Day Trips: Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission

Mission ruins recall Spanish Texas


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario occupied a scenic hill overlooking the San Antonio River more than 265 years ago. The stone foundation marks the outline of the building like a dark stain on the green hillside.

While visitors cannot walk among the ruins, the remains can be viewed from behind a chain-link fence. Interpretive panels tell the story of the Spanish mission that operated on and off for 54 years and was the beginning of cattle ranching in Texas. 


Mission Rosario was Spanish missionaries' attempt to make peace with Karankawa tribes that didn't get along with other natives at existing missions. Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga had moved from the coast to the San Antonio River near present-day Goliad, and Mission Nuestra Señora del Refugio was 27 miles south and became the town of Refugio.

Four miles upstream from Mission Espíritu Santo, Mission Rosario had little success with converting the locals to European ways. The native people came during winter and reverted to their old customs in the spring.

The mission did have good luck raising livestock and was involved in the early development of longhorn cattle


By 1807, Mission Rosario was combined with neighboring missions. Some of the mission's artifacts are stored at Goliad State Historical Park, where Mission Espíritu Santo was rebuilt beginning in 1935. The site of Mission Rosario was donated to the state in 1935 and opened to the public in 2018. Nothing remains of Mission Refugio. 

Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario Historic Site is southwest of Goliad off Highway 59. The ruins are a short distance south of the San Antonio River, on the east side of the highway. 


1,475th a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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