Bandera Pass

Bandera Pass was an historic portal through the mountains separating the Medina and Guadalupe river valleys near the present border of Kerr and Bandera counties. Known as Puerto de la Bandera, or Gorge of the Flag, the pass was used for centuries by Indians and later European soldiers, settlers, and explorers. In the early 18 th century, Spanish soldiers battled here for three days with Apaches, hoping to curtail their frequent raids on San Antonio. Maps of the early 1800s indicate a large Apache ranchería north of the pass. It was also indicated as the terminal point of an Old Comanche Trail from Nacogdoches.

Swiss botanist Jean Louis Berlandier, a member of the 1828 Mexican boundary and scientific expedition, observed that certain Native Americans practiced a traditional custom when entering Bandera Pass:

Here a Comanche warrior was buried, and since the natives often pass this way, every tribe that passes close enough to see the grave of one of their ancestors makes the customary offerings. On the grave they place arrows, bows, sundry weapons, enemy trophies, and the like, and even sacrifice mules and horses to his shade. The gorge, which is known for this custom, is strewn with the bones of the animals that have been sacrificed here. The grave itself is surrounded with skulls.

Berlandier noted that the Comanche people, in particular, are very attentive to this custom. “Whenever they pass by the grave of a warrior they leave a few of their weapons. Women leave some fruit or a dish of something of which he was particularly fond.”

Sources

Ewers, John C. (Editor)
1969 The Indians of Texas in 1830 by Jean Louis Berlandier. Translated by Patricia Reading Leclerq. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Handbook of Texas Online: Bandera Pass

View from historic Bandera Pass
View from historic Bandera Pass, with the Medina River valley in the distance. Once a trail for Indians, explorers, and settlers through the rugged limestone hills, the pass is now traversed via SH 173. Photo by Peter Boneberger, courtesy Bear Springs Blossom Nature Conservation Group.
Map showing location of Bandera Pass
The location of Bandera Pass, as denoted on J. H./Colton’s map of Texas, published in 1861. Click to see larger views.
Artist depiction of items related to historic site