Paradise Canyon History Tells a Tale Over a Hundred Years

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


If you’ve ever been to Paradise Canyon, you probably can see where the name came from, but this idyllic spot has been known since the 1800s. Paradise Canyon history starts at that point and stretches toward today and the future. Over time, this picturesque spot has become a getaway destination for campers and fishers and its use has not changed significantly over the years.

Where is Paradise Canyon?

Paradise Canyon history extends back to the 1800s

Photo: Facebook/Paradise Canyon

Located between Medina Lake and Castroville, Paradise Canyon was once known as Box Canyon in the 19th century, but regardless of its name, it’s been a sportsman refuge for decades. It acquired its name in 1957 by fishermen who frequented the place and today is a popular tourist attraction and campground, but it still retains its wild beauty.

The Founder of Castroville

Henri Casto's Homestead Castro was one of the first Europeans to settle the area around Paradise Canyon

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Henri Castro came to the area in the 1800s, seeking refuge for himself and other immigrants from Alsace, on the France-Germany border. He gained a contract to create settlements along the Medina River, which today remain as Castroville, D’Hanis, Quihi, and Vandenburg. Of these, Castroville is closest to Paradise Canyon, and Castro was likely one of the first Europeans to see the canyon itself.

Early Development in Paradise Canyon History

Medina Dam created Medina Lake which sits above Paradise Canyon

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Medina River flowed naturally through the area until the early 20th century. To improve irrigation in the area, the Medina Irrigation Company (MICO) constructed what was to become the largest engineering project west of the Mississippi River at the time, the Medina Dam. Construction lasted from 1911 to 1913, creating Medina Lake. Downstream of the lake, the Medina River flows out of the diversion dam, four miles from the larger dam. The creation of Medina Lake and the inclusion of the diversion dam to control water levels have helped the area thrive through improved irrigation and recreational water sports.

The First Camp Owner

Paradise Canyon

Photo: Facebook/Paradise Canyon

Shortly after the dam’s construction, the construction company sold the remaining land in the area to Edward John Zizelman. This man would play an important role in Paradise Canyon history by being the first to rent out campsites in the area. In 1945, he acted as landlord for the campsites while his wife, Josephine, ran the store.

Later Owners of the Campsite

Today, people like picnicking and tubing at Paradise Canyon

Photo: Facebook/Paradise Canyon

Through the years, Paradise Canyon history has included the names of the various owners of the property, which included Dr. and Mrs. Huster, the McDonalds, and its current owners. Paradise Canyon’s use has expanded beyond just camping. Today, people come to picnic, fish, and swim in the waters of the Medina River in addition to tenting, RVing, and cabin camping. It’s a place to get back to nature.