Old Mission Dam, also called Padre Dam, is considered to be of significant historic value and is a registered landmark at the national, state and local levels and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The dam itself remains largely intact, but the outlet works, other appurtenances, and much of the flume that directed water to the Mission fields have either been destroyed or are inaccessible. Review of historic and aerial photography has clarified water management features around the Mission itself, and has more accurately defined the flume’s course through and downstream of Mission Gorge. Comparison with contemporary water systems in New Spain, both by field observations and by review of published research, has improved our understanding of the functional appearance and performance of the various components of the Mission water system.
This presentation will review the physical, geologic and historical setting of the dam and flume, and will describe the findings of recent research on the structures. The long-term objectives of this ongoing research project include developing a conceptual model of the water system as it operated during the most productive period of the Mission, resolving some of the discrepancies noted in the published literature based on field observations of the remaining structures, and proposing preservation measures and interpretive programs or exhibits that would enhance the educational value of this ancient water system to the public.