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San Antonio River Authority: Species now thrive in Mission Reach waters, including a toothy new one

This spotted gar is a new species found in the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River.
Courtesy photo
San Antonio River Authority
Spotted gar is a new species found in the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River.

The San Antonio River Authority issued a new report on the species thriving in the Mission Reach of the waterway, ten years after its restoration.

It was billed as the largest urban ecosystem restoration project of its kind in the U.S.

The river authority (SARA), with help from researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State, recently waded into the waters of the river in South Bexar County and identified 2,800 animals from among 25 different species living there.

They found catfish, sunfish, and bass, including one largemouth bass that weighed more than four pounds and measured nearly 20 inches.

Researchers survey Mission Reach stretch of the San Antonio River for species living there
Courtesy photo
San Antonio River Authority
Researchers surveyed the Mission Reach stretch of the San Antonio River to learn more about the species living there.

They scanned the water for glimpses of species and then temporarily scooped them up with fish nets for better identification.

In doing so, they also found a new species — a spotted gar with a long jaw with rows of spiky teeth to catch its prey.

SARA reported the restoration of the river is showing signs of success.

Colonies of Texas Logperch and Grey Redhorse fish were found. Both require high quality water and a diverse habitat, which the river now provides.

"Four decades of conducting these surveys have given scientists insight into how the fish community in the Mission Reach has responded 10 years after restoration of the area," said Derek Boese, general manager of the SARA.

Until the restoration, the lower end of the river that flows through the South Side, past most of the Spanish Missions here, was nothing more than a large concrete drainage ditch with mowed banks and devoid of native vegetation, just as the river was devoid of many of its native species.

The restoration work, a $271-million investment, increased native species in the river and the number of native plants on its banks and returned the river to a more natural looking state, including features like rapids. It also created park areas, picnic areas and trails.

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