The San Antonio Spring, also called the Blue Hole, is a famous artesian spring on the Congregational heritage land of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Indigenous peoples here at the time of colonization called the springs Yanaguana, or up-flowing waters of the spirit. Coahuiltecan Native American creation stories describe how the Spirit Waters rose up, giving birth to all Creation.
This great spring was once a fountain spring rising up to twenty feet in the air. It joins Comal Springs, San Marcos Springs, and Barton Springs as one of the four fountain springs of Texas. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest these same four fountain springs may be depicted in a rock wall painting, known as the White Shaman Panel in the Lower Pecos, dating back some 4,000 years ago.
These four great springs issue from a common water source, the vast Edwards Aquifer that flows underground along the Balcones Escarpment from west of Del Rio to north of Austin. The springs give rise to life-giving rivers that have sustained human communities for thousands of years. Evidence of human presence in the headwaters of these rivers dates back nearly 12,000 years, signifying the importance of these great springs to early human civilization.
The San Antonio Springs were understood to be the source of the San Antonio River: “the key to the situation, the Ojo de Agua, the birthright of the city” (William Corner, 1890). Now the population of San Antonio is well over a million, all dependent on water from the Edwards Aquifer, which is riddled with many artesian wells. The first artesian wells drilled into the Edwards Aquifer in the 1890’s had the immediate effect of reducing spring flow. Increased pumping to supply water to an expanding population has caused further drawdown of the aquifer, leaving local springs dry much of the time.
The headwaters remain a powerful symbol of the literal and spiritual life-giving essence of water. Flowing or not, they remain, to many, the sacred springs.
Visit our References page for more resources of the history and ecology of Headwaters.