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San Saba’s Abundant Parks

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In the early days of San Saba’s history, the abundant water resources were simply a matter of survival. The Colorado and San Saba Rivers, along with wonderful springs just east of the town square, provided water for drinking, washing and irrigating the fertile valley fields. It didn’t take long, as the city began to grow, for some of San Saba’s more inventive minds to come up with more ways to take advantage of this great natural blessing.

E.E. Risien, the English cabinetmaker who was already gaining fame for his work with San Saba’s pecans, obtained permission from the city government in 1883 to erect a dam (some 300 yards downstream from the present dam) which created a 5-foot waterfall. For the next 18 years, a water wheel driving a plunger pump supplied water to the downtown area, maintaining good pressure without benefit of a water tower. “Before the advent of gasoline and electricity,” Risien wrote some years later, “this water power (from the six million gallons per day that the springs poured into Mill Creek, not just from his water wheel) was used for grinding corn, also a flour mill, a cotton gin and saw mill,” supplying the needs of people within a hundred-mile radius.

In 1911, a railroad was built along the south bank of the San Saba River, and sometime in the 1920s a passable gravel-surfaced highway (Hwy 74) was built along the same general route. Both of these thoroughfares passed between Mill Pond and the San Saba River.

As modern technology standardized delivery of water to businesses, farms and residences, San Saba’s surface water began to take on more of a recreational aspect. By the 1930s, E.E. Risien’s son, Guy, had developed a river’s-edge pool with a diving board and a swing on the San Saba River property where his parents had lived. In a 1939, a newspaper article described “a growing sentiment” for developing a “really beautiful recreation center” at the old Mill Pond. In the meantime, Highway 190 was paved and became a major transportation artery dividing the two sites.

San Saba
Photo: sansabatexas.com

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