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The Riverwalk is a MUST DO in San Antonio! Although the main downtown area is only a 1 mile circuit, the developed section of the river extends much further north and south, all the way from the San Antonio Zoo (approximately five miles north of downtown) to the Mission Espada (approximately ten miles south of downtown). The depth of the river varies between 2 and 5 feet in the 'controlled' section between the floodgates, but is sometimes much deeper - between 19 and 24 feet outside. The control gates are raised during storms to prevent the shallow section from flooding.
In 2009, the City of San Antonio extended the developed portion of the Riverwalk northward by more than 2 miles to the former Pearl Brewery. The 22-acre site is home to the Culinary Institute of America and the old brewery buildings as well as the surrounding area have witnessed a surge of redevelopment with new restaurants, retail stores and apartments being built. The San Antonio Museum of Art is located along this northern stretch of the Riverwalk and since 2009 the pathway has been extended northwards again all the way to the San Antonio Zoo, however the official Riverwalk path leaves the river for a short section as it skirts the Brackenridge Park golf course. Along this section of the river you will find multiple art installations, including a large school of illuminated fish suspended from the overhead structure of IH 35 and a large scale grotto with waterfalls by local artisan, Carlos Cortes.
In October 2013 the city completed the Mission Reach: 8 miles of reclaimed waterways connecting downtown to the historic Spanish missions located south of the city center. Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada are now accessible from downtown without having to drive. Alternatively, if you are living or staying outside the downtown area, there are several places along the riverwalk (including the missions) where you can drive, park your car and pick up the trail very easily. You won't find any hotels or bars along this southern stretch of the river but you'll see plenty of wild flowers, native plants and lots of wildlife because the city has restored the riverbank to its natural state, providing a safe haven for migrating birds and butterflies.
Most people staying in downtown will want to take one of the river barge tours that wind around the central loop. Get on a boat and take a journey through San Antonio's most unique urban treasure. It's a great way to see this vibrant city (Bexar county residents get a generous discount - show your ID when purchasing tickets). The company operating the cruises also run a river taxi service that works the northern stretch of the river and the furthest you can travel is the Old Pearl Brewery. You can buy a one way ticket going either up or down river or you can buy a daily pass allowing you to hop on and off whenever you want. In order to allow tourist barges and river taxis to travel the length of the northern section, the only working boat locks in Texas were constructed next to the Lexington Street bridge to raise and lower water craft. The river south of Downtown is NOT accessible to the tourist barges.
If you feel more energetic you have the option of either walking or biking along the river. Walking northwards is manageable for most people and there are plenty of opportunities to stop under some shade or at a restaurants / bar for refreshments. If you're feeling tired you can always catch a river taxi back to downtown. Walking southwards to the missions is more of a challenge, especially in hot weather as there is less shade and as noted above, there are no restaurants or hotels where you can stop to have a rest. For that reason, if you're not a serious walker, biking is probably the better option on the southern section of the riverwalk. On a sunny day the heat and humidity can be brutal so it's highly recommended that you take bottled water with you and make sure you use sunblock. The missions have water fountains which you can use to refill your bottles. If you don't want to hire a bike, you can use the bicycle share scheme (B-Cycle) to travel the riverwalk. In addition to many B-Cycle stations scattered around the city, there are B-Cyle stations located at strategic points along the Riverwalk both north and south of downtown. It's worth noting that you cannot cycle around the downtown riverwalk 'loop' and part of the riverbank in downtown is inaccessible to bikes but the official map shows quite clearly where you can join the pathway north or south of downtown.
For current information on upcoming events on the Riverwalk as well as business listings, try this link: