Espada Aqueduct (Part of the Acequia System)
Mission Espada, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, San Antonio, Texas
Completed in 1740, the acequia diverted river water into an acequia madre (mother ditch). It is still in operation, but now plays a secondary role beside the modern dam.
Text from the historical marker shown below: Since water was vital to the permanency of San Francisco de la Espada Mission, The Franciscan missionaries and their Indian followers built a dam, irrigation ditch, and aqueduct. The 270-foot dam, an engineering feat which "curved the wrong way," was built across the San Antonio River. Lime salts in the water gradually cemented the dam's layers of brush, gravel, and rocks. Water transported by Espada ditch crossed Piedras creek by way of the Espada Aqueduct. This, the only such structure in the U.S., was built from 1740 to 1745. The Alluvial Valley produced crops of maize, beans, melons, calabashes, and cotton. However, deterioration had set in at Espada before its secularization in 1794. Even so, the dam, ditch, and aqueduct survived a century of Indian attacks, ravaging floods, and controversy before the Espada Ditch Ompany repaired the dam, in 1895. In 1941, to help insure the preservation of this singular colonial aqueduct, the San Antonio Conservation Society purchased the adjacent lands. Further assurance came in 1965, when the U.S. Department of Interior designated Espada Aqueduct as a registered national historic landmark.
Photos by Jane Thurmond.
© 2003 Historic Bridge Foundation.