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Another preservation tool is a nature sanctuary. Headwaters at Incarnate Word is the nonprofit organization that protects the 53-acre Headwaters Sanctuary. The Headwaters Sanctuary is special because it is a place for wildlife, a place in history, and a place for people to reflect. There are many reasons to protect this land.


The Sanctuary is mostly riparian forest. This forest is used as habitat for many types of plants and animals. Protecting any and all native wildlife increases biodiversity. Biodiversity is what ensures there is wildlife left after an extreme natural event like a flood or drought. The riparian vegetation does many things. Root structures keep soil and river banks from eroding and being washed away. The vegetation slows and filters water before it enters the river or creek. Canopy, the layer of tree leaves and branches in the air, keeps the river from getting boiling hot during Texas summers. Plants provide food for animals and support a healthy food web.

INVASIVE SPECIES REMOVAL and recycling program

Nothing goes to waste here at the Headwaters Sanctuary. Plant material gathered during volunteer workdays from path clearing and invasive species removal is recycled into mulch to line sanctuary trails or for use in our greenhouse and gardens. Invasive Ligustrum removed from the Headwaters Sanctuary is also used to craft artisan walking sticks and can be purchased here.  

The Headwaters Sanctuary connects us to nature. Green spaces can improve mental and physical health. The Sanctuary is a quiet place near the city center. People can use the land to meditate, reflect on their day, or simply clear their minds as they walk the trails. Headwaters offers many offerings like nature walks, birding, workshops, films, lectures, and tours that teach the community


The Sanctuary also protects part of the rich history of the city of San Antonio. The river and its headwaters have made living in this area possible for at least 12,000 years. After Spanish colonization, the water revered as sacred by indigenous people was channeled to provide irrigation for the missions. Now, the San Antonio River Walk connects the missions and brings prosperity to the San Antonio economy. Still sacred to this day, areas along the river like the Blue Hole remind us that without the river, there would be no city. 

The Headwaters Sanctuary helps us understand the complex relationships people have had with the San Antonio River, and between ourselves, for the past 12,000 years.It is important we protect areas like the Headwaters Sanctuary so we can continue to provide a home for plants and animals. The river, the surrounding land, and its inhabitants, provide us with services like water purification and nutrient cycling. To ensure we can continue to receive these services, we must protect the land. Use your three R's to decrease the amount of trash that ends up in the river. Learn more about protecting the Headwaters Sanctuary on our Support and Donate pages.

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