This park protects four historic Spanish missions around San Antonio, Texas, but does not include the famous Alamo (managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas). Construction began in 1718 and by 1824 secularization was complete and land was distributed among the converted natives. In 2015, these five missions along the San Antonio River were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1720 Mission San José, 1755 Mission Concepción, 1731 Mission
Espada, 1731 Mission San Juan Capistrano
At the farthest south of the four missions (San Francisco de
la Espada) there is also an interesting acequia system that includes an
aqueduct, ditches, and a dam built in 1745, all of which are still used for
irrigation purposes. Mission San Juan
Capistrano is covered in white stucco the way they all would have been
historically. Mission Concepción is the
farthest north of the four missions and we thought it had the prettiest interior.
San Antonio’s famous River Walk Trail continues from the
downtown area all the way south to Mission Espada, not to be confused with the
signed Mission Trail driving route.
The beautifully preserved San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission dates back to 1720. Today this large village complex is a popular location for wedding and graduation photos.
This interesting National Monument protects three separate Spanish missions that date to the 1600s, though its main visitor center in Mountainair, New Mexico is not next to any of them. Their location near salt flats led to the name Salinas and contributed to the pueblos’ abandonment when a major drought struck in the 1670s.
Gran Quivira, Quarai, Abó, film at main visitor center
Gran Quivira has the remains of two churches (the second unfinished at the time of abandonment) and the most significantly excavated pueblo ruins (with kivas) of the three sites.
Each of the three pueblos has a paved walkway that leads
through its ruins that leaves from the parking lot and past its contact station
staffed by a National Park Service employee.
The church at Quarai is the most complete of the three sites and its red walls photograph well at sunset.
South of Tucson in Tubac, Arizona, San Cayetano de Tumacácori is a Spanish mission founded in 1691 by Padre Kino and abandoned in 1848. It became a National Monument in 1908 when it was restored to its ruined state based on photographs dating from 1868. Two additional mission ruins were added when it became a National Historical Park in 1990, but they are not open to the public except on special ranger-led tours January through March.
Historic mission, historic museum (built in 1937)
Jesuits, like the famous Padre Eusebio Kino, established
more than 20 missions in this part of the Sonoran Desert in the
late-1600s. Some of the Pimas they were
“serving” attacked in 1751, leading to the move of Tumacácori to its current
location and the establishment of Tubac Presidio (now a State Park). Mexico gained its independence from Spain in
1821 and the final phase of construction on the mission began two years
later. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase
brought this region into the United States of America. When you visit the ruins of Tumacácori,
consider a trip north to beautiful San Xavier del Bac, which is still an active
A 4-mile portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail connects Tumacácori with Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, which offers a museum and an underground archaeological display.
At the end of the day in the winter months, trees surrounding the mission cast interesting shadows on its stucco walls.