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Partly open for business: Medina River Preserves

15 May 2022

Notice: Part of this trail is closed due to maintenance.

A couple of riders, guys in their 40s at the Pleasanton Road trailhead, asked us, "Is the Medina River Greenway open all the way to Palo Alto Road?" They were amongst curiosity seekers exploring the many of the new trails that have been constructed in the San Antonio area. Unfortunately, parts of the trail have been closed for maintenance. In 2021, there was a closure due to bridge repairs.

A new switchback and bridge crossing Leon Creek on the Medina River Greenway
A new switchback and bridge crossing Leon Creek on the Medina River Greenway—Photo: SRR

Since its inception, the 9-mile (14-km) trail was completed to Pleasanton Road in 2020 where it undergoes a railroad trestle. Located about 0.5 mile (1 km) north of the underpass, the trail is continued at the Pleasanton Road Trailhead where it is routed to del Lago Golf Course and Mission Espada.

Bridge crosses terrain on the Medina River Greenway
Bridge crosses terrain on the Medina River Greenway—Photo: SRR

The original trail began at Palo Alto Road and ended at a cul de sec 6.7 miles (11 km) downstream. The cul de sec is near one of the historic sites of the Battle of Medina, fought on 18 Aug 1813 as a part of Mexico's war for independence against New Spain. Other sites for this battle included the city of Leming, Texas. It was deemed as the deadliest battle in Texas history.

Map of the Medina River Greenway at the Del Lago Trailhead—Parks and Recreation
Map of the Medina River Greenway at the Del Lago Trailhead—Map: Parks and Recreation

Located near the Applewhite Road trailhead is the 1,200-acre Living Land Institute, a museum representing at least 10,000 years of land that was occupied by Native North Americans. The Spanish from New Spain arrived during the 1700s. Included in this museum venue is the Presnall-Watson Homestead District, a site used as a ranch from the 1850s. In the beginning, New Spain awarded the land to one of its royalists Juan Ignacio Pérez who used the land for ranching until his death in 1823. His son José took over the ownership until the Texas Revolution forced him out to seek safety in Mexico. The Republic of Texas took ownership and gave the property to Bruno Martinez in 1836 who in turn sold it to John W. Smith for $300. During the 1840s, José Pérez filed suit against the Republic of Texas to regain ownership. In 1851, the State of Texas Supreme Court denied Pérez’s claim; Texas became a state in 1849.

Presnall-Watson house is situated along the Medina River trail
Presnall-Watson house is situated along the Medina River trail—Photo: SRR

Harrison Presnall and his brother-in-law Stephen Applewhite purchased the land in 1852. With slave labor, Presnall and Applewhite harvested cotton until the American Civil War broke out. Following the War, Presnall and Applewhite turned the land into a cattle ranch.

Interesting structures were built by Presnall and are clearly visible from the trail. He built a two-room home with sandstone and mud mortar. In 1883, John Watson bought the land for $6,000 and added on to the home with a two-story section during a time when his farming business flourished. The house was handed down to Cora Watson who lived there until her death in 1971.

In 1992, voters halted the Applewhite Reservoir project that would have destroyed the preserve.

A switchback on original part of the Medina River Greenway
A switchback on original part of the Medina River Greenway—Photo: SRR Video

The trailhead of choice is the Pleasanton Road Trailhead. The road connects I-430 to the north. Other trailheads are Palo Alto Road, Applewhite Road, and Del Lago on U.S. 281.

—SRR News Services

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