Back to the Source – The Blue Hole & the White Shaman Panel:

At the Congregational home of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, is a famous artesian spring known as the San Antonio Springs, or the Blue Hole. Indigenous peoples called the springs “Yanaguana,” which in the Coahuiltecan language means “Spirit Waters,” or up-flowing waters of the Spirit. Native American creation stories describe how the Spirit Waters rose up, giving birth to all Creation.

This Blue Hole was once a fountain spring rising up to twenty feet in the air. It joins Comal Springs, San Marcos Springs and Barton Springs as one of the four fountain springs of Texas. These same four fountain springs may be depicted in a rock wall painting, known as the White Shaman Panel in the Lower Pecos, dating back some 4,000 years ago.

The first study of the painting, known as the White Shaman panel (41VV124), was conducted by archaeologists studying West Texas rock art. Historical preservationist, Gary Perez, deciphered the panel’s iconography. In the painting, he noticed the curvature of the four fountain springs along the Balcones Escarpment. Later joined by geologist, Joe Tellez, they were able to geologically decipher the painting into a map. Joined by astronomy professor Alfred Alaniz, archaeologist Janet Stock, and geographer Dr. Clarissa Kimber, the team further discovered mathematical and astronomical sequences found in the painting, such as the 8-year cycle of Venus and the Saros cycles of lunar and solar eclipses. According to Perez, “The painting tells the story of the deer and its heroic act to bring light and water. Follow the deer and you will find water. Drink the water and you will find life.”

The Blue Hole was understood to be “the source” of the San Antonio River. With an increased population, the city is now dependent on water from the Edwards Aquifer, which is riddled with many artesian wells. The first artesian wells were drilled into the Edwards in the 1890’s had the immediate effect of reducing spring flow. Increased pumping to supply water to an expanding population has caused further drawdown of the aquifer, leaving them dry much of the time. Today, the Blue Hole is protected in the Headwaters Sanctuary at Incarnate Word, a 53-acre sanctuary established in 2008 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word who have occupied the headwaters of the San Antonio River since 1897. These remarkable springs and the many hundreds of smaller springs in the headwaters remain a powerful symbol of the literal and spiritual life-giving essence of water. Flowing or not, they remain, to many, the sacred springs.

All historical information are courtesy of Gary Perez and “Headwaters at Incarnate Word” at

How Can You Save Water?:

Water is a resource that is often taken for granted. Unfortunately, with long periods of drought and a growing population, water may not always be easily available. By saving water, you help conserve San Antonio’s number one natural resource.

For tips on how to conserve more water in your home, visit