The original blessing of San Antonio–its abundant waters–would eventually have to be controlled to allow the city to grow and flourish.
THE PRISTINE AND LUSH natural setting of the primordial creek, with its riparian abundance of flora and fauna, would change dramatically as the town grew in the mid-to-late 1800s. Though garden plots and grazing land along the creek and nearby streets would give way to building sites for houses and businesses, the creek itself remained largely unchanged until the early 1900s. But the periodic floods that damaged adjacent properties and claimed lives worsened in 1917 when the creek was channeled into an overly narrow underground culvert downstream from here to facilitate construction of the terminal for the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (known as the M-K-T or the Katy). City leaders later made plans to widen the creek in order to speed the passage of flood water. Depression-era programs funded work to straighten the creek and line its walls with stone and concrete to prevent collapse. The course of San Pedro Creek that had emerged over thousands of years, was gradually transformed from a natural waterway into a concrete drainage ditch, a process that continued in the 1940s when the channel was re-directed to accommodate highway construction.
By 1951 ongoing urban development and subsequent worsening flooding led to adoption of the San Antonio River Channel Improvement Project. This monumental effort would address 31 miles of waterway improvements throughout the city, including along San Pedro Creek. Work to widen, deepen, and straighten the creek south of downtown was finished in the mid1970s, and the San Pedro Creek flood bypass tunnel, designed to protect the downtown area, was completed in 1991. Completion of this tunnel made it possible to establish a world-class linear culture park and restore the onetime splendor of the creek’s aquatic environment. The waters of San Pedro Creek flow in beauty once again.
San Pedro Creek was reconfigured to accommodate construction of the city’s expressway system in 1949. This work involved filling in the natural channel (above) and building a new concrete-lined channel (below).
The Taming of San Pedro Creek Relief workers were employed during the Depression to build concrete walls along San Pedro Creek to contain flood waters. Laborers constructed walls downstream from this site near today’s César Chávez Boulevard.
Bridges for pedestrians and vehicles connected neighborhoods on either side of San Pedro Creek as pictured here in the late 1920s.