The shortest river in Texas played a key role in the state's early settlement. In 1842, a group of German noblemen, led by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, formed an organization called the Adelsverein (German for "society of nobles") to encourage and expedite German immigration to Texas. When he landed at the Texas coast in 1844, the prince faced two immediate needs: a port to receive new arrivals and a suitable parcel of land on which they could settle.
For the port, Prince Carl purchased land on Lavaca Bay and established Carlshafen ("Carl's haven"), later renamed Indianola. As for the land, the prince found the perfect spot. Rejecting the Adelsverein's ill-chosen acquisition of the Fisher-Miller Grant—too far from the coast, unfit for farming, prone to Indian attack–he bought a 1,265-acre tract from San Antonio's prominent Veramendi family that included a river whose headwaters the Indians called Las Fontanas. On Good Friday, March 21, 1845, the first German immigrants to settle this beautiful area—renamed New Braunfels by Prince Carl to commemorate Braunfels, his German estate–arrived.
The "fountains," later known as Comal Springs, form the headwaters of the 2.5-mile Comal River, the shortest river in Texas and one of the shortest rivers in the nation. Much of the area along the riverbanks has been transformed into parkland, best known today as the site of New Braunfels' annual Wurstfest celebration and of Schlitterbahn, the state's largest water park.