River Walk: The Epic Story of San Antonio's River

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9781893271418: River Walk: The Epic Story of San Antonio's River
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How San Antonio's river was revived from a sluggish trickle to become a world-renowned model for river development is a story that is hardly known. For generations San Antonians have spun tales of rescue that rank with the most entertaining of Texas yarns. Outside writers swallowed them whole. This vividly illustrated book untangles the historical record. It reveals a story quite different from that of the well-worn tales. As their river began going dry more than a century ago, San Antonians refused to give up on the stream that had nourished them since Spanish times. They pumped in new water, fought floods, and turned the banks into a park. Years afterward they adopted a dramatic river design, then let it languish. They reembraced it decades later, just as a world s fair sparked the pedestrian traffic needed to make viable today s phenomenal River Walk, visited by some five million tourists each year. More than 200 illustrations, a great many of them never before published, make this book the premier portrayal of what has beeen ranked as the top travel destination in Texas.

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From the Inside Flap:

When drillers beside a river bend near the heart of San Antonio broke through the limestone crust and struck water in 1891, a gusher twenty feet high threw up rocks “as large as a man's head.” The explosion was nearly a death knell for San Antonio's river. New artesian wells lowered the water table and cut off springs that fueled the river. Soon the river went dry at the slightest sign of drought. Plans circulated to give it a decent burial and sell the old riverbed for development, however picturesque it may have been. It was a sad comedown for a stream that had determined the city's location and nourished its growth for nearly two centuries. But by 1911, a civic reform movement was in full hue and cry. Dressing up the river became a main goal of this movement, and there was no shortage of plans of how to do it. Wells were tapped to augment the river's flow and the city bankrolled a park along its downtown banks. As Lewis Fisher's perceptive narrative suggests, San Antonians were doing what so many Americans do with treasures that have outlasted their original use. As others did with antique cars and printer's drawers and milk cans, San Antonians over time spiffed up their river with a slickness it had never known and proceeded to cash in on the redone relic. The River Walk now brings in $3 billion a year to San Antonio's economy, and alternates with the Alamo as the top tourist attraction in Texas. It turns out that the evolution occurred in such fits and starts that people lost track of exactly what had happened before. By the time they had a huge success on their hands, San Antonians had to invent stories about how the River Walk came to be. Incredibly, the fables were woven so tightly into the only information available that they threw virtually all local, state, and national writers on the subject far off track. The longer the telling of the River Walk's background before the 1940s, the more hopelessly garbled the account became. But if memories behind the tales were not clear, the historical record is. Once sorted out, the story becomes an epic filled with at least as many sharp twists and turns as the river itself. Early on, some sensed what the outcome could be. Their observations are all the more remarkable a century–plus later, as this book reveals how tenuous were the transitions that created today's world-celebrated River Walk.

About the Author:

Lewis F. Fisher has written several books about San Antonio, among them The Spanish Missions of SanAntonio, San Antonio: Outpost of Empires, and Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage.

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9781893271401: River Walk: The Epic Story of San Antonio's River

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ISBN 10:  1893271404 ISBN 13:  9781893271401
Publisher: Maverick Publishing Company, 2006
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