This South Flood Gate had an original joint purpose of serving as a dam. As the Great Bend wound downstream from where is now the North Flood Gate, the riverbed dropped seven feet from the start of the bend. But such a drop caused water to flow too quickly for operation of Hugman’s envisioned river transportation: gondolas, which could not be poled upstream against a strong current. So this structure was built to raise the water level at the end by six feet, creating a much gentler downstream flow. Water flowing over the far end of the arched opening created a waterfall into the flood control channel, dug in 1929 to keep floodwaters from having to negotiate the Great Bend.
A tainter gate upstream in the flood control channel—midway between the Great Bend’s two floodgates—was replaced in 1988 by a dam one block downstream, at Nueva Street. The new dam raised water to a uniform level around the bend and in the flood control channel as well, permitting boats at last to pass beneath this arch and make a full circuit around the Bend.
This steel floodgate rises from hinges at the bottom of Hugman’s gate structure, leaving open the view toward the Romanesque Bexar County Courthouse, completed in 1896. The gate structure’s unusual decorative elements include interior flanking tiers of stone-bordered shrub pockets, an arch of cut stone and a decorative urn and railings of cast stone.