Olmos Basin Park has an historical significance like several other San Antonio Parks. Nearly one century ago, a surprising rainfall led to massive flooding in the heart of the city. The park now contains a dam which is always on guard, protecting the River City from destructive flooding. Without the dam at Olmos Basin Park, the San Antonio Riverwalk and downtown area, would not be as magnificent as they are today.
Things to Do at Olmos Basin Park in San Antonio, TX
- Walk your dog along a 1.5 mile walkway
- Play baseball or soccer
- Take your furry friend to the Alamo Heights Bark Park
- Bike the hidden trails in the woods
- Bring your kids to the playground
- Have a picnic or event
- Follow Olmos Creek before it reaches the San Antonio River
Hours of operation: 5am – 11pm
Olmos Basin Park can be located between the Alamo Quarry, and the San Antonio Zoo. It is a short drive north of downtown, and connects Olmos Park with Alamo Heights. The park has a few amenities, and seems to have been a popular social gathering area in the past.
Inside the park you will find a large parking lot with scattered picnic areas and old, eroding water fountains. However, there are also functional dog friendly fountains, a public restroom, and playground. This park is open from 5am – 11pm, and you may park at one of three lots.
There is a 1.5 mile concrete path which extends from the Alamo Quarry, and forms a loop around the sports fields at the south end of the park. The dam is beyond the woods, but you will not see it from the path. In order to see the dam, you will need to walk, or drive along Olmos Drive.
Olmos Drive connects Olmos Park to Alamo Heights, and crosses Olmos Creek. This creek feeds the San Antonio River, along with the San Antonio Springs. You can find one of these springs at Headwaters Sanctuary, inside the University of the Incarnate Word. You can find others at San Pedro Springs Park.
The History of Olmos Basin
Olmos Basin Park may not look like much, but it has an amazing history. For many years the basin was a gathering place for peoples of prehistoric times. Artifacts and burial sites have been found over the years, unfortunately there is little information about the people who gathered here.
In the fall of 1921, there was a destructive flood after a hurricane came ashore. A large amount of rainfall flooded the basin and swept through downtown San Antonio. Many people lost their lives as vehicles and chunks of concrete were washed away like pebbles. Afterwards, the dam was constructed to prevent future flooding and destruction.
Walk, Bark and Play at the Park
As long as there is not a heavy rainfall, there are several things to do at Olmos Basin Park. The 1.5 mile concrete path provides an easy walk through the partially wooded area. The path is handicap accessible, and easy for beginners.
The loop on the south side of the park is completely unshaded, and circles the sports fields. You can recognize flooding by the appearance of the plant-life, and the amount of litter. However, the city is fairly good when it comes to clean up.
Not only is the park dog friendly, but there is a dog park on the east side as well. It may be easier to drive to the Bark Park of Alamo Heights because it is a few blocks east of the Olmos Basin pathway. You will not see the dog park from the playground, trail, or sports fields.
The Bark Park is a great place to let your pup play off-leash with some other dogs from Alamo Heights. We met a dog named, Indy. Coincidentally (or not), this happens to be one of the greatest characters of all-time, who was also named after a dog.
If you are not into dog parks, or hiking with dogs, you can also bike, picnic, play ball, or bring your kids to the playground. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a stroll through the woods and get a closer look at the Olmos Dam.
Based on the job it’s done, it seems like it should receive more recognition. San Antonio wouldn’t be the place we know it today without the dam at Olmos Basin Park.
Hidden Biking Trails at Olmos Basin Park
If you enjoy biking through the woods, there are several “hidden” trails west of US-281. You can access these trails by finding a spot along the street in Olmos Park, or by using the Olmos Basin parking lot across from the sports fields. If you use the parking lot, you will find two trail access points after heading west on Dick Friedrich Drive, underneath US-281.
At first it seemed like there was merely one short loop trail in the woods. However, we noticed there were others after crossing Dick Friedrich to the south. On the map the woods did not appear to stretch too far, but we found several more looping trails as we continued south. As far as I know, these trails are not well known, nor have they been measured.
There could be several miles of trails in the woods of Olmos Basin Park. Most of the trails are easy to follow which indicates someone is using them fairly often. However, we only saw one pair of bikers during midday on a Saturday. We found a slightly dangerous biker bridge, but were unable to cover the entire area.
If you are looking for things to do nearby Olmos Basin Park there are several. North of the park you can eat, or shop inside the Alamo Quarry Market. On the weekends you may find a local farmers market. Directly south of the park you can find The Blue Hole at Headwaters Sanctuary. South of that you will find the San Antonio Zoo, the Japanese Tea Garden, Botanical Garden, and the DoSeum.
Continue further south and you will find The Pearl Brewery, a very popular spot among locals. The weekend farmers market at the Pearl will be much larger, and there are many dog friendly places to eat as well. On the backside of the Pearl you can access the northern most part of the San Antonio Riverwalk. The riverwalk continues for 15 miles through the heart of downtown, and south beyond The Missions in San Antonio.
The Olmos Dam is the first line of defense and helps keep these areas safe and dry from potential flooding. It continues to withstand the test of time ever since the tragic flood of 1921. In San Antonio we are really good at remembering the Alamo, but we also need to remember Olmos Basin Park and Dam.