prieto walks the river looking for trash and artifacts.

Visitors out for a downtown stroll in San Antonio this week will wonder why the city prides itself on the River Walk. Instead of the meandering water, swimming ducks, and moonlight reflections of the San Antonio River, they’ll be gazing upon concrete, beer and soda cans, wine bottles, beaded Mardi Gras necklaces, and other trash that has collected at the bottom of the channel.

The City of San Antonio began draining the downtown and Museum Reach sections to improve water quality and perform maintenance repairs on Sunday at 11 p.m. By Monday morning, only a trickle of water remained.

It’s probably the citywide equivalent of a guest looking underneath your couch. A bit embarrassing, because you’re never quite sure what they might find – what fell under there during the last New Year’s Eve party?

Beads were one of the many reoccuring objects found along the San Antonio River. Photo by Scott Ball.
Beads, thrown from river parade barges during Mardi Gras celebrations, were one of the most common objects found in the river. Photo by Scott Ball.

Workers sloshed through the muddy water to pick up trash, backhoes scrapped up excess sediment into dump trucks, and River Walk property owners performed maintenance on areas that are normally submerged.

At the Briscoe Western Art Museum, maintenance worker Gene Ramos took the opportunity to access a pipe that the museum uses to divert water from the river to a nearby fountain.

Two people walked along the path and said they were scavenging for lost Rolex watches and other items of value. The declined to give their names. By 8:30 a.m. they had not found anything special, but they continued down the path, still hopeful.

The maintenance and repairs will be completed next weekend and City officials said the River Walk should be filled with water again to return to is former glory on Monday, Jan. 9. The San Antonio River is usually drained every odd year, however this year due to a higher amount of debris, the river needed draining once more.

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Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone is a California native and a graduate of the University of Oregon. She moved to San Antonio in December 2015 to join The Rivard Report team as photographer and videographer.