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Learning about the Espada Aqueduct and Dam in San Antonio

Grab a notepad, because we’re giving a mini lesson on the oldest Spanish aqueduct in the US.

The Espada Aqueduct is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Park, and National Historic Landmark.

The Espada Aqueduct is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Park, and National Historic Landmark.

Photo by the National Park Service

San Antonio has a plethora of fun facts, but did you know that the oldest Spanish aqueduct in the US is located in the Alamo City? We’re taking you on a field trip to learn about this elder waterway and its impact on the San Antonio Missions.

Go with the flow

The TL;DR on aqueducts is that these are man-made waterways — usually in the shape of bridges — designed to carry water from a source to a different destination. Fun fact: The word “aqueduct” stems from Latin aqua + ducere, meaning “to lead water.”

Constructed in the 18th century (between 1740 and 1745) by the Spanish, the Espada Aqueduct carries water across six miles south from Piedras Creek to Mission Espada. At the time, the new irrigation route was used for the mission’s farm land and allowed the commune to have a source of running water.

Make it a picnic and listen to the flowing waters of the Espada Dam in San Antonio.

Make it a picnic and listen to the flowing waters of the Espada Dam in San Antonio.

Photo by the National Park Service

A dam miracle

The Espada Dam was essential to the mission’s survival, as it worked in tandem with the aqueduct to supply drinking + irrigation water. The dam still diverts water into the Espada Acequia System, and can be seen today via a short walk from the parking lot. It’s also the last surviving Spanish-built dam in San Antonio.

The aqueduct is still used to water the San Juan Farm and is managed by the San Antonio Food Bank.

Plan your visit

Check out these historical structures for yourself and visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pro tip: Park your car at 9045 Espada Rd. and go for a nature hike — you may see turtles sunbathing or other unique native wildlife.

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