LEONA RIVER. The Leona River rises north of Uvalde and west of U.S. Highway 83 in central Uvalde County (at 29°25' N, 99°50' W) and flows southeast for eighty-three miles, passing Uvalde and Batesville and crossing northeastern Zavala and southwestern Frio counties before reaching its mouth on the Frio River, near U.S. Highway 81 roughly six miles north of Dilley in southern Frio County (at 28°44' N, 99°09' W). Tributaries of the river, which is dammed in its upper reaches and forms Eightmile Waterhole in Uvalde County, include Cooks and Taylor sloughs and Berry and Cattail creeks. Along the river drainage north of Uvalde there have been archeological finds of middens, hearths, open campsites, and lithic concentrations from the Late Paleo-Indian through the Archaic and Late Prehistoric periods. Alonso de León may have found the river in 1689. By 1875 an irrigation ditch had been created on the east side of the river to bring water to the valley's prosperous farms. A flood in 1894 broke a railroad bridge over the river, ruined many farms, and caused major damage to the community of Leona Ditch. During the 1950s a drought dried up the river. The riverbanks have been cut and shaped and the river channel has been mechanically cleaned and widened many times. The Leona River flows through flat terrain with local shallow depressions, where water-tolerant hardwoods, conifers, and grasses grow in clay loam and sandy loam soils.
Grant D. Hall, Leona River Watershed, Uvalde County, Texas (Texas Archeological Survey, University of Texas at Austin, 1974). Paul D. Lukowski, Archeological Investigations along the Leona River Watershed (Center for Archeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1987). A Proud Heritage: A History of Uvalde County (Uvalde, Texas: El Progreso Club, 1975). H. Ray Smith, Archeological Survey of Memorial Park, Leona River Project (Center for Archeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1990). Zavala County Historical Commission, Now and Then in Zavala County (Crystal City, Texas, 1985).