San Antonio Crossing

By: Ben E. Pingenot

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1995

San Antonio Crossing was the name given to each of several fords on the Rio Grande in present Maverick County where the Camino Real, or Old San Antonio Road, crossed the river near San Juan Bautista at the site of present Guerrero, Coahuila. The earliest and perhaps best known was Paso de Francia, located six miles southeast of the presidio. At this crossing, just below the mouth of the Arroyo Castaño on the Mexican side, a number of islands divide the Rio Grande where it begins to bend from south to southeast. The King's Highway entered the Texas side at the end of a chain of high bluffs and just above a series of rapids. It is believed that the name Paso de Francia (France Way) was given to this ford after Alonso De León's third entrada into Texas in 1689 in search of the colony of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. De León's entry is the earliest crossing that can be accurately ascribed to Paso de Francia, although the Bosque-Larios expedition of 1675 may have also used this ford. The unexpected arrival of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis along with three other Frenchmen and four Indians in 1714 at San Juan Bautista Presidio may also have been a contributing factor in fixing the name Paso de Francia to this crossing. After the establishment of San Juan Bautista Mission in 1700, the Paso de Francia ford became the principal point of entry for Spanish entradas of exploration and colonization into Texas. Lt. Zebulon M. Pike, after his capture in New Mexico, was the first citizen of the United States to document his crossing into Texas at Paso de Francia in 1807. The last major use of the ford occurred in 1836, when Antonio López de Santa Anna, at the head of part of his army, crossed at Paso de Francia en route to San Antonio to quell the Texan insurrectionists. With the secularization of the missions in the late eighteenth century, San Juan Bautista Presidio became known as Rio Grande Presidio. During this post-colonization period the name Paso de Francia faded from use, and in its place the crossing was variously referred to as the Lower Crossing and the Las Islas or Isletas Crossing. During the period of Anglo exploration, the crossing was identified as Kingsbury Falls or Rapids and the Falls of Presidio de Rio Grande. Kingsbury Falls marked the Rio Grande's upper limit of navigability. In 1918 the Daughters of the American Revolution and the state of Texas placed a marble monument commemorating the Camino Real at this site on the east bank of the Rio Grande.

Six miles upstream from Paso de Francia, near the mouth of Cuervo Creek in what is now Maverick County, lies another old ford. It was called Pacuache Crossing after one of the Coahuiltecan tribes indigenous to the area. It may have first been used by Domingo Terán de los Ríos in 1691. During the early years of San Juan Bautista Presidio, it was called the Paso de Diego Ramón, named for a Spanish provincial governor and soldier. Gen. Adrián Woll and his army forded the Rio Grande at Pacuache, then known as Paso de Nogal (Pecan Crossing), when he raided San Antonio in 1842. Four years later, during the Mexican War, Gen. John E. Wool, followed Woll's route and invaded Mexico by way of Pacuache with his Army of Chihuahua. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, due to the proximity of the new upriver towns of Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, the Pacuache Crossing became the principal ford for traffic to and from the Rio Grande Presidio. Both the United States and the Mexican governments erected small customhouses and assigned guards to oversee and regulate trade crossing the river there. As late as 1916 the United States Army maintained an observation post at this site. In 1990 ranchers in the vicinity referred to the Pacuache, or upper crossing, as the Old San Antonio Crossing, and to nearby Cuervo Creek as San Antonio Creek.

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Robert S. Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ben E. Pingenot, “San Antonio Crossing,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995

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