Walk, roller blade, cycle, canoe, kayak. Bring the dog. Get yourself down to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Saturday morning for the long-awaited, flood-delayed, great-change-in-weather Grand Opening. (See a full schedule of events at the various locations below this story.)
Too far away to get to the Mission Reach without motorized transport?
Make it easy on yourself and park your vehicle at Crossroads Mall and enjoy VIA Park ‘n Ride shuttle service. It’s $2.50 one way, $5 round trip with the usual discount for kids, seniors, and military. Shuttles will run from early morning into the late evening.
Wear a hat, slap on some sun screen and bring water. There’s a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and then a cold front with more rain hits the city late Saturday night with overnight temperatures dropping below 60 degrees for the first time in memory. Sunday’s highs will barely climb above 80 degree and night temps will fall to the low 50s. Alleluia!
What about the federal government shutdown? No worries, unless you were hoping for a guided tour with the National Park Service. That’s not going to happen, but the historic Spanish Missions and their grounds will be open to visitors and parishioners, and parking lots will be open to those coming south in their own vehicles.
Are repairs completed along stretches ravaged by late May floods? Yes and no. It will take a full growing season for the lush native plantings to fully recover, but the Mission Reach and everything along its banks looks great. The 24/7 work done by Zachry Corp., the San Antonio River Authority, the city, county and other contractors and partners amounts to a four-month miracle.
In some respects, the river will never be finished. Restoring the San Antonio River from its northern reaches (still underway) to its southern tip is a permanent commitment now to conserving nature and our city’s heritage that was once lost. The same can be said for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Fr. David Garcia’s years-long labor of love to restore the actual Mission.
The San Antonio River restoration once was a project at the top of the city’s wish list that looked like it might never happen. We didn’t have the money. We didn’t have the political pull in Washington. Finally, local leaders came together and decided to take the lead. Years later, a $358 million project nears completion.
Much along the Mission Reach remains to be built and tended: portals to the historic Spanish Missions, Confluence Park, nature’s learning laboratory where San Pedro Creek empties into the river, restoration of Hot Wells, installation of major public art works, and of course, the continuing work to nurture the spreading wildscape.
My own personal wildlife watching seems to deepen with each season as new species of birds, snakes, reptiles, flying insects and butterflies become more commonplace.
Now it’s time to celebrate as a community. The day begins with Opening Ceremonies at 10 a.m. at Padre Park with a number of public officials who have worked together for more than a decade to make this day possible. County Judge Nelson Wolff, SARA Board Chairman Gaylon Oehlke, and District Three City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran representing the City, will be on hand, among others, to welcome citizens and speak.
After that, it’s an eight-mile long party until 8 p.m. There are multiple live music venues, including bands at Padre Park after the opening ceremonies from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Four food trucks will be at Padre Park.
The music scheduled at Mission San Juan has been added to the program at Mission Park Pavilions, where the live music program starts at noon and goes until 8 p.m. Yes, more food trucks.
Music at Acequia Park goes from 12-4 p.m. where there will be, you got it, food trucks.
The grand opening features a full playlist of bands, food trucks and when the bands take the stage at the three different venues. A number of solo musical artists will perform at other points along the river. You’ll just have to cover the entire length to take it all in, but you’ll never be far from the sound of music.
There will also be a number of programs for children, including a fishing clinic and a watershed education station and master naturalists available to chat.
Paddlers, both recreational and serious: Here’s a nice guide from SARA to available river stretches ranging from a mellow mile amid the landscaped splendor of the historic King William neighborhood all the way south through the Eagleland Stretch, which requires a portage, and on through the Mission Reach.
SARA officials suggest beginner paddlers put in at the newly opened stretch at Espada Dam, where volunteers will help you drop off your gear while you park at Mission Espada. Shuttle service from 12-2 p.m. will bring you back to the starting point.
More experienced paddlers can put in at VFW Boulevard and head south. The ceremony’s website includes a good map. Longer paddle trails of 12.1 miles and 6-6 miles, respectively, can be had on the Saspamco Paddling Trail through southern Bexar and northern Wilson counties and the Goliad Paddling Trail from U.S. 59 to Goliad State Park.
Try those some other day. Saturday is all about the Mission Reach.
OPENING CEREMONY: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Padre Park Mission Reach Pavilion: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- San Antonio River Foundation’s Confluence Critters (kid’s activity)
- San Antonio River Authority’s Watershed W.I.S.E. Warriors
Main Stages Along the River:
Padre Park (River Plaza) 11:30 – 4:00 p.m.
- 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Ken Slavin
- 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. The Swindles
- 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. KP and the Boom Boom
Food Trucks (inside Padre Park)
- Nor’Eastern – New England Seafood
- Zum Sushi – Sushi
- Say She Ate – Eclectic – Sliders, Duck Fat Fries, Chicken and Waffles
- Chocolazo – Dessert Truck
Acequia Park 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Erica Monzon
- 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Step Aside
- 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. In and Outlaws
- SAWeet Cupcakes
- Rick’s Hunger Buster – Burgers, Philly Cheese Steaks
- Office of Sustainability/Metropolitan Planning Organization Bike Station
- San Antonio B-cycle
- San Antonio River Authority’s Watershed W.I.S.E. Warriors
Solo Entertainment Along the River
Musical Entertainment 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- DJ Richard Parrilla
- Muska and Underwood
- James Martin
- George Gaytan
- Nicolette Good
- Frank Pena
- Jeanette Muniz
Family Fun Activities
- Fishing Clinic (kid’s activity)
- Watershed Education Station (kid’s activity)
- Master Naturalists Ecosystem Education Stations
Paddle the Mission Reach! For beginners, try out the newly opened section of the river. Drop off your equipment with our volunteers at Espada Dam and park in the designated parking lot at Mission Espada. Shuttle service provided from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
For experienced paddle enthusiasts, paddling inputs are available from VFW Blvd, south. (see map for details).
Mission Park Pavilions 12:00 – 8:00 p.m.*
*Activities that were previously scheduled to be Mission San Juan have been moved to Mission Park Pavilions due to government furlough.
- 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. The Hares
- 1:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Los Bad Apples
- 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Villela
- 3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Los Hermanos Leon
- 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Jose Leon
- 5:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. Los Hermanos Farias
- 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Juanito Castillo y Innovacion featuring Rio Jordan
- Bite Street – American – Mac and Cheese, Turkey Wraps, Shrimp Burgers etc.
- Mr. Meximum – Mexican
- SpiceSea Gourmet – Seafood