Archaeological Investigations of 41BX1273, the Upper Labor Dam, Headgate and Breakwater, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas




McKenzie, Clinton M. M.
Wall, Peggy

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Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio


From May 31, 2023 to June 26, 2023, the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) conducted a combination of hand and mechanical archaeological excavations at the northern end of Brackenridge Park. This municipal park is ca. 4.8 km north of downtown San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas and on the west bank of the San Antonio River, immediately south of Hildebrand Avenue. The project was contracted by the Brackenridge Park Conservancy (BPC). The work conducted and reported here was research driven rather than compliance driven. The BPC was interested in obtaining a greater understanding of the articulation of several major features of the Upper Labor Acequia system to have that information available to the public and to potentially assist in the design of any subsequent interpretive projects.

Brackenridge Park is owned by the City of San Antonio (COSA) and within the COSA the San Antonio River Improvement Overlay (SA-RIO). The COSA is subject to compliance with the Antiquities Code of Texas. Both the Texas Antiquities Code and Chapter 35 of the Local Government Code of the COSA require coordination with the City’s Office of Historic Preservation and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) Division of Archeology. Brackenridge Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) with numerous contributing resources including historic buildings, cultural properties, and prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. Brackenridge Park is also a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). CAR conducted these investigations under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 31178. David Yelacic, former CAR Director, served as the Original Principal Investigator. Following his departure from CAR in August of 2023, Cynthia Munoz assumed the Principal Investigator role. Clinton M. M. McKenzie served as Project Archaeologist for the field work component, analysis, and assembly of the final report.

Principal activities undertaken included hand excavations around the perimeter of presumed architectural components of the Confederate States of America (CSA) headgate’s eastern wing, the western arm of the CSA breakwater, and around the perimeter of two limestone blocks south of the terminus of the Upper Labor Dam and the headgate. The CSA headgate and breakwater were previously identified as Feature 4 and 5 in the report on the 2012 excavations (McKenzie 2017). The limestone blocks were identified as Feature 7. Following the initial hand exposures of these features, CAR staff monitored trench excavations of the Feature 4 and 5 area, as well as the area of Feature 7. Excavations documented additional details concerning the construction methods and alignments of both Feature 4 and 5 in relation to each other and to the composite Spanish Colonial and CSA dam with which they articulate. Investigation of Feature 7 determined that the stones were likely associated with late nineteenth century stone lining and/or repair of the lining of the Upper Labor acequia immediately south of the CSA dam complex. The work demonstrates that there are substantial remains of the CSA dam complex that allow for clarity of system function. The CSA system was an expansion on the functions of the earlier Spanish Colonial system. These two historical systems warrant continued protection as contributing elements to National Register status and as components of the SAL. CAR recommends either entire avoidance of impacts to these resources or that additional archaeological work is undertaken prior to any proposed impacts.



historical archaeology, Upper Labor Dam, Upper Labor Acequia, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Bexar County


McKenzie, C.M.M. and P. Wall (2024). Archaeological Investigations of 41BX1273, the Upper Labor Dam, Headgate and Breakwater, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. Archaeological Report, No. 507. Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio.