Scenic view over Government CanyonGovernment Canyon State Natural Area lies on the edge of the Balcones Escarp­ment. The northern area features deep canyons on the eastern boundary of the Edwards Plateau. The southern section flattens into a broad plain. A forested strip separates these two areas.

Steep slopes provide scenic overlooks of the surrounding Bexar County and San Antonio.

Protecting Water

Most of San Antonio’s water comes from the Edwards Aquifer. The Natural Area protects thousands of acres of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, as well as portions of its Contributing and Artesian zones. But what does that mean?

Collecting rainwater

Map showing boundaries of aquifer zones in relation to park boundariesRain falls on can­yons and pla­teaus in the Con­trib­uting Zone, and flows down­hill to the Re­charge Zone.

Karst features in the Recharge Zone swallow vast amounts of water. This recharges (or fills) the Edwards Aquifer.

Water then flows into the Artesian Zone through a series of connected spaces, from tiny pores to large caverns.

Finally, the water bubbles up as a natural spring or is siphoned by man-made wells.

What is karst?

Example of hole-ridden karst Karst is a landscape where rainwater dissolves a type of limestone, forming connected cavities. These passageways allow the flow and storage of rainwater.

Karst helps rainwater make its way underground.

Protecting Wildlife

The Natural Area also protects plants and animals.

Trees such as mountain laurel, Ashe juniper, mesquite and live oak grow here. You’ll also see Mexican buckeye, Lind­heimer’s silk-tassel, escarpment black cherry and much more.

White-tailed deer, bobcat, cotton-tailed rabbit, javelina, coyote, raccoon, ringtail, butterflies and numerous snakes live at Government Canyon.


Government Canyon is a good place to find many popular bird species. In the spring, look for painted buntings, summer tanagers, and even the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

Download the Birds of Government Canyon State Natural Area (PDF).

Endangered species

Habitats here harbor species listed as endangered.

Scientists have found six of the nine endangered karst invertebrates of Bexar County. These include three spiders: Government Canyon bat cave mesh­weaver, Government Canyon bat cave spider, and the Madla Cave meshweaver.

Golden-cheeked warblers

Golden-cheeked warbler on a treeThe en­dan­gered Gol­den-cheeked warb­lers nest only in mixed Ashe-juniper and oak woodlands in ravines and canyons of Central Texas.

Warblers eat insects and spiders found on the leaves and bark of oaks and other trees. They use long strips of cedar bark and spider webs to build their nests.

They come to Texas in March to nest and raise th­­eir young, and leave in July to spend the winter in Mexico and Central America. This warbler is the only bird species that nests exclusively in Texas – it’s a native Texan!