Government Canyon State Natural Area, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas

Government Canyon is right outside the City of San Antonio. San Antonio gets some of it’s water from the Edwards Aquifer and Government Canyon sits right on top of a big section of it. This is for protection from development and to preserve the history and another item in the park.

Nate is coming to visit and hike so I picked Government Canyon as our destination.

Dinosaur tracks! There is a area at the base of the canyon wall that has visible dinosaur tracks of two kinds- sauropods and therapods.

But first the history.

Government Canyon contains over 12000 acres so it is a huge natural area. It started when the City of San Antonio transferred 3000 acres to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division for protection of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer an important source of water for the city. Government Canyon has over 40 miles of trails and an elevation gain of over 500 feet.

How did it get the name Government Canyon?

In the 1850’s Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnston was commissioned to build a military supply road from San Antonio to Bandera. His route took him through a large canyon near Helotes. Today 6 miles of that old road runs within the park and is known as the Joe Johnston Route.

Joe Johnston later became an influential General in the Confederate Army. He was the last General to surrender a major army, at Bennett Place in North Carolina, in 1865, shortly after the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina that I previously wrote about. (See the post: The Storyboard That Sucked Me In).

So people began to call this “the Government’s Canyon” and the name stuck.

More importantly the Joe Johnston Route leads to the dinosaur tracks. One has to wonder did they see the tracks, did they report the tracks or did they just consider them indentations in the rock.

Educational sign at the Dino tracks
Sauropod tracks
Therapod Trackway
Therapod track at the base of the canyon wall

Interesting thing about photo of this track above, is it best best taken from the top of the rim.

Government Canyon.

The dinosaur tracks are believed to be nearly 110 million years old. They were made by the Sauropod -Sauroposeidon the tallest known dinosaur. The Theropod tracks were made by the Acrocanthosaurus, a two legged predator. It stood about 38 feet tall and was known for the high spines along it’s back. Both species lived along the gulf coast which was at the time Government Canyon. This was changed by the uplifting of the Edwards Plateau along the Balcones Fault or Escarpment.

We left the Dinosaur track area and continued on the Joe Johnston Route to another interesting place, the Zizelmann House.

The Zizelmanns were bakers of German decent who lived and worked in San Antonio. In 1880 Christian and Emilie Zizelmann bought a corner of land owned by the Hoffmann’s who were related by marriage. They started their house two years later. It is a mystery why they decided to build here as it was a full days ride out the “Government’s Road” to get to the site from their bakery in downtown San Antonio.

They also allowed the Hoffmanns to retain the water rights on the land to water their cattle.

The house was never completely finished nor did the Zizelmanns ever live here. It is speculated that the structure was eventual used as a stagecoach stop and/or a temporary barracks for Calvary troops operating in the area.

The Zizelmann House.

from here the trail makes a big loop on the Sendero Balcones Trail, and the Wildcat Canyon Trail. Supposedly in Wildcat Canyon are the buildings of an old ranch. We didn’t find them……

It was exciting seeing the dinosaur tracks and the canyon had some history to explore.

View from the top of the rim of Government Canyon

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