In 1853 the Alta California carried glowing accounts of progress in constructing the 3,500-foot “Mountain Lake Tunnel” … The aqueduct when finished would be three miles in length and end at Larkin Street. Within six months, however, the company failed. No further effort to tap the resources of Mountain Lake or Lobos Creek occurred until 1857.
– Erwin N. Thompson, Defender of the Gate, 1997
An abundance of fresh water drew people to the valleys of the Presidio – a lake, creeks, and seasonal springs. The U.S. Army filled in the bayshore and buried streams to make way for the post’s development. Today, park staff and volunteers are restoring the Presidio’s natural flows and its riparian habitats, creating new stewardship, educational, and recreational opportunities as well as revealing more of the Presidio’s history.
Working with volunteers and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the Trust has restored parts of Tennessee Hollow, a complete watershed with three tributaries that makes up the eastern fifth of the Presidio. Tennessee Hollow was named for the 1st Tennessee Regiment, a group of volunteer soldiers who made camp in the area in 1898 just before shipping out to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.
El Polín, where Tennessee Hollow’s central tributary begins, was restored in 2011 (though work began several years earlier). It is the site of one of the earliest settlements in the region and archaeological finds continually punctuated creek restoration, including the remnants of the “Mountain Lake Tunnel.”
The northern reach of the creek system was restored in 2005 and named Thompson Reach in memory of Dora Thompson, a nurse who cared for the wounded in nearby Letterman Hospital. With its thriving vegetation and wildlife, it reflects the promise of the entire watershed. With the replacement of Doyle Drive in the next few years, the stream’s last leg, Quartermaster Reach, will be restored and the public will be able to witness the course of the entire tributary as it flows into the bay.